Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Mogae?s brand of democracy is flawed

Last week, President Festus Mogae used the occasion of his party?s national council to part ways with the elementary principles of democracy, as they have evolved in Botswana over the last forty years of independence.

We can only think of his brand of democracy as reflected in his attacks on BDP Members of Parliament as fundamentally flawed.

In a totally misguided speech, President Mogae lashed out at unnamed members of parliament from the Botswana Democratic Party for taking the executive to task over cabinet?s latest wayward ways.

It is not exactly clear who he was referring to since his speech writers did not have the guts to mention names.

We also do not have an idea to what exactly happened in parliament as to warrant the Head of State to read an openly hostile speech as he did.
What we, however, know is that for the past few weeks, a few select Members of Parliament from the BDP back benches have been fighting tooth and nail to assert the independence of parliament from cabinet.

What we know is that a number of BDP members of parliament, who have kept their hands close to the national pulse, have been goading their cabinet to reconsider making amendments to the security and intelligence Bill brought before parliament by the Office of the President.

What we know is that the same group of MPs has told government that the current climate under which the national airline, Air Botswana, is being privatized is not opportune.

We also know that, together with opposition benches, the same BDP MPs have clearly spelt out the reasons why Mogae?s administration should move as a matter of urgency towards establishing an economic policy that deliberately sets out to empower citizens, especially through the use of government?s procurement budget.

We search in vain to see how such good ideas by Members of Parliament, who are, by any measure, speaking on behalf of their constituents, could lend themselves to earn such unfortunate labels as those used by His Excellency.

We can only hope Mogae is not going back to his unlamented old ways when he singled out a few BDP MPs and called them a cabal in one of his ill-fated addresses to the BDP official meetings.

We have always believed that President Festus Mogae was a liberal democrat who holds as sacred the belief in the freedom of speech.

We have always believed that our Oxford-trained president held and espoused as nonnegotiable the belief in the separation of powers, under which the three arms of government (the judiciary, the executive and the legislature) operated independent of each other without fear or favour but towards a common good.

Our memories are still fresh in our minds when, in 1999 after his party won a landslide victory at the General Elections, and there were fears that the annihilation of the opposition in parliament would work against democracy, Mogae went out of his way to allay the nation?s fears by stating that the ruling BDP had a way to reinvent itself as to create ?oppositionist? machinations from within.

What has since changed that, when the BDP backbenches are today doing just that by holding their executive accountable and putting Mogae and his ministers on their toes, he turns around and accuses them of ?playing to the press gallery??

What has since happened to make Mogae lose faith in the independence of the BDP MPs so much as to down grade his regard for them as to think of them as gullible elements whose challenges to his government policy direction amounts to ?willful self-descent and delusion??

It is not clear what the president regards as ?individualism? when members of parliament who are not part of his executive team differ with his government on what direction the country should take on major policy decisions of the day.

Trying to blackmail every BDP Member of Parliament into towing the line by using thinly veiled threatening language by an important officer as the Head of State does not in anyway help advance pluralism, diversity of ideas and freedom of the speech.

We also urge the President?s advisors and speech writers to be very careful.

Casual language that finds its way into the President?s speeches can be very harmful and counterproductive, working against the very objectives they could be having in mind.

For example, did Mogae?s speech writers ever reflect on the implications before allowing a loaded statement like ?an MP cannot denigrate, ridicule, disparage, malign, revile and cast aspersions on the BDP Government and still expect the electorate to return the party to power??

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.