Spencer Mogapi, by all accounts a good writer, who appears to be well schooled in the English language, says in his article (Sunday Standard August 5 ÔÇô 11, 2007) “It is now very clear that Government, especially the Presidency, cares very little about the future of civil liberties in this country.”
To borrow the words of Voltaire ÔÇô The Titan of revolution, my response to Mogapi would be “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Or as we would say in Setswana “mmua-lebe o a bo a bua la gagwe.”
I do not intend to deal with issues raised in this article blow by blow but will refer to parts of it.
The statement calls into question the attitude and quality of leadership in this country.
It certainly casts a shadow of doubt on the sentiments expressed in Vision 2016, namely that “the Botswana of 2016 will emphasize the accountability of all citizens from the State President down to community leaders for their actions and decisions.” Does anybody have reasons to believe otherwise?
As if giving this nation a wake up call, Mogapi says, “Unfortunately, even for them by then it will be too late to complain, let alone talk about restoring the very liberties they are today so boisterously prodding Mogae and Khama to so shamelessly dismantle.”
I am not gifted with the clairvoyance Mogapi has of being able to foretell the resultant situation in future if a law which has only just been passed and has hardly been implemented comes into force.
Would it not assist the readers of the paper, and Batswana generally, to appreciate the threat being posed to the well being of this nation by leaders like President Mogae and Ian Khama?
Instead of making a blanket statement like “gone are the fond memories when Batswana used to be sincerely talked about offshore as a bastion of individual liberty, political freedoms, respect for the rule of law and open democracy” specific instances should be cited which lend credibility to such perception.
How many of those opposed to this Government are today languishing in jail or their movements kept under surveillance or restricted? I can think of no better example of freedom of expression than Mogapi’s article.
What I cannot understand is how a man, who not so long ago was said to have been “a passionate defender of civil liberties, showing a great and fearless potential to speak for the weakest members of our society” could suddenly become the kind of despot whose preoccupation is to “concoct a raft of laws that would transfer all forms of power from institutions of democracy to the office of presidency soon to be occupied by Ian Khama.” What is wrong with Ian Khama anyway?
What are the indicators which point to the fact that “Botswana is on the verge of some kind of mortal danger, a deliberately falsified prospectus meant to scare citizens into backing a potentially illegal intelligence service with all the features of a police state.” Participation of the opposition in the discussion of the Bill was extremely important and, therefore, withdrawing from the discussions can only be regarded as unfortunate and regrettable.
While it would have been ideal for the two sides to have met at an All-Party caucus to allow the opposition to seek clarification of some grey areas of the Bill, it is important to note that the critical debate on the bill and the final decision on it has to take place in the chamber of the National Assembly. Taking part by the opposition in the debate, albeit reluctantly, could have forced the alleged reluctant BDP to take note of the issues being raised by the opposition.
By withdrawing from the debates on the grounds that an All-Party caucus was canceled is to me foolhardy.
It gives one the impression that the opposition seems to believe that the All-Party caucus takes precedence over the debates in the National Assembly.
They have missed a golden opportunity to put across the views of those they represent. They have also played into the hands of those who may not have been keen to see the opposition taking part in the discussion of so important a piece of legislation. It is said if a man deceives me once, shame on him, but if he deceives me twice, shame on me.
What Mogapi says about Mogae and Khama’s leadership style is debatable.
Let us not forget that there is always a possibility of mistakes in human judgment. The Rev Jesse Jackson once said “The next time you have the opportunity to judge someone, think twice before you judge them too quickly and too harshly. Remember if you had lived their lives, experienced their problems, had their family and friends and were faced with all that life had thrown at them, chances are that you would behave exactly like them. A little understanding in these circumstances goes a long way! Don’t be a judge.”
Jerry B. Gabaake