The latest affront to freedom of expression by the ruling Botswana Democratic party is a clear vindication of MISA Botswana opinion that things are falling apart in this democracy. That a member of parliament could be blocked from standing for elections just because his views did not rhyme with those of the leadership is disheartening to say the least.
Reports from the media indicate that Pono Moatlhodi, a Member of Parliament for Tonota South constituency, has been recalled from standing for the upcoming elections after he criticized the militarisation of the civil service. This turn of events is worrisome to anyone who claims to cherish democracy and related values.
This comes after another member of parliament, Botsalo Ntuane, was allegedly gagged and forced to retract his misgivings against the decline of our democracy. Silencing two MPs is surely going to have a ripple effect in the party and will obviously lead to a club of mute people with only one voice to listen to.
This is very unfortunate and MISA Botswana is sincerely sympathetic to the ruling party members. In their minds, the honourables have rightly thought they went to Parliament as people’s representatives. Just like us, they never thought this country’s freedom of expression would decline that rapidly. Having noted that, it is important to also observe that Moatlhodi’s fate is a message not only aimed at the party leadership but the public at large.
We need to dissect what Moatlhodi said and decide whether it is an offence, let alone a punishable one. After complaining about the latest trend of congesting the civil service with military personnel, particularly with the appointment of an army person to lead prisons, Moatlhodi is reported to have pleaded with Parliament as thus:
“At prisons we teach people to rehabilitate the prisoners, while at BDF we teach people to receive commands and to deal with the enemy. Ke a kopa bagaetsho, fa gone ke a rapela, a ko re boneng gore re a tlhokomela. (I plead with you, I pray that let us be careful).
Surely no one can doubt Moatlhodi’s observations. MISA Botswana and many other people share the same sentiments and we wonder what would happen to ordinary citizens if such an action could be taken against a Member of Parliament.
What is even revealing with the latest action is the fact that the latest casualty allegedly claims not to have been afforded any hearing. Like everyone else, he still wonders what wrong he has done.
MISA Botswana calls upon civil society organizations to start raising their voice. It is better to prevent now than to wait until things are totally out of control. Through this statement, we are urging CSOs to start deliberating on the status of our democracy and begin to sensitize the people of this country of the dangers associated with apathy.