Sunday, September 20, 2020

President Dr Masisi must defend our country and not make deals with the devil!

For some time now the fall out between His Excellency President Dr Masisi and immediate past former President Dr Khama seems to be causing a lot of anxiety for many people across the political divide. Many Batswana, irrespective of party affiliation, are now stressed like a caged chimpanzee and are incredibly worried about the impact of this petty feud on the nation’s long term prospects for national unity. Even members of the opposition parties who initially celebrated the conflict with the hope that they will score some needed political points are beginning to be worried for the country.

In the wake of all this panicking and palpable fear, some people have suggested that there is need for a ceasefire for the sake of national and regional stability. Accordingly, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Council of Elders initiated a mediation process that sought to reach a compromise and restore normal relations between these fellows squabbling over cooks and flying toys.

Whereas it is acknowledged that mediation is one of the available mechanisms for resolving conflicts, the Badge of Courage opines that in so far as it seeks to reconcile bickering individuals by way of striking a compromise deal between President Dr Masisis and former president Dr Khama, such mediation efforts should be denounced unconditionally. Efforts to reconcile the two are in fact not different from worshipping Satan in the sense of aiding a bad person to do bad things on us. For President Dr Masisi it would be similar to making a deal with the devil.

We know some of the things the former president want from the state such as being given unrestricted permission to fly state aircrafts whenever he desires and we know that this would be irresponsible and unsustainable even if there presently exist such a provision in his retirement benefits. Certainly we know the circumstances under which Parliament legislated his over-generous pension and other benefits precisely that many BDP parliamentarians actually had serious reservations with the proposed law but wouldn’t dare raise an objection about it or anything else designed for Dr Khama’s personal benefit.

In this respect, we know that President Dr Masisi’s administration merely sought to correct obvious wrongs that they committed under duress. Surely it was always going to happen that at some point in time some of the unreasonable benefits accruing to former president Dr Khama would need to be revised and/or abruptly discontinued for they represent a clear case of fraud and thieving. If the reversal of some of these benefits was not going to be done by Dr Khama’s immediate successor, it could possibly mean that it would have to be by someone else in the future. However, circumstances dictated that this be done urgently hence President Dr Masisi as the incumbent had to do it. The bottom line is that it was a matter of time before it was done.

Thus, President Dr Masisi’s decision to cut down some of the capricious benefits accruing to former president Dr Khama is indeed a welcome move that calls for wild celebration for it reaffirms our commitment to prudent management of our scarce resources. President Dr Masisi’s responsibility toward the nation compels him to always act decisively including taking unpopular decisions and in the process annoying celebrity former President Dr Khama’s fan base.

In this respect, President Dr Masisi must stand his ground and resist peace overtures from spineless and morally bankrupt partisan bigots. The ability to hold firm is a core trait of good leadership. Essentially, it is a basic principle of knowing what is not negotiable and in this case prudent management of the economy is non-negotiable.

Mediation offers an opportunity for compromising and a compromise is often characterized by sacrifices wherein both sides are expected to give up something of value. However, given Dr Khama’s sheer amount of popularity and influence, it follows that he is always going to negotiate from a much stronger position and will use the goodwill he enjoys from the public to manipulate the mediation process and get more of what he does not deserve.

A compromise often entails seeking a middle ground and in this case it would mean President Dr Masisi trading truth and principle for his position. This would be similar to mortgaging the nation. Politics deals with power and the distribution of scarce public resources and it is an important principle that power and the distribution of limited resources should not be diced about to placate some greedy, petulant, egoistic and intransigent personalities. President Dr Masisi must resist the temptation to concede grounds and parcel out public resources to paranoid individuals irrespective of their status in society.

The President must reaffirm his commitment to core principles of good governance even when he faces the danger of being removed as party and state president. Should he be booted out for fighting against undue pension entitlements for a former president and/or theft by powerful groups in our society, he would have tried to restore sanity and history will judge him fairly. We cannot set a bad precedent by caving in to unreasonable demands by former president Dr Khama.

Mediating for a compromise is basically a smokescreen to conceal and perpetuate fraud, theft, money laundering and related criminal activities in the guise of reinstating former president Dr Khama’s retirement benefits. A compromise entails entering into an agreement that favours certain individuals at the expense of the larger society. In the case of Drs Masisi and Khama feud, the mediation process could as well conclude with granting permission to Dr Khama to pilot army aircrafts. Given his penchant to travel non-stop, often accompanied by countless alternating special guests, a compromise would prove costly and unsustainable. And the likelihood is that once given what he wants, he will demand more and more until is de facto head of state via Mafia style.

In any case we need to be reminded that Dr Khama was inaugurated as the President of the Republic of Botswana in 2008 on a platform of zero tolerance for indiscipline and disrespect for those in positions of authority. In effect, Dr Khama had an uncompromising mind-set that had no room for mediation and reconciliation unless he was the absolute winner. For instance, during the historic industrial action by civil servants in 2011 Dr Khama rebuffed requests for mediation from his predecessors, union leaders, his own party leaders, church leaders and all, even proudly proclaiming that they can strike all they like but he was never going to give them what they wanted. When asked by The Voice newspaper whether there was room for compromise for the greater good of the nation he bluntly retorted that it will never happen under his leadership.

Following the contentious BDP elective congress held in Kanye in 2009, Dr Khama took a very harsh decision to suspend the then Secretary General, the late Gomolemo Motswaledi from the party for indiscipline. Dr Khama accused the SG for disrespect by questioning decisions he (Dr Khama) made. Dr Khama then reminded everyone that under his leadership there would be no tolerance for indiscipline, and that appropriate action would be taken against anybody regardless of their status. He concluded by saying that he was determined as a party and state president to restore order, respect, dignity and discipline in society and the BDP.

What this means is that if Dr Khama was the incumbent and Dr Masisi were the former president causing so much anxiety and pain to the Botswana nation, he, Dr Khama wouldn’t have entertained any proposal for mediation and a compromise. In fact, he wouldn’t have hesitated to banish Dr Masisi in order to restore order. We need to be reminded that this is the man who de-recognized Kgosi Kgafela as the paramount chief of the tribe, mercilessly persecuting him until Kgosi Kgafela fled to South Africa and later took up the South African citizenship. Essentially, there are no compelling grounds for a compromise in the on-going stand-off between President Dr Masisi and former president Dr Khama unless we want to treat Dr Khama as a special citizen with exclusive rights and privileges. President Dr Masisi must be allowed to sort this out and he certainly will.

The genesis of this essay is not to advance a position that seeks to humiliate, embarrass or harass former president Dr Khama. Rather, this argument for an uncompromising and inflexible stance in dealing with former president Dr Khama merely seeks to show him that he is not above the law. In the same way former president Dr Khama decisively and savagely dealt with those he considered troublesome and lacking discipline, he must be put to the same sword.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, ‘…there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is surrender. For it is all give and no take’.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

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