Thursday, October 1, 2020

“BDP victory is not at all record breaking”

Laced with some specks of amateurish arrogance and intimidation, Mr Titus Mbuya’s response to my earlier submission fails to continue where he had left in his praise song, “Khama is what the Doctor ordered”. He instead glides on ‘below the belt’ tactics, flaunting his veteran flag with the hope of intimidating me into silence.

Consistently rated as one of the most influential people in the country by one newspaper over the years and managing a significant member of the organisation I work for, Mr Mbuya is sending me some not so subtle message intimating that I would rather be poking my nose elsewhere.

His decision to abandon the ball and charge at my head amazes me but does not dampen my free spirit to share with the readers the alternative interpretation of the 2009 election results. I am even comforted by the fact that in the same week I published my analysis, as if working in concert, two other writers shared the major sentiments I expounded. In the wake of his piece, I have made a conscious decision to concentrate on the ball for I do not have the physic and stamina for hard tackles. And if truth be told that is not my area to thrive.

In my last piece I demonstrated very clearly that BDP’s latest popular vote percentage is not by all means record breaking. They have surpassed that in the past and to ululate the paltry increase from the previous election, without following the results pattern over the years is deluding oneself and most ‘painfully’ the BDP itself. I need to repeat that President Khama has actually reversed the gains that the past presidents brought to the BDP. His ‘lone ranger’ style of leadership has exposed the BDP to danger and he has survived the possible humiliation in his first elections, thanks to the fragmentation of the opposition. This just goes to show how essential experience is to politics and that political immaturity, naivety coupled with unnecessary rigidity does not pay in modern politics.

I am however not entirely surprised that Mr Mbuya is hurt by the negative publicity President Khama has been getting from the media. He has over the years shown some obsession with the Khama name if one has to take into consideration the letters he used to write to the first president Sir Seretse Khama, years after he died. Unfortunately for him this year’s election results have shown that the mystic around the Khama name is crumbling. They show a seriously threatened Botswana Democratic Party, especially in the hands of President Khama. I understand the frustration that beholds the constructors of that mysticism.

The other issue that needs to be set straight, especially for the benefit of the readers concerns the placement of Government advertising. It is here that I was boldly abused and called a liar. Mr Mbuya’s paper, Monitor and the online version published a letter written by Dr Jeff Ramsay, the coordinator of the Botswana Government Communications and Information System (BGCIS) on 06 July 2009. The letter sought to inform the public that the Permanent Secretary to the President had ordered a formation of a working committee on advertising which was to be constituted by Director level officials from the Office of the President, Directorate of Public Service management (DPSM), the then Ministry of Communication Science and Technology and three additional ministries on a rotational basis.

“The Working committee shall report to the Permanent Secretary to the President through the BGCIS coordinator, in consultation with the permanent secretary MCST and the Director DPSM,” noted one of the terms of reference.

Apart from the explicit terms of reference the mere presence of the Office of the President official in that committee explains the protocol nature of its procedures. BGCIS is also housed at the office of the president and it has been tasked “with monitoring and/or coordinating the buying of advertising and marketing space for government, as well as the content development and production of government information products.” Counter explaining my interpretation of these terms of reference would have made this debate productive and less on emotive outbursts. Hurling insults and undermining each other is an outdated and uncivil debating tactic and does not help the reader whom I believe we are engaged in this discussion for.

It must also be understood that there is no harm in government coordinating its activities one way or the other, and the above mentioned case is one good example, but the context of the current discussion is within the concern of too much centralisation in Government, especially when Office of the President is suddenly a master of all trades. It is also in view of the recorded behaviour of Government who at one point banned government advertising in one of the media groups.

On the embedded journalism, there appears to be selective accusation as Mr Mbuya implies that the private journalists are in bed with Khama’s enemies. I would rather argue that what comes closer to embedment in this country is the state media especially because of the nature of their employment. Government has in the past admitted that the state media workers are actually their information officers. There has of course been some latest development in which President Khama in consultation with Editors Forum extended some aspects of this embedment to the private media by way of including them in presidential trips. Some have already utilised such gesture and that is something to be encouraged because it is what I consider to be positive embedment, especially if the coverage is not meant for president’s political mileage. So if there is any embedment at all it is in favour of the president, not the other way round. In the process of his accusation he conveniently forgets to comment on the state media’s generally biased reportage in favour of the president at the expense of other contenders, which is done with impunity.

His requisition for some evidence from me is unnecessary and frivolous. It is okay if he does not see the dictator in President Khama and there are many others who share his view but he must also accept that many others, including NGOs, trade unions, political parties, church leaders, children, academics and newspaper editorials have used the term dictator or its many other synonyms in reference to the current president.

Lastly if I am to be accused of displaying recklessness in my analysis the same could be said of Mr Mbuya’s reckless dishing of arrogance and his Mr Know all attitude that permeates through his pen. If he has a problem with my job, as he is insinuating, why can’t he take the first step and use his influence that he supposedly has. Otherwise he still has the opportunity to venture into what he does best; informing the late Sir Seretse Khama that their party is in disarray, courtesy of his son.

*Ndlovu’s views are personal and not for any organisation that he is associated with, especially his employer

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