Since Khama joined active politics as the Vice President of the Republic of Botswana, his critics have been unrelenting in proclaiming that Khama was likely to violate the principle of democracy as conditioned by our traditional institutions for consultation and management.
Critics have cited many instances where Khama’s approach to the use of official and personal authority was diametrically opposed to globally recognized democratic ideals. He was in the past accused of trampling on the rule of law, for having a penchant for riding roughshod over every individual and all institutions of the state. Khama has been disparaged for believing that he is bigger than the state and the collectivity of individuals who make Botswana.
His critics also cited many instances where Khama was believed to have acted unilaterally to effect high profile decrees as in the case of deciding on the location of the second university, the ill-advised termination of Tirelo Setshaba and so forth.
Khama has also been subjected to criticism for perceived high-handed response to criticism and his crave for Godly status. Critics posited that Khama rarely made public speeches that could be used to discern his ideological posture. At some point it was reported that Khama commented that ‘people do not know me’. This secretive posture bothered skeptics who suspected that Khama was hiding the better of his evil self. At the time critics held that view that Khama was unable to control his military style impulses.
Commentators held the view that Khama enjoys exempting himself from normal checks and balances by credible state institutions in a way that depicts him as independent of the state and its agencies. This was after Khama ignored the sincere advice from the Office of the Ombudsman to stop piloting BDF helicopters.
Critics also accused Khama for his love for a confrontational attitude and constant display of aggression, intolerance and disregard for established processes and procedures in the conduct of public business.
His desecration of Parliament, especially his non-attendance in Parliament, his dislike for parliamentary debates and most importantly, his use of threatening and cowboy language in calling MPs names, gave his critics more ammunition than they actually needed.
Over the years, Khama’s critics have been suggesting that they are contemplating to tone down, go into absolute silence or better still, join his circle of fans because Khama’s use of power was perceived to be less avuncular and all pervasive. Skeptics held the view that Khama had the ability to ruthlessly crush or malign his opponents and those who question his leadership style. Critics concluded that Khama was doing virtually nothing to refute these damaging accusations and that in the absence of any assurance from him it was indeed only safer for them to go into hibernation.
Tuesday April 1 2008 marked the dawn of a new era on the occasion to inaugurate Khama as the President of the Republic of Botswana. On this occasion Khama revealed many things about himself, real or rhetoric. He assured the nation and the world that he identifies with former President Festus Mogae’s words which states that ‘I have not allowed political expediency and the pursuit of populism to cloud my judgment and service to the nation’. I relished in relief and excitement.
When President Khama said, “I am confident in the future, and I am determined to build upon the solid foundation that has already been laid since independence by my predecessors”, I felt relieved and less vulnerable.
When President Khama said, ‘I am a democrat. I have always believed in democratic ideals, and joined the military to defend this democracy’, I had a huge sigh of relief. When President Khama discussed his fourth D for Discipline, of course part of my excitement evaporated but still I remained assured that democracy is on the march. I truthfully believed that whereas there is a discernable over-emphasis on Discipline than the other three Ds, there is always a need to acknowledge that some of our social problems are a product of our indiscipline. I sincerely believe that freedoms of the individual are required to be tempered with responsibilities.
Therefore, I was not completely frightened by this principle of Discipline. My main concern though, was Khama’s over-emphasis on it. Discipline is necessary but it is not a sufficient condition for prosperity therefore too much emphasis on it is rather simplistic and intimidating. All in all, over-emphasis aside, discipline partly defines a self-respecting and cultured society. It sets us as animals capable of speech and reason, apart from the rest of the uncivilized monsters. Consequently, I still find Khama’s revelation that he is a democrat and his delayed assurances that he is not going to purge critics refreshing. We will occasionally remind him of these words in the future when he assaults his own conscience.
Nevertheless, there is a new worrying trend among some elements who claim to be Khama’s supporters to associate Khama’s critics with saboteurs and subversive lots who deserve to be charged for treason. Perhaps they are saddened that Khama has vowed not to purge his opponents. Probably they have been awaiting Khama’s ascendancy to the Presidency and by extension the elimination of his critics or that he will coerce them to develop new love for him.
Whereas Khama has shown that he is not the Khama that his critics feared in excesses, that he is not an overzealous assassin, his fans seem to have caught rabies and are running amok, incriminating every single individual who has been critical of Khama and his government. They behave like people who are just realizing that indeed they are alive and have a reasonable level of intellectual ability. They have suddenly lifted their self-imposed solitary confinement and are trying to impress by using every small opportunity to present Khama’s critics as uncivilized brutes who have to be policed so that they are eventually nailed for fabricated charges. They are inexplicably engaged in a retrospective review of essays authored by those considered to be anti-Khama. This tantamount to witch-hunt and hooliganism.
Their zeal to endear themselves to Khama has revolutionalized even sleepwalkers into a rabble noisy and boisterous group of distant bodyguards who are eager to make for lost opportunity. Like Mugabe’s war veterans, they have unleashed a brutal campaign of terror and their language has grown increasingly belligerent and commanding.
Whereas they are at liberty to defend Khama and the government, they should be very cautious not to soil Khama’s democratic credentials by being overly sensitive to criticism to the extent that they seem to be warning that those who have been maintaining a negative stance on Khama during the Mogae era will have to pay for their past misdeeds. Such people are mischievously using Khama’s name to settle scores. Everyone professes to be Khama’s close associate or to be in regular contact with Khama, hence some go about intimidating and swindling people in the name of Khama (Khama said this, Khama won’t like this, if Khama find out you are gone).
Yet most know full well that their decisions to defend Khama against criticism is a pretext to simply abuse commentators in the knowledge that their association with the Khama camp automatically shield them against any possible sanction. They feel they are adequately protected by the state and stand getting bonuses for their criminal operations. Some use pseudonyms to engage in Nazi-style verbal violence and use Khama’s name for personal gain.
As we saw in last week’s edition of The Sunday Standard others are all too happy to have whole tirades written for them, with their names appended at the top pretending to be authors just to show that they too are prepared to die for Khama. It is amazing that so many people want to come to Khama’s rescue, particularly those who seem to be motivated by greed and insecurity. It’s amazing what people are prepared to do in Khama’s name. We should be amazed of the low levels to which people are prepared to stoop just to shout Khama’s name the loudest.
President Khama and the Office of the President should steadfastly reprimand such people who are dragging Khama’s name into the sewage pond. Since most claim to be Khama’s close associates, their improper attack on Khama’s critics, in particular their resolve for character assassination and a retrospective review of past essays on Khama could be misconstrued as calculated campaigns by Khama’s office to propagate falsehood against his critics and present them as social outcasts. Such people sensationalize discussions by falsely claiming that some of us have never said anything positive about Khama and therefore should now cease to exist.
The use of pseudonyms by people who claim to be in regular contact with Khama as well as the presentation of their views from what seems to be positions of authority could as well be interpreted as a carefully orchestrated scheme by Khama’s office to man-mark Khama’s critics and ultimately destroy them by hook or crook. This is even more suspicious because when former President Rre Festus Mogae was subjected to incessant criticism for being ‘reluctant’ to lead the country, for his love for external travel and for the terrible bloomers committed by his senior lieutenants, hardly anyone came to his defense except his official spokesperson.
Thus, this ridiculous mad rush to defend Khama must be subjected to closer scrutiny significantly by Khama himself. It is suspected that the pro-Khama crusade is insincere and is akin to acts of political thuggery aimed at cracking down on dissent through the use of secret agents.
People should note that in as much as Khama is leader of BDP, he has taken oath to lead the country and therefore has to some extent forsaken BDP’s narrow interests. He has said that he will not allow political expediency to cloud his thoughts. He is in essence for all of us and can be commented on by all.
He is not his supporters’ private property and there should be no reason for them to believe that they are necessarily entitled to his space more than his critics.