There is little doubt that the main opposition Botswana National Front is going through one of its most difficult phases in its long history.
The BNF problems, of course, can be traced to the very top; weak leadership, poor discipline, loss of principle and a massive infiltration by a whole cadre that is not properly trained in the ethos, history, values and traditions of the party.
No Motswana of goodwill should, however, celebrate the troubles that the BNF is going through.
For close to fifty years, the Botswana National Front has been at the centre of what has been a successful democratic evolution that is Botswana.
In no small measure, the party has contributed to the development of Botswana, especially in engendering pluralism, multi-party system and political literacy.
Thankfully, not even the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, who are the natural nemesis of the BNF, have jumped to celebrate the problems gripping the BNF.
That is a sign of political maturity on the part of the BDP leadership.
It shows a ready admission by the BDP leadership that whatever the crisis the BNF may be going through, in the overall, it is a setback for the country and for our democracy.
This clarity of vision by the BDP is most welcome indeed.
It is an acknowledgement of the role the BNF is supposed to play as an important constituency of Botswana’s democratic dispensation.
It, therefore, pains us to see the media, both private and government owned, fundamentally going adrift and doing everything in their power to bring the BNF to its knees.
We have always believed that institutions are much more important than individuals.
As a matter of fact, individuals come and go, as will Otsweletse Moupo.
But institutions remain.
The underhanded manner with which the media has, from day one, been reporting on Moupo’s personal problems raises a serious precedent for the future of our democracy.
Apparently, in their exercise of their watchdog role, the media have gone beyond legitimate and acceptable bounds and in the process turned themselves into a social poison that literally eats at the very core of the fabrics they are supposed to help strengthen.
In their attempt to demonise Moupo, the media has regrettably also undermined the very values that are enshrined in our national Vision 2016.
The problem has been that instead of pointing out Moupo’s leadership frailties and weaknesses (and there are many of those) the media has chosen, instead, to celebrate his personal misfortunes.
This is potentially dangerous.
It all started with the leaked news that Moupo was stranded in London.
The State Media picked the story and gleefully ran with it in an uncharacteristically malicious and incautious fashion.
In the frenzy of all the excitement, nobody paused for a second to ask themselves what the implications of the story were for Botswana’s traditions of tolerance, our values of Botho.
Then came the story of Moupo’s failure to respond to the State of the Nation Address by the then President Festus Mogae.
In their typical reckless fashion, the media ran excitedly with the story; at the behest of their BNF factional handlers insinuating that Moupo was out of breath and not the right man to lead the BNF.
What was not raised at the moment was that another important figure in Botswana’s politics, then Vice President Ian Khama, had also failed to respond to the State of the Nation Address.
It also escaped the media attention to detect a possibility that Moupo could actually have been set up possibly by his own colleagues from the BNF, possibly with collusion from the Speaker of the National Assembly who hastily closed down debates on the State of the Nation Address.
The latest, and perhaps the most uncouth persecution of Moupo by the media, has been the way the media is running with his marital difficulties.
If, indeed, Moupo’s marriage is coming to an end, it would not be too far off the mark to conclude that the opposition controlled media in Botswana played a pivotal role in wrecking up that marriage.
We acknowledge the simple reason that by virtue of his position, Moupo is not a private citizen.
The pressure he has been subjected to, the strain that his family, children and wife have had to contend with has just been unbearable.
While official statistics show that the divorce rate in Botswana is on the high end, one can also safely say that when it comes to Moupo, the media and their handlers in the BNF have blood on their hands.
The media has been very beastly in its attacks of Otsweletse Moupo.
Sadly, all the attacks on Moupo have had nothing to do with his management style.
There has been a deliberate, well crafted and clearly orchestrated intrusion into his private space, not just by the media but with beautiful assistance from his former friends.
There is little doubt that the media is selectively fed a one sided story, meant to tarnish Moupo by a small cabal inside the BNF who have unlimited access and control over the media.
The media should not allow itself to be so blatantly abused and misused.
The first risk is that the public, not just the BNF supporters are likely to be driven into rallying around Moupo who, naturally, they will get to see as a victim of a hostile media that is senselessly manipulated by his erstwhile political friends turned adversaries inside the BNF. The second and perhaps gravest of all the risks is that the media will lose public trust.
The third concern, of course, has to do with ethics.
Having said that we want to argue that there is need for a new debate on media ownership in Botswana.
We have always argued that there is a great danger of having the country’s entire media concentrated in the hands of just a few individuals.
The present situation is that almost the entire nation’s leading newsrooms are controlled by a handful.
The situation is worsened by the fact the media owners in Botswana have a burning ambition not only to take over state power but also to use their stranglehold on the media to manipulate the policies and directions of the political institutions they inhabit ÔÇô in this case the BNF.
This is a reality we should confront and Moupo’s persecution by the media is a telling case study.