Friday, October 30, 2020

There is no need to sacrifice our history of freedom

It is now very clear that government, especially the presidency, cares very little about the future of civil liberties in this country.

Our democratic traditions and values no longer make sense to our leaders of today.

The attitude of the President and his Deputy to whine and moan defiantly and violently against their critics bears testimony to just that.

Gone are the fond memories when Botswana used to be sincerely talked about offshore as a bastion of individual liberty, political freedom, respect for the rule of law and open democracy.

Likewise, in a similar, if not more spectacular way, the days we used to speak proudly of ourselves as an African miracle have truly come to an inglorious end.

Instead, we have become extraordinarily negligent about our past reputation, consumed by helplessness as we rapidly join the hall of insanity and madness that is the African continent.
We have become just like everyone else, and it seems like there is no turning back.

How sad to see this tragic loss of magic during the time of a president we used to think was a true embodiment of all our proudly held liberal virtues.
In the beginning, our leader was a passionate defender of civil liberties, showing a great and fearless potential to speak for the weakest members of our society.

He was the epitome of public trust, showing a rare readiness to take sides with ordinary people against the state.

He struck many cynics with his impatience to bring back credibility, integrity and dignity into politics.
Memories are still fresh with how he bluntly told his colleagues in parliament to pay their NDB debts or face the music.

He came across as strong, informed and in touch with the public mood.

Now approaching the end, together with his career, that reputation sadly lies in tatters, replaced by a belligerent and irascible figure that eschews any form of criticism, a figure that scorns those that hold an alternative view and contemptuously dismisses constructive inputs even from a democratically elected opposition.

The opposition, the media and their NGO friends can make all the noise in the world lamenting Botswana’s dying freedoms and liberties, but they have no chance against an organized and well resourced frenzy that is led and masterminded from the Office of the President with a unique blessing from the man at the heart of power.

A long time ago, upon entering the State House, Festus Mogae made a personal undertaking that his chosen successor had to be protected and defended, whatever it costs.

The smooth transition he was to later oft bombard the nation with entails concocting a raft of laws that would transfer all forms of power from institutions of democracy to the Office of the President soon to be occupied by Ian Khama. Hence the rhetoric the BDP government is now wrapping itself with that Botswana is on the verge of some kind of mortal danger; a deliberately falsified prospectus meant to scare citizens into backing the creation of a potentially illegal and ultra-constitutional intelligence services with all the features that will turn Botswana into a police state.

The real danger is not that there is any imminent attack on Botswana, but that the president and his to be successor have connived to institute an appalling process to erode the country’s core freedoms and civil liberties.

The Security and Intelligence Services law is Khama’s law, and except for Mogae, hardly anyone else’s.

We should not at all be surprised as to why the current president, already on his way out, is showing such an indecent impatience to get the law passed before he leaves office.

It is just one of the many ways of paying back his superior ally who has acted as his political bouncer over the last ten years.

Botswana has never been treated to a more dishonest set of politics; a result of a two man deal, hatched in private, with true motives hidden to the nation yet committing the entire country to its shady terms and conditions.

There is nothing wrong with Mogae paying back Khama for having saved his political skin over the years.

But the price should be paid exclusively by Mogae, the beneficiary, not the entire nation, especially through a loss of highly cherished freedoms that have over the years distinguished us as a nation.

While Mogae’s lame attacks on the BCP in his recent address at the BDP congress have cheapened Botswana’s political discourse even further, they have also gone an extra mile to shine light into the extent of his indebtedness to Khama.

Not only did the president fail to address the issues so brilliantly raised by the BCP dossier on the country’s bedridden democracy, he chose instead, in a casual way increasingly typical of himself, to trivialize and personalise what are otherwise grave issues of national importance.

Copying from his script, some of his MPs in parliament have taken to turning the issues raised by the BCP into partisan politicking in the current session of parliament.

That may be a brilliant distraction from the real issues, but time is not far off when even the most ardent of BDP faithful will get to appreciate the dire consequences of their unthinking thrall to their party hierarchy.

Unfortunately, even for them by then it will be too late to complain, let alone talk about restoring the very liberties they are today so boisterously prodding Mogae and Khama to so shamelessly dismantle.

Whatever the size of threat of attack the BDP is talking, we are not yet at a stage where we should be required to sacrifice our rich history of civil liberties and freedoms as asked by Mogae and Khama’s security law.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Choppies shareholders split over financials

Botswana’s biggest grocer Choppies Enterprises is slowly clawing its way up, but shareholders remain divided while the company founders have increased their...