President Seretse Khama Ian Khama was a the receiving end of a volley of attacks from opposition party leaders at the recent gatherings held by political parties, notably the Botswana Congress Party and the Botswana Peoples Party.
At both conferences Khama bore the brunt of the wrath of President Bernard Balikani of the BCP and Gilson Saleshando of BCP whose addresses shot salvos at his initiatives and administration.
The BPP held their 48th annual delegates conference under the theme “Botswana’s democracy under threat”. Presenting a speech on behalf of party president Bernard Balikani. Veteran BPP councilor Motlatsi Molapisi said that the theme was chosen particularly because “there has been a significant decline in democratic traditions over all the years that BDP has been in power, particularly because Botswana is now under a new administration led by Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama”
Balikani further dismissed Khama as coming from a background devoid of democracy because almost all his life he has belonged to the two institutions of military and chieftainship which are well known for their tendency to rule by decree.
“It is against this background that BPP has a grave concern for the future of democracy in Botswana” read the speech.
The BPP President further went on to cite a number of issues that he feels are detrimental to the promotion of democratic principles in Botswana. He lamented the recent development when specially elected Member of Parliament Botsalo Ntuane was forced to withdraw his statements after he differed with government on the introduction of the new liquor laws. “This sign of intolerance by His Excellency does not bode well for our democracy” read the speech. Previous reports indicate that Ntuane was called to order after he took sides with liquor traders in their stand off against government and expressed misgivings that the regulations were turning Botswana into a fundamentalist state. “This is what I call state harassment. As they stand they are turning Botswana into a fundamentalist state … very soon we will not be different from countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia where people are told what time to sleep, what music to listen to and which movies to watch” the maverick MP was quoted as saying.
But Ntuane was later forced to eat humble pie and retract his statements after a heated central committee meeting at which some were reportedly baying for his suspension or outright dismissal. The meeting culminated in a retraction statement on which Ntuane said that he had decided to retract the more intemperate language and unfortunate analogies, specifically the reference to a fundamentalist state comparable to Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The BPP also castigated the President’s impending 70 % price hike on alcohol, together with the limited reduction of hours of drinking alcohol by the working class as a violation of human rights. “Although our President neither drinks nor likes alcohol he should understand that under a democracy different people like different things and as long as they are not breaking the law they should be allowed to do what they want to do” read the speech.
The BPP also lamented the continued refusal by the ruling party to fund all political parties saying that “for all intents and purposes our democracy is a one party state due to the staggering wealth of the ruling party and abject poverty suffered by the opposition parties”.
They also said that the continued insistence by the ruling BDP on automatic succession is highly unfortunate and undemocratic as “in a democracy, the supreme leader should be elected by the people…in order to give him or her legitimacy.”
Not to be left out BCP President Gilson Saleshando lashed out at Khama’s recent initiatives, dismissing them as untested ides that will never stand the test of time. He said that Khama’s graduate unemployment initiative is just a populist maneuver that will undoubtedly fail in the long run because no thought has been given as to where the revenues to fund it will be obtained from. Botswana Alliance Movement’s Lepetu Setshwaelo also said that Khama’s initiatives are a bit late in that his predecessors have been neglecting the welfare of Batswana for a long time. He called for sustainable and overarching policies geared at improving the welfare of Batswana instead of second rate ideas that are doubted by even some within the BDP circles.