Friday, September 25, 2020

“Extending presidential term will be dangerous”

Dear Editor

Let me exercise my constitutional and democratic right of freely expressing myself without fear before it becomes a mere wish when the new proposed media bill is enacted into law.

Assistant Minister of Local Government, Olifant Mfa, has all of a sudden been turned into a praise singer for President Ian Khama. This is the same Mfa who yesterday made a stunning statement in parliament that he wanted to exercise his democratic right of talking freely while he still has that chance under Festus Mogae’s leadership because there was no guarantee that the right will still exist after Mogae has left. He said after Mogae is gone the lucky ones will only be those in prisons. It was felt that Mfa was actually making reference to the anticipated ascendance of the current president, Khama, who was then the vice president. Mfa was then just an ordinary Member of Parliament.

But all that has changed since Mfa got a cabinet post. His usual vigor, which he used to display before he got the post, immediately evaporated. He is now all praises for Khama. Probably Mfa feels that his political survival is dependant on Khama remaining president. It needs to be noted that when Mfa was facing the stiffest competition from specially elected MP Botsalo Ntuane, Khama came to his rescue when he addressed a gathering in Nata, and subsequently announced that Mfa, whom he preferred to call “Kabila” then, will remain Member of Parliament for the Nata/Gweta constituency even beyond 2009.
To many, this sounded like a direct campaign for Mfa against anybody who harboured any ambitions to challenge him. Mfa was subsequently appointed assistant Minister in Khama’s cabinet, against all odds. Recently, president Khama toured Mfa’s constituency, from Gweta to Dukwi. This tour has definitely made great political mileage for Mfa who still has to go pass “Bulela Ditswe” elections against other contenders.

This seems to have compelled the honourable MP to act and reward his saviour. It is now his time to reward his master. His recent announcement that he intends to table a motion calling for the extension of Khama’s presidential term to expire in 2023 not 2018 cannot just be viewed as a mere coincidence. Mfa says the reason he wants to table his proposal is that it is becoming costly to maintain former presidents. Even though I would like to applaud Mfa for this acknowledgement, that maintaining former presidents the way it is done in this country is costly and unsustainable, I beg to differ with his proposal of extension of presidential term as a solution. We need to tell Mfa that the solution to this costly maintenance of former presidents lies not with extending presidential terms. The only solution is to bring to an instant end this lavish treatment of already wealthy people. Unless Mfa is fronting for someone with this suggestion.

We have argued before that presidents are cared for by tax payers when they are in office. They are entitled to a handsome pension when they retire. To build them expensive houses will not be sustainable in the long term when we have many retired presidents. Though we acknowledge enormous contribution our former presidents have made to this country, and their continued involvement in matters pertaining to development even after their term in office, we need to guard against the “dear leader mentality”, as MP Ntuane would put it. As demonstrated from the only two former presidents alive that we have, the cost of their maintenance is becoming exorbitantly unaffordable. Former president Ketumile Masire’s house was built at an estimated cost of 7 million pula, while Mogae’s house has almost tripled that 20 million.
There is no problem appreciating what our former presidents have done for the nation. Batswana have demonstrated this when they showered both Masire and Mogae with pounds and pounds of presents, including livestock when they retired. Now to build expensive houses for each retiring president when they already have their own big houses is not necessary. Why not at least give them offices in the government enclave where they can meet with their official guests.

To propose extension of office term for presidents as a solution is devoid of intelligent thinking. Mfa should know that absolute power corrupts absolutely. History has recorded that presidents who remain in power longer than necessary tend to develop dictatorial tendencies. We reject any insinuation which aims to extend Khama’s term in office longer than 10 years.

Banks Ndebele
Mogoditshane North

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