Saturday, May 25, 2024

Masisi Vs Khama

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has so far performed better than his predecessor Lt Gen Ian Khama on press freedom, transparency, human rights and civil liberties. That is the conclusion from the United States 2019 human rights country report on Botswana released earlier this year.The report drew a tacit comparison between Khama and Masisi on “press freedom” and “civil liberties.”States the report: “In a break from his predecessor, President Masisi initiated a productive relationship with media. He continued to hold press conferences and has repeatedly assured journalists of his respect for their role in a healthy democracy.”

In another tacit comparison, the report again mentions Khama and Masisi in the same sentence when discussing civil liberties. “While some civil society representatives criticized DIS under the previous Khama administration, claiming it did not receive sufficient independent oversight and posed a potential threat to civil liberties, observers generally welcomed the 2018 replacement of the DISS director under President Masisi.”

All in all, the United States Department of State 2019 Botswana human rights report under Masisi present a huge improvement from the 2017 human rights record under Khama.

For example, when assessing the level of corruption in 2019 under President Masisi, the US department of State report states: “Corruption: In January the country’s former chief of DISS was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation of alleged embezzlement at the National Petroleum Fund, according to press reports. In September President Masisi suspended his personal secretary after he was charged with abuse of office, money laundering, and receiving bribes.

This is a brush up from the US department of State report on corruption in Botswana in 2017 under former president Lt Gen Ian Khama. The 2017 report stated that, “Corruption:  There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year, many involving reported mismanagement of the National Petroleum Fund and including allegations directly implicating senior officials in the Khama administration. The press continued to publish information leaked from a Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime investigation of the former director of the DISS, a story first reported in 2014.  The documents allegedly demonstrated substantive links to corruption and money laundering.”

The latest US report on human rights in Botswana also paints a more transparent administration under Masisi compared to Khama. States the current report:” “Financial Disclosure: In August parliament passed a bill on declaration of assets and liabilities. A 2009 presidential directive requires all cabinet ministers to declare their interests, assets, and liabilities to the president.”The 2017 report under the same index during Khama’s presidency however portrayed a more secretive regime. It states: “Financial Disclosure:  There are no formal financial disclosure laws; however, a 2009 presidential directive requires all cabinet ministers to declare their interests, assets, and liabilities to the president.  Critics contended this policy did not go far enough to promote transparency and asserted financial declarations by senior government officials should be available to the public.”

The 2019 and 2017 Botswana human rights reports further suggest that the Khama administration was more inhuman than the Masisi presidency. The 2019 report entry under “TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT” states that, “the constitution and law prohibit such practices, but unlike in prior years there were no reports of police using such tactics. In June 2018 a delegation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights recommended that the country consider enacting laws to criminalize torture, but the government has not yet acted upon the recommendation. Some laws prescribe corporal punishment for convicted offenders. Human rights groups viewed these provisions as cruel and degrading; the Court of Appeals ruled these provisions do not violate the constitution’s provisions on torture or inhuman treatment.”This is an improvement from the 2017 report under the same entry which stated that, “TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENTThe constitution and law prohibit such practices, but there were reports of police using such tactics. Some laws prescribe corporal punishment for offenders.

Some human rights groups viewed these provisions as cruel and degrading; the Court of Appeals ruled these provisions do not violate the constitution’s provisions on torture or inhuman treatment.Survival International, a UK-based nongovernmental organization (NGO), claimed that in July 2016 police on an antipoaching operation shot from a helicopter at a group of Basarwa (San) hunting in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR). Survival International stated nine of the men were later stripped and beaten while in police custody. The Botswana Police Service (BPS) denied the claims.”It is however under press freedom were Masisi seems to have made a big improvement from Khama’s record. The 2019 report states: “Libel/Slander Laws: There were no arrests for slander during the year. Nevertheless, the law states, “Any person in a public place or at a public gathering (who) uses abusive, obscene, or insulting language in relation to the president, any other member of the National Assembly, or any public officer” is guilty of an offense. The penal code also states that any person who insults the country’s coat of arms, flag, presidential standard, or national anthem is guilty of an offense. The government in 2014 arrested an editor and charged him with sedition for publishing articles regarding an alleged automobile accident involving then president Khama.

In 2018 the government dropped the charges, but the courts did not rule on the constitutionality of the sedition clause.”This is an improvement from the US Department of State’s 2017 report compiled under Khama’s presidency which stated that, “Libel/Slander Laws: In 2014 police arrested Sunday Standard editor Outsa Mokone and charged him with sedition for publishing articles about an automobile accident allegedly involving President Khama. Observers noted the use of the penal code’s sedition clause for a newspaper article was unprecedented and further noted the Sunday Standard had published several articles exposing corruption allegations within the DISS. In 2016 lawyers for Mokone sought to have the charges dropped based on the penal code’s infringement of the defendant’s constitutional right to freedom of expression. That same year the High Court ruled the penal code’s sedition clause was constitutional and charges of sedition against Mokone could proceed. The case was still pending at year’s end……….. Violence and Harassment: In March, DISS agents reportedly detained and threatened three journalists from the INK Center for Investigative Journalism near President Khama’s private residence in Mosu. The journalists were researching claims that public funds were being used to construct the residence.” The two presidents however fared badly on Censorship or Content Restrictions.

The 2019 report states that, “some members of civil society organizations stated the government occasionally censored stories it deemed undesirable in government-run media. Government journalists sometimes practiced self-censorship.” This is a word for word repetition of the 2017 report under former president Khama.

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