At times you wonder what His Excellency President Khama is up to.
He hardly misses the slightest opportunity to ingratiate himself with anyone who has a fragile spine.
And it is a truism that his first and foremost concern as he saunters between villages and remote settlements has nothing to do with the welfare of the people but rather everything to do with himself.
His immediate concern is to be liked and loved by the people and so he spent every second devising cunning or underhand plans to prop up his image.
A week or so ago, the Echo newspaper reported that President Khama had, unannounced, visited their offices to grant an interview. In the words of the reporter, the President ambushed him. By definition, an ambush implies total surprise whereupon the victim’s only choice is to surrender.
It is therefore puzzling that whilst the President stubbornly refuses to hold a press conference, he finds enough time to sneak into newsrooms. Of course, the president has revealed that he prefers to deal with the media on one on one basis.
The reason the President prefers one on one meeting with the media is precisely to beat the reporters into fear. The president is well aware that on a one on one basis the reporters are reduced to feckless story tellers or some kind of fashion flops.
Thus, the president deliberately takes them one by one to frighten them and ensure they fumble and ask friendly, nice and familiar questions such as which church one goes to or one’s favorite music ÔÇô questions that could as well be answered by someone who cannot count beyond two.
By any standards particularly in the African context, it would be obscene for the host to get mad at his guest or to ask his guest tough and embarrassing questions. It is unethical, immoral and uncultured to subject your special guest to probing questions or push them beyond their limits.
Thus, the president knows full well that whenever he drops at the offices of pressmen one at a time, the journalists will be bound by simple etiquette to treat him as a special guest and to make him feel even more comfortable than they.
It does not matter whether the journalists have a score to settle with the President or not, once the president pitches up at their offices they instantly wise up and become passive, showing less and less inspiration to discuss controversial topical issues.
In a one on one set up, the president in some big ways becomes the director of ceremony to the extent that he determines the questions that have to be put to him.
Thus, reporters are turned into visitors who have to ask nice questions or risk being forcibly removed from their own newsrooms, the Julius Malema style.
Essentially, one on one meeting with the media is intended to create a sense of loyalty toward the president which is why such interviews always produce favorable news about the interviewee. Readers would recall that after Gomolemo Motswaledi was barred from challenging Khama’s brother for the Serowe North constituency, President Khama invited Motswaledi to a private meeting.
After the meeting and despite having been subjected to so much humiliation, Motswaledi showered Khama with praises noting that the President is an honest and sincere leader with a magnificent vision for the BDP and country. Such is the nature of private meetings. They make the lesser mortals cower in a corner or ask sweetened questions.
Unannounced visitations by the president give him absolute advantage since he comes well prepared for the interview whereas the reporter is made to appear clumsy and disorganized.
This has the potential to belittle the pressmen and desecrate their profession. The president also takes advantage of the fact that the reporter is often entirely on his own while the he (the president) has his team that would include the Press Secretary to the President, the Private Secretary to the President, body guards and that other friend that normally accompanies him to Cuba. Thus, their numbers and display of confidence and a sense of self worth would intimidate every reporter to behave accordingly or else!
The president has done this on more than one occasion and it seems it really serves him well. In the end people may ask why the reporters always whine about President Khama’s refusal to hold a press conference when he happily grants interviews.
It should be noted that unlike unscheduled interviews, press conferences compel the newsmakers to take themselves seriously such that in a press conference, President Khama would not have the luxury to pass questions over to his bodyguards.
Press conferences heighten public interest in issues raised by both the newsmakers and the journalists since the President would normally have to reveal his views on topical issues rather than being asked about his choice of breakfast.
Press conferences have the advantage of reaching multiple reporters at a single event so that the President is not asked about quad biking or whether he eats mophane worm, every time he grants an interview.
Now instead of perpetually complaining that President Khama is not willing to hold a press conference, the media must first and foremost interrogate themselves and ask whether they are not part of the problem.
The media is always clamoring for the rare opportunity to be among the select few that Khama has granted an interview. When such opportunity avails itself, including in the form of ambush, reporters are often too eager to drop everything and attend to the uninvited guest where upon they ask small, mundane and at times silly questions about termites and grasshoppers.
By doing so, the media has essentially been playing into President Khama’s scheming. This is self-abuse which exposes pressmen to humiliation. Sample these words of wisdom; ‘only a goat that is tired of life invites a hyena to dinner’.
In the final analysis, while it does seem that the president is reluctant to hold a press conference, the pressmen are all too happy to be treated to a one on one meeting which perhaps makes them feel important. On the basis of this, the pressmen should take a sizeable fraction of responsibility for Khama’s refusal to hold a press conference.
Thus, they must rediscover themselves and get a spine to tell the president off when he shows up at their offices without prior arrangement. Of course this has to be done within the perimeters of civil decorum to show utmost respect to the President.
For instance, they could tell president Khama that they have important scheduled appointment to honor and then zoom out. As much as they want to get his opinions on a number of issues of national concern, they need to be respected and taken seriously.
Reporters have a choice though. They can choose to continue to interview President Khama on a one on one basis and permit themselves to be taken for a ride by Khama’s ambush theorem. If they embrace this choice, they must then shut up about Khama’s refusal to hold a press conference because they actually aid him to evade them. Alternatively, they can collectively embargo one on one interviews with president Khama until he has held a press conference.
The private media has to discuss this issue to strike a common ground or else President Khama would continue to charm them, intimidate them, play with their minds and render them pipsqueaks.
Be warned chaps!!