President Ian Khama’s passion for discipline has some non governmental organizations worried that Botswana may be on its way to authoritarian rule.
In his maiden speech, Khama indicated that drive for discipline would be one of the four “D-hallmarks” of his presidency.
The Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) this week said while it acknowledges the sentiments expressed by the president over the degenerating discipline in the country, which include, among others, abuse of alcohol by the youth and lack of respect for public property, the organization is skeptical about issues like defamation and falsehoods which Khama attributed to social ills currently besieging the country.
Addressing the nation on his inauguration day, Khama emphasized the 4 Ds which he referred to simply as Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline.
The newly inaugurated president decried the deteriorating indiscipline in the country which he said emanated from the lack of driving discipline and abuse of alcohol by the youth.
He further lamented “the use of abusive language in public discourse and defamation, slander and false statements in the media” which he said were a cause of concern reflecting a lack of discipline in some of our communities.
“The ‘D’ on discipline is rather problematic,” noted BOCONGO in a statement. “While we agree with the president on the general understanding of ‘discipline’ we are apprehensive about some other negative connotations of the word ‘discipline’. Most of the examples given by the president are indeed worrisome developments like lack of driving discipline, abuse of alcohol by the youth, lack of respect for property and others. Our apprehension about the context of discipline is highlighted by the other examples given in the inaugural address in which issues like defamation, slander and falsehoods are lumped together with other social ills. We wonder why issues of quality of the media are brought under the same category as drunkenness, vandalism of property.”
Added the statement, “This makes us fear for the freedom of the media; the very bedrock of democracy which Khama professes to be a champion of. We do not want a media that is duly afraid of publishing lest they are accused of not having discipline.”
Over the appointment of the vice president, BOCONGO notes that the process is neither democratic nor transparent and the choice is entirely the prerogative of the president.
“This is a matter that needs public debate with a view to make the process more democratic.”
The statement further decries Khama’s gender inequality arguing “Khama has dropped 2 female ministers and ‘promoted’ one woman from the Deputy Speaker to full minister position”, adding that the president “had the opportunity to appoint a woman as a vice president but he did not”.
Female legislators were recently reshuffled with Deputy Speaker Gladys Kokorwe promoted to a full minister while Sheila Tlou and Moggie Mbaakanyi were relegated from the ministerial posts to the back-bench.
BOCONGO laments Botswana is lagging behind other SADC states in the percentage of women in decision making positions.
“As Khama himself has noted, we do not have a monopoly of being the only beacon of success in Africa and Botswana must benchmark against the best in the world. While we agree with Khama that government empowerment policies need to be based on ability and hard work and not entitlement, we urge Khama to look for the many capable women who have those qualities that Khama is looking for.”
The statement, however, congratulated Khama for his initiative to launch a war against red tape and excessive bureaucracy.
“Stifling bureaucracy has denied citizens’ delivery of crucial goods and services, many of them meant to improve the livelihood of Botswana,” noted the statement.