Opposition Members of Parliament are worried that the 2014 general elections are taking place in an atmosphere that limits political competition and with abuses of administrative resources, state media coverage strongly in favour of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.
This emerged Friday morning during the debate of a motion tabled by Botswana Congress Party( BCP) MP Kentse Rammidi who complained that unfair and inequitable news coverage by the state media has tilted the political playing field in favour of the ruling BDP.
Rammidi’s motion which was defeated 10 against 19 votes of the numerically strong BDP asked Parliament to resolve that all political parties participating in the upcoming 2014 general elections be given equal and fair coverage by the state media for their campaigns.
Debating his motion, Rammidi complained of undue advantage given to the ruling party, citing biased media reporting that gives the ruling party extended coverage as compared to other political parties.
“Campaigning is a process not an event. It is a process to endear ones party vision, policies, believes and candidates into the hearts and minds of people,” he said.
“The most powerful way of doing so is through the media. In this country the media that is more accessible and enjoy wide coverage and circulation is the state media.” Rammidi who stopped short of accusing the president and his deputy of merging the party and the state to gain political mileage said once President Khama and Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe put on their party colours, they should be treated like any politician and not be given special treatment. He said doing so was tantamount to using tax payers’ money to fund the BDP campaign.
Selibe Phikwe MP, Gilson Saleshando who supported Rammidi’s motion cited an incident recently in which Botswana Television footage of him and MP Gipson Nshimnwe addressing a political rally in Kasane was shot such that it took away the punch of the rally. Saleshando said the footage blocked out multitudes of people who had attended the rally and only depicted him and Nshimnwe.
The BCP parliamentarian blamed former Presidents Festus Mogae and Ketumile Masire for bringing us a“military dictator to runs the country and we are bearing the brunt,” Saleshando said. Saleshando said since he became Selibe-Phikwe MP, none of his kgotla meetings have ever been covered on the national television.
. He advised the BDP to distinguish government activities from party activities saying some BDP parliamentarians were hiding behind official government activities to campaign for the party.
Maun MP, Tawana Moremi said the national television would rather show footage of President Khama and his entourage at the caves training and enjoying themselves than to report on issues of national interest like the Botswana Meat Commission problems and the current power outages. “Our request is not only directed at the opposition but even to some of you (BDP MP’s),” Moremi said, citing the Deputy Speaker Pono Moatlhodi who allegedly suffered a state media news blackout during the party primary elections campaign.
“You will bear with me…but the national TV concentrated on your competitor distributing blankets with the president and today he has usurped the constituency,” he added, referring to Moatlhodi whose Tonota South constituency has since been snatched by his arch-rival Thapelo Olopeng during the BDP controversial primaries.
Moremi said the national television has since become the property of President Khama and Minister Mokgweetsi Masisi who feature in almost every news bulletin.
“Just after the party national congress recently he (Khama) was featured for two days running on national TV,” he said.