Sunday, September 20, 2020

Politicising DISS will prove counter-productive

We have learnt with dismay that a well-known functionary, activist and central committee member of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party has been appointed to chair the tribunal of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services.

We have no doubts about the abilities and qualifications of Isaac Seloko.
Our hope was that the tribunal was going to be an impartial body that was placed well above party politics.
It would seem like the appointing authority ÔÇô President Ian Khama – had totally different thoughts on what the tribunal would stand for.
That on its own is, of course, is a problem.

But an even bigger problem is the pace at which the present government is busy polarizing and politicizing sacred institutions that should be well above party politics.

The formation of DISS has, as we know, deeply polarized this nation.
Many people, while agreed to the principle of a need to have an institution with the mandate the same as that of DISS, regretted and rued the fact that there was no oversight mechanism to police the activities of the Service.

There were complaints that not only will the Security service become an extension of the ruling party but there was also the real potential of the agents being used to fight political and, in some extreme cases, factional wars.

Those fears have not been allayed.
If anything, they have been confirmed
To many people, hardly two years on DISS has already become a rogue elephant with excessive power and unaccountable to anyone.
That is regrettable.

We had hoped that the tribunal would be chaired by a non-partisan individual, most preferably a retired judge.
In a democracy that should not be.
This will polarize this nation.
Our understanding is that Seloko is a lawyer by training. But, as everybody knows, he is a well-known activist of the ruling party.

We would have wished that he also had had the audacity to graciously turn down the offer.
We do not know what he hopes to achieve for himself by accepting the appointment.

A learned lawyer that we hear he is, we suspect Seloko knows more than many of us that his partisan politics will also eat down the credibility of the tribunal he will lead.
That is sad indeed.

There is no need to emphasise the fact that partisan politics will also eat into the integrity of the tribunal.
More crucially, a lack of impartibility will also kill public trust on the DISS while entrenching suspicions that this is one of the arms of the party.
Partisan politics, which President Ian Khama seems to be so wedded to will no doubt contaminate public perceptions of DISS.

That is deeply regrettable.
DISS has started on a wrong footing.
What it needs now is to embark on a public confidence building exercise.
One does not see how the appointment of a BDP activist could be looked by the public as a part of such an exercise.
Once again, we find ourselves wondering if President Ian Khama really has access to quality advice that a person of his stature deserves.

If he had access to good advice, President Khama would not have appointed a well known BDP activist to head such a sacred institution such as the tribunal.

At the pace at which we are going, it will not be long before BDP membership becomes a part of the requirement to be appointed to the bench of the High Court.

We have no problem with Khama’s friendship to Seloko, for it is of no concern to us as long as that friendship remains a private relationship that has no bearing on the functioning of this nation’s public institutions.

Going forward, we want to call on President Ian Khama to appoint an independent advisor who will give him professional advice on intricate matters such as these.
Surrounding himself with the ever present self aggrandizing lackeys will only undermine public confidence on the president.

On another issue, we strongly feel that time has come for the president to engage with the media.

By so saying, we are not suggesting that the media should become a part of his entourage to private visits in America or some other exotic tourist destinations he likes to frequent.
All we are saying is that in a democracy, the media plays an important role and for the President to decline interviews and steadfastly refuse to address press conferences is ultimately bad for his image.

Again, we wonder what the views of the people advising the President are on the President engaging the media.
All we know is that nine months into the presidency, Khama is still to address his first press conference.
Even Jacob Zuma of South Africa’s ANC who is often ridiculed as not being grounded on many issues never shies or runs into the bush when asked for an interview.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.