Monday, September 21, 2020

Mogae should take his share of the blame

This past Friday, the ruling BDP went a step further in its brutal determination to blur and ultimately obliterate the thin line separating party from government.

The ferocity with which the latest antic is being implemented is classic Ian Khama: ruthless and vindictive.
President Khama’s abuse of the state media is doing more damage to Botswana’s credibility than any other issue I can immediately think of.
Such abuse is taking Botswana off the high moral pedestal from whence our President briefly stood as he criticized such people like Al-Bashir of Sudan.

It’s difficult to see how going forward he will have the conscience to speak against such people.

A new arrival from Mars would on Friday have been forgiven to think that Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who we like to denounce as evil, was a much more civilized democrat compared to ourselves.

There was a time not so long ago when the country, and indeed the entire sub-region looked at President Ian Khama as a beacon of a new era, a standard bearer of high morals, an upholder of fairness, care, hope and compassion.

That time, I am sorry to say, has come to an abrupt end.

On Friday, BDP internal statements dispatched by a faction led by Khama himself were awarded special privilege as they were read out during prime time on both Radio Botswana and Botswana Television.

To put the cherry on top, government’s most senior journalist – if that is what he is – was dragged to be the one reading out such a statement.
I cannot imagine a more humiliating, self-demeaning spectacle.

It’s amazing the extent to which this so called journalist is prepared to bend so that his political principals at the Office of the President can tickle and play with his belly.
He has become their toy, so to speak.
The haggard appearance of Mogomotsi Kaboyamodimo on state television, made all the worse by the bumbling mistakes he made, cut an image of a hapless prisoner tripping over himself as he tried to abide by every instruction as barked out by the prison guards.

For those who do not know the man, Kaboyamodimo is supposed to be the Director of Broadcasting Services, or something to that effect.

An outsider doing everything to become an insider, at least in theory Kaboyamodimo runs Radio Botswana, Botswana Television, RB1 and all such related ancillaries.

In practice real power resides, not even with the Ministry of Communications but with the Office of the President.

The Director is a straw man, put in that position to do his master’s biding and, lately, to literally carry their dirty can as they fight their factional battles.

Objectivity and pluralism are in no way a part of the Director’s mandate.

If a Director can be so helpless as to be the one harried along to read political party statements that unapologetically pit one faction against another, what then is to be expected of the young and powerless journalists who serve under him?
The job of a Director, one would suppose, is to protect his journalists from undue interference, including from politicians in the ruling party.
How then does he protect his charges if he cannot protect himself?

Nobody is suggesting to him that Kaboyamodimo should pick fights with his political principals, least of all at the Office of the President given their endemic intolerance.

Again nobody doubts the simple fact that Kaboyamodimo is just another government official; a civil servant manning what is by all intents and purposes a government facility.

But for a man to agree to become a pawn in what is a fight for control of the ruling party soul is deplorable.
The problem is if he is not careful, it will not be long before he finds himself personally shorn of all the credibility. The same applies to the stations he heads.

Very soon people will stop believing anything and everything that BTV and Radio Botswana say.

The public is made up of very clever individuals who can very easily differentiate and dissect factual information from propaganda. What Kaboyamodimo was reading was clear propaganda.

Khama is better advised that less than a generation ago the racist regime in South Africa had a much more powerful instrument in the form of SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation).
But in the end not even the mighty SABC was strong enough to save the regime from collapsing.

As this mess unfolds, we should look back, reflect and ask ourselves just how we ended up in this mess.
The answer lies with former President Festus Mogae.

Just why did he overlook everyone else in the BDP civilian community as to go all the way to Mogoditsane barracks to force a born military General into politics?

It may well be that, isolated and himself threatened at the time, Mogae needed Khama badly for his own political survival. But still he should not have rewarded him with the position of State President.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.