Advocate Sydney Pilane, retired Special Advisor to former President Festus Mogae, this week accused President Lt Gen Ian Khama of poor judgement, authoritarianism, autocracy and ruling the country by fear and patronage.
In an explosive analysis, Pilane says Khama’s reaction to the John Kalafatis tragedy “has betrayed his poor priorities. He places the need to vindicate himself personally ahead of the public interest. For a man who speaks of the lot of Batswana in messianic tones, who admirably takes principled positions on Zimbabwe, and on the President of Sudan, (positions which his predecessors would not have had the moral courage to adopt), a man who revels in occasional fireside one-way banter with ordinary Batswana, he ought to have shown greater sensitivity, not for himself, but for the tragic-struck family of Mr John Kalafitis, and for a nation deeply troubled by an ominously growing number of incidents involving the killing of civilians by security forces over whom he has ultimate authority”.
Pilane says the denials from Khama’s office “and two of his Ministers, both predictably calculated to plead his innocence as though that was all that mattered, is scandalously lacking. The President ought to know that such denials, even when true, make no impact on a public which is growing weary of a President who places himself at the centre of everything; everything being more about him and less about the country. His two Ministers looked pathetic (and they are most able individuals for whom I have great respect), and as unconvincing as troops sent out to fight a war they did not believe in. That the Press Conference they held was aired twice and the announcement of his intended defamation suit was a running news item on the Government media made the more revealing an act of entirely poor judgment on the part of the President”.
Pilane further lamented that “the President’s rule of fear and patronage has distorted the characters of greats such as his Vice President (a great friend of mine who in another life under different regimes had the makings of a great statesman) to so large an extent that the latter thinks that “one or two deaths” are no big deal. That, Mr Vice President, was an outrageous statement to make; “one or two deaths” is one or two deaths too many in a country which, when I last looked, pretended to be a democracy.
Dictatorships often start with an iron grip over the Government. The grip gradually and stealthily extends to the ruling party where political parties exist. Before you know it, the president has absolute power over the government, the ruling party, and the country. That is how Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe happened, and the trusting people of Zimbabwe were thus betrayed. The people of Botswana should beware lest Zimbabwe happens to Botswana. Call it fear-mongering if you wish; I call it due caution in the face of troubling events of growing gravity and frequency.”