Monday, May 27, 2024

PRESIDENT KHAMA IS INTIMIDATING VOTERS!

Various newspaper reports have it that President Khama has sent a probe team to investigate the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) loss in the recent Mmathethe and Tumasera/Seleka by-elections. The Midweek Sun of 27th February quotes President Khama stating that ‘I have appointed an investigating team to establish why we lost the council by-elections in Tumasera/Seleka and Mmathethe to the opposition’ and that if it can be found out that some BDP members colluded with the opposition, such people would be barred from contesting the party’s elections in future.

On the face of it, it is within his powers as party president to establish the cause of the party’s dismal performance. As such, under normal circumstances such a decision should not cause any alarms. But this is President Khama, a man with a reputation for scheming and stalking rivals and these are strange and testing times hence the need to thoroughly interrogate this decision.
While it has become his habit to investigate and place citizens under surveillance, his decision to publicly investigate the outcome of a by-election is frightening and scary.

There is nothing that suggests that the probe will be confined to the BDP members. These probes of the BDP have taken many guises and are just a smokescreen to lull citizens into believing that President Khama is investigating his own party.

All indications are that this is a multifaceted investigation that is bound to put on trial every single voter in the aforementioned wards irrespective of party affiliation. The motivation for the investigation is to identify all those who voted the ‘wrong’ way by voting the opposition.

President Khama is on record stating that if people do not vote BDP candidates (during the 2009 General Election) they will be starved of development. Perhaps President Khama has realized that it is cruel to punish the entire constituency for the sins of just a fraction of the population who chose to support opposition politics hence he has decided to identify specific voters who support the opposition and deal with them accordingly.

These are dirty tactics that would certainly intimidate and make those who depend on government welfare programs shy away from backing the opposition and patronage the BDP against their will. Many Batswana in the rural areas still depend on government assistance schemes for their living and many more literally survive on state food baskets. Investigations such as the one embarked on by President Khama have the potential to cause beneficiaries of government welfare schemes to think twice before daring the ruling party for fear that their monthly food rations could be withheld.

The Botswana Guardian newspaper of 1st February 2013 reporting on Letlhakeng West Parliamentary by-election shares with readers the sentiments of a resident of Sesung who reveals that she will vote for Filbert Nagafela but fears that President Khama could stop his goodwill programs if he found out that people in the area voted for the opposition. The Guardian states that ‘addressing the President by his first name, she pleaded with Botswana Guardian photographer not to take pictures of her lest Ian finds out. Asked what is wrong with the President seeing the pictures, she replied, he will think we don’t like the BDP and cancel some of his programs like Ipelegeng’.

Such fears could be even more true bearing in mind that President Khama has publicly threatened to withheld monthly rations of all those who use destitute allowance to procure alcoholic beverages in addition to starving opposition held constituencies of development.

Thus, it is reasonable to maintain that the reason President Khama wants to establish why the BDP lost the by-elections is purely to identify, among others, beneficiaries of government welfare schemes who voted opposition candidates so that they are appropriately dealt with either by withholding future assistance or taking back (his) backyard gardens, blankets and shirts.

This observation may sound a bit ridiculous but over the years President Khama has publicly questioned the patriotism of those who resist doing things his way to the extent of pronouncing that such people should be blacklisted (Guardian, 14th December 2012). Thus, president khama has a penchant to rule by fear and patronage. His investigations are therefore intended to instil fear in opposition supporters especially those who subsist on government hand-outs. This is plain witch-hunt that has all the hallmarks of political cleansing by pursuing opponents to their homes and threatening them.

The investigations are just a piece of a larger scheme to make voters feel that they are being followed around or watched closely by hired thugs. Such tactics have been used by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe using his war veterans to pounce on opposition strongholds and literally set opponents on fire (Operation Murambatsvina).

President Khama’s passion for investigating citizens is unrestrained, conceited and unapologetic. Whether using state funds or BDP finances, such investigations represent desperate acts of a state president who refuses to accept the will of the people and this should be alarming. Citizens have a constitutional right to vote of their own free will and any decision to investigate people’s voting trend is not only mischievous but most importantly dangerously vindictive. President Khama has certainly become jittery as the opposition penetrates the BDP’s erstwhile strong holds and he is determined to use every trick to stay in power. It is a matter of life and death and voters must be extra vigilant.

Opposition leaders must invent an effective scheme to mitigate the likely impact of President Khama mischievous investigations.

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