One of the most basic freedoms which have not found its way into statute books is the freedom to think. It needs not be enshrined in our books. It inheres on the human being quoi human being. In his article in the Sunday Standard of August 31 to September 1 2008, Kenneth Dipholo thinks that President Seretse Khama Ian Khama is a celebrity president.
I think that His Excellency the President is not, and cannot be a celebrity. In this republic, there is absolutely nothing wrong in thinking anything, in as much as there is nothing wrong in putting one’s thoughts in black and white, as long as they do not undermine or threaten any other person(s) or the good order of the republic and its people.
It has of late, become very fashionable to describe President Ian Khama in ways that do not advance the nation’s interests, and it appears to be very interesting to some people, to be seen criticising, unfairly in most cases, the President. One needs not be reminded that His Excellency, like any mortal, has a particular personality and, like any individual, he is by no means infallible. Where he has erred, as it is only human to err, he shall admit that he has erred.
His Excellency, like any individual, including his predecessors, has a distinct personality. He cannot have a perfect president personality as that envisaged by the tone of Dipholo’s letter. However, Dipholo’s article makes no mention of any wrong or mistake on the part of the president.
As a leader, without any shadow of doubt, Khama’s character has to come under scrutiny, discussion and even public debate.
I, for one, strongly believe that the nation deserves to know certain things about their leader, including to some extent, his character and personality as an individual.
It is, however, sad that quite often, any person who responds to unfair comment about President Khama is labeled a bootlicker, sycophant and seen as wanting to be the president’s favourite.
This, however, cannot deter any sincere person from speaking what they see to be unfair comment about him. President Khama is not the first or the last leader of either the Botswana Democratic Party or this republic. Leaders will come and go, Botswana and the BDP shall remain firmly grounded on the democratic principles they are cast on.
I am a strong believer in constructive criticisms of leaders, government and the party. A nation that constantly engages itself in dialogue is a democratically healthy one to which people of our days wish to belong. We are one such nation. We as the BDP youth do not believe in democracy being understood to be limited to the existence of various political parties and the ritualistic holding of elections every five years. We appreciate and recognize civil society, among others, as indispensable stake holders in our democratic process. The accountability of our leaders, as well as the existence of checks and balances against those who occupy positions of responsibility, justifies our democracy as a system through which we have agreed to have our national life ordered.
Thus it is unfair to liken Khama to celebrities who, as in Dipholo’s words, thrive on controversies and breaking records of doing things out of this world.
Unlike celebrities, President Khama does not crave extreme public visibility.
In fact, he does not enjoy such a high profile existence.
Contrary to what Dipholo thinks, President Khama does not even present himself as a moral beacon.
He is a leader of a nation.
We have mandated him to lead Botswana and to make us a better people in many ways. His mandate, inter alia, is to place us, firmly, on a realistic and sustainable route to better living as other nations of the world. Every leader is enjoined by the imperatives of their position, to make pronouncements on certain matters while simultaneously leading his people like the biblical Moses, to a better destination. We shall differ with him on the way, as it is only human to hold differing views.
Dipholo says President Khama seeks to create a society epitomized by his personal brand.
This is, of course, false.
Khama inherits the leadership of a society that has crafted for itself a path to better living standards. He does not seek to impose his personality on the nation. Khama continues to engage Batswana on, among others, matters of discipline as an essential element of a progressive modern nation, in answer to some problems that the nation faces.
The need for discipline was not brought about by Khama’s coming into office, nor will it end with his departure.
If anything, discipline is an obligation on any leader who seeks solutions to the problems faced by Batswana.
He has not personalized government and his pronouncement on discipline should not be construed to mean that he assumed office to “discipline the nation”.
As the leader of the BDP, President Khama is neither more popular than the party nor bigger than the party.
He is a leader of the BDP just like his predecessors, and in the same wave length like those who will come after him.
The President has not brought in to the party, any style of campaigning that may be termed movie style campaigning, as Dipholo puts it.
Dipholo further writes that reports are that civil servants are expected to actively partake in drafting the President’s speeches for BDP functions. There is also no truth in this statement as any politician may access public information and records through any public office as this is in the interest of nation building. All politicians need certain information from the public, for their use in their work. Civil servants do not write the President’s BDP speeches, he may consult them as any leader would, including Honourable Moupo.
Khama is a leader of a democratic party and there is absolutely no arbitrariness or dictatorial tendencies in the way decisions are made in the BDP or government.
More importantly, he also does not own the party, it belongs to all BDP members, him included. He is a leader of men and women of competence and integrity who continue to grapple with matters of national interest and, as the head, naturally, from time to time, he will be compelled to make some unpopular decisions.
In as much as he is ultimately accountable and responsible, directly and vicariously, for all that occurs in government, there can never be a one man executive. The normal practices and established processes of running a government, including at cabinet level, continue under President Khama, without any bending of either rule or practice.
Civil servants do not operate under presidential directives no one is about to be prosecuted for insubordination, indiscipline or even treason as Dipholo thinks. Consultation remains the foundation of leadership in both the BDP and government.
The President does not treat any person who differs with him on any particular matter differently from those who would have not. It is a normal process where one works with others, and he does consult on matters that he needs to acquaint himself with, for various reasons as he does not see himself as the sole repository of knowledge and wisdom.
Treason is a very serious offence. Together with murder, assaulting a person with the intent to murder, immediately after or before committing an act of piracy are the only three offences punishable by the death penalty. It is, therefore, a far cry from the truth, in fact an untrue statement by Dipholo to write that bureaucrats are about to be charged with treason for disclosing some information.
This is unnecessarily alarmist and has the effect of instilling fear among people.
The freedoms of all our people, including Kenneth Dipholo and civil servants, are very well guaranteed and protected by the laws of Botswana.
The President, or his government, has not announced any economic policies representing a shift in policy to suit any person’s personal taste. He does not disrespect any institutions of his own government, as he presides over them and leads through and with them.
Of course, contrary to what Dipholo says, there has not been any change in the principle of collective responsibility as we all know it. There is no sign of self centeredness, arrogance or any sign of disrespect for the collective that is government.
Our position as the BDP Youth Wing, vis-├á-vis Dipholo’s article to referred to here, is that, while we cherish and promote discourse on all matters, his has unfortunately failed dismally to convince and justify the alarmist and gloomy picture that he paints about President Ian Khama in his article.
We very much welcome his thoughts on all matters, but we do not at all believe that he has been fair to President Khama as a leader and President of this Republic.
We can not prescribe to him what to think save to say his thoughts are clearly way off the mark, biased, devoid of truth and substance and without doubt personal.
Motsaathebe is Chairman of the BDP Youth wing and a Member of the ruling party Central Committee.