Sunday, September 20, 2020

“I have changed my views on Kwelagobe” – a response to Thabo K

A Thabo K., clearly not his real name, wrote in the Botswana Guardian quoting from a document I had written to President Khama, then the Vice President.

It was, like hundreds of others I have written, a confidential document, written for him at his request. To the best of my recollection, the only other person I gave a copy of the document to was President Mogae, as a courtesy because he was my boss.

I am disappointed that a confidential document has been leaked in order to throw mud. Much advice in Government, including the Office of the President, is given in writing, and confidentially. Much that is highly confidential has been said to me by President Khama, and by others in the time that I was in the Office of the President. They need fear nothing; they have my word that I will not share any of that with the public. I will say what I did or said, but will not say what they said or did if it was said or done confidentially. I would not dishonour myself by betraying confidences.

The document, which has been quoted out of context, dealt essentially with two subjects. Written in August 2007, it analysed candidates for the office of vice president upon President Khama assuming the presidency, and the matter of my future in the government system. President Khama had said that he wanted me to stay as Special Advisor following President Mogae’s retirement. I had said that although I was prepared to stay, it would have to be in another capacity because I did not want to continue as Special Advisor.
All this is in the document which “Thabo K” quotes from, but he finds it convenient to omit it. President Khama had then said I should make a proposal on other roles, and asked me to be creative. I did so. And I was.

About a month before I retired from the Office of the President, I issued a Press Statement at the persistent request of the Press in which I said, inter alia, that President Khama had asked me to stay as Special Advisor, and that although I did want to stay, I was not prepared to stay as Special Advisor. I then announced that I would be leaving. I would have stayed in Government if I had been prepared to stay as Special Advisor. So to claim that I am disgruntled is disingenuous.
In that Statement, the one I wrote when I knew I was leaving, I spoke very well of the President. If I was disgruntled, I would not have done so. Why should I now? The only difference between then and now is that he was not running the Party and the country, and he now is. Now I have, for the last 15 months, watched him run both, and it is the manner in which he is doing so which attracts comment from me. Don’t they say that the taste of the pudding is in the eating?

For the record, the document quoted from does not contain anything of which I am ashamed. Why must it be that when we disagree we must be accused of hating those that we disagree with? What has happened to our tradition of “mmua lebe o bua la gagwe, gore monalentle a tle a le tswe”, “botlhale ba phala bo tswa phalaneng”, “phala e se nang phalana lesilo”? Why is it that those who criticize certain people must be visited with threats?

In the document, I analysed the individuals who I either knew, or had been told, had vice-presidential ambitions.

Inevitably, and by reason of his seniority, Hon D K Kwelagobe was one of the leading candidates for the position. I did describe him as is quoted, as I did many others. To publish what I said concerning each would not embarrass me; I was doing my job, and I tried to do it as faithfully as I could in confidence to my principals. It is those individuals who you embarrass by quoting what I said.
I also acknowledged in the document, which Thabo K conveniently omits to quote, that Hon. D K Kwelagobe “…has served long, hard and, for a considerable period of time with much merit”. In the same document, I recommended Hon. Mompati Merafhe for appointment as I thought him the most suitable for reasons I stated in the document.

What his sponsors did not tell Thabo K was that I am the one who advised that upon President Khama assuming the office of President, and Hon Mompati Merafhe that of Vice President, the chairmanship of the Party should pass to Hon. D K Kwelagobe until the next Party Congress when the Party would elect a chairman. I also then advised that Hon. D K Kwelagobe should be made Leader of the House (a position which usually goes to the Vice President), as also that Hon. D K Kwelagobe, amongst others, should be restored to Cabinet. And so, even as I said in blunt terms that the man was not suited to the position of vice president, I did not say that he was entirely useless and could not be deployed in other positions. Quite the contrary.

“Thabo K” and his sponsors will fail if they think that they will drive a wedge between Hon. D K Kwelagobe and me. The latter and I had been on opposite sides of a divide within the Party, a divide based on matters of principle. He was in no doubt concerned what I thought of him, and I knew all too well what he thought of me, which was unflattering. We talked about these things.

There is nothing strange or unusual in my acknowledging Hon. D K Kwelagobe as a hero. Views that people have about others change all the time. People grow and mature, and people get to know each other more. Circumstances sometimes conspire to reveal qualities in people that even they did not know they had. When this occurs, and on mature reflection, we then change views that we had of people.

A common example is that of presidents. They are at their most popular when they assume office, for people like and invest a lot of hope in them. They think of presidents in a particular way. In time, however, people change their minds about them, and their popularity drops. Some are hounded out of office, and others subsequently lose elections.

There is no doubt that Hon. D K Kwelagobe has acted in a heroic fashion. That has to be acknowledged, even by us who before were his detractors. He alone has, at a time when the Party is in the throes of a leadership crisis, stepped up to the plate and offered it in principled fashion.

Somebody had to make that public acknowledgement, and I did. When the man was being penalized for making a principled choice, somebody had to say that it was not right of them to do so to him, and to offer him the help that he was being unfairly denied. And I did, and asked others to also do. Patriots that they are, scores of Batswana did. We had to temper the rigour of the travesty.

It is in time of crisis that the men are separated from the boys. Hon D K Kwelagobe, of all of us, has shown his mettle, and good men and women everywhere must recognize him for it, whatever they thought of him before. I have not spoken to him about it, but I am sure that his views of me may also have changed. And it is okay that we should change our views concerning each other; just men and women must change their views of others when cause requires it. It is called giving second chances.

I regret that my first Article to the Sunday Standard, while it was intended to provoke a debate on issues of public interest so that the President learns the views – positive and negative- of the public on his leadership, has evoked in some the need to try to throw mud and to score where there are no goal-posts. What the President needs is feedback, negative or positive, and not unhelpful trivia. A debate on matters of substance would benefit him greatly; a defence of him carried on by mud-slinging will not help him. However, from the hundreds of calls and responses I received since my Article and continue to receive, and from the members of the public who have written letters to the Press expressing their views on the crisis in which our country is, I am satisfied that my article has served a useful purpose.

Serowe South, right in the heart of Khamaland, recently spoke. They did not reject Tebelelo Seretse as either their delegate or observer to the forthcoming Party Congress to be held next month for she has been their MP and Minister and they know she is able. They rejected the notion that leaders can be imposed on them; that anybody has the right to select candidates for them, and to tell them who to vote for and who not to vote for. They asserted their right, and the right of the nation, to alone decide who should lead their Party and their country. The BDP Congress in Kanye will do the same thing. They will not talk about it, whatever they are told; Batswana generally prefer the quieter way; they will vote on it, and the numbers for Hon. D K Kwelagobe will be resounding. Fair men and women everywhere will know he will have earned it.

Another man, a Mr M D Lecha, who I am told teaches at the University of Botswana, recently wrote giving me homework, he said. He offers me brazen threats and intimidation. The homework seems to be that I should apologise for my first Statement to the Sunday Standard or suffer a form of victimization. Those who know him say that he is not capable of what he wrote, and that he is being moved by an invisible hand. They say that he is not worth responding to, so I will not. I do, however, record that I will not apologise, for I have nothing to apologise for. You may now, Mr Lecha, tell the invisible hand behind you that I am ready to take the punishment you threaten.

We cannot, in our own country, be afraid to speak forth when we are troubled. Batswana must have their say, and must not allow Mr Lecha and his ilk to make us prisoners in our own country. And Mr Rampholo Molefe, we do say NO to the ills that assail our country! Let them do what they wish. They will never finish us, and they will not shut us up. When one falls, another will rise and take his/her place. And so it shall be until the truth and what is right prevail, because triumph the truth will.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.