Thursday, September 24, 2020

Political debates need to be courteous and scholarly

It is inevitable that the level of political debate in Botswana is intense as a result of the open and democratic nature of our political system. It is however regrettable that some commentators see this openness as a licence to abuse their political opponents especially in the media.

One such abusive commentator is Thabo Seleke, a University of Botswana academic, who decided to pen an article in the Sunday Standard (November 15 -21) in which he played the man and not the ball. In that article he refers to me as a “poor former BDF non-commissioned officer (that) has lost it’ and is in “a state of hallucination and is taking his political fights to the private media”.

Almost without shame, he refers to me as “a sycophant whom, by his own admission, operated as a one-person BDP propaganda machine”. He further adds “I am convinced that Peloetletse’s recent wanton actions of bringing the party name into disrepute can be equated to that of ‘Mpara’. “In fact in Peloetletse, the BDP has its own version of ‘Mpara’. “He is a real ‘Mampara’. This is, once again regrettable, because the learned academic makes no attempt at all to argue his case but chooses to engage in personal attacks, gossip and innuendo. Some of us expect much better from a university professor.

In the Sunday Standard of August 29, 2007, I wrote an article appealing for political tolerance and respect and further advised politicians to conduct themselves in a professional manner. In other words they must see themselves, more importantly, as people with rights and responsibilities rather than engaging in politics of hate, unprovoked newspaper articles that are aimed at belittling and ridiculing their political opponents. Thabo Seleke has in the referred article insulted my person and dignity. His slander is based on equally libelous, scandalous and a defamatory article by the Sunday Standard newspaper (8 ÔÇô 14) titled “BDP big mouth silenced” which was clearly written in bad taste and agenda driven.

He referred to me as a ‘moron’, a psychopath (i.e. a person suffering from chronic mental disorder), a vulture and a ‘sycophant’. Thabo Seleke is of course entitled to his opinion. He is also free to express himself freely in the press, but his writing must reflect some personal integrity. Differing with other people politically in a democratic society as ours, does not give him the right to insult and abuse anyone. He does not have the right to heap abuse on people whose only sin is to hold different political views. He must therefore learn to counter facts with facts.

I conclude by reminding Thabo Seleke, once more, that cultures differ from country to country. In Botswana our norms, beliefs and moral values, play an important part in our political stability.. Thabo Seleke is free to express his views. He can, disagree with, condemn, and dispute his opponents’ views but must not forget our culture of BOTHO and TLOTLO. Thabo Seleke and I have a saying: “Maitseo namane ya moroba”.

I can stand up and defend myself against Thabo Seleke’s personal attacks. I hope that he allows his students to differ with him in class. I also hope that the students who do not share his politics are not made to suffer in class.

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