Member of Parliament for Lobatse, Nehemiah Modubule, has adopted a most unprecedented stance yet by opting to boycott a visit by the President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika.
Dr Mutharika, who will be on a state visit to Botswana next week, is scheduled to open a multi-million pula stadium in Lobatse.
Addressing the media, Modubule, who was supposed to give a vote of thanks in his capacity as the area Member of Parliament, said he would not want to be seen to be sharing a platform with Mutharika who he accused of a reprehensible human rights record.
“My personal ethics, political values and belief in the principles of the rule of law and good governance do not permit me to share the stage with an individual of Dr Mutharika’s caliber.”
In a rare show of unity, all opposition political parties in parliament endorsed Modubule’s statement and position against the Malawian president.
Citing examples of Mutharika’s intolerance and abuses, Modubule said sometime last month, while addressing a rally in Blantyre, the Malawian President implored the youth members of his party, the Democratic Progressive Party, to assault members of opposition who criticised him as Head of State.
“As an opposition legislator myself, belonging to the BMD, such utterances, attributed to a head of state, who also happens to be the current chairman of the African Union, have left me shocked. My appearance on the podium would amount to complicity in the harassment of opposition activists in Malawi.”
Modubule accused Mutharika of seeking to take Malawi back to the dictatorship days of Dr Hasting Kamuzu Banda where opponents were detained, tortured and killed.
He said that appearing alongside Mutharika, who he described as an authoritarian leader, could be construed to be an endorsement of his leadership style and his utterances.
“The remarks made by President Mutharika are meant to intimidate the opposition into silence. As a lifelong champion of human rights and democratic values, I cannot be part of an event or anything that will promote President Mutharika as an international statesman when in actual fact his actions are the very opposite of that image,” he said.
Modubule said that Africa is at a point in history where it has to openly condemn leaders who preach democracy on the international arena “but whose domestic behavior contradicts all tenets of democracy”.
He criticized the Malawian leader for giving his minister of Information sweeping powers to shut down private newspapers arbitrarily.
“The objective of the law is to cower the independent press in Malawi into silence and force them to practice sweetheart journalism,” said Modubule.
Modubule also spoke out against an incident in Malawi regarding a University lecturer who was detained by Mutharika’s government after stating that chronic fuel shortages in the country could lead to mass protests and toppling of regimes.
Modubule said that he is disappointed with President Ian Khama for inviting Mutharika when he (Khama) had, on a number of occasions, spoken out against undemocratic conduct of some African leaders.
“It is important for President Khama to be consistent in his foreign policy pronouncements. By associating with undemocratic leaders who act contrary to what he preaches, he is in fact contradicting himself,” he stated.