Thursday, May 6, 2021

Vocabulary lessons from Khama… so far

Looking for ways to enrich your vocabulary? Whether you want to strengthen and broaden your English lexicon for all things legal, economic or political, President Ian Khama is your man. Ever since he was roped in from his position as Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Commander to join politics and become vice president back in 1998, Khama has inadvertently enriched the vocabulary of many. A lot of Batswana will forever remain indebted to His Excellency for their impressive repertoire of English terms. For some of us the word ‘sabbatical’ will forever be mnemonically associated with President Khama.

When Festus Mogae succeeded Sir Ketumile Masire as President on April 1, 1998 he appointed Khama his deputy. Khama would however only take the seat a few months later after winning a Serowe North by election. Following the 1999 general elections Khama remained Vice President and just a couple of months into his new term, on January 1st 2000; he took a yearlong sabbatical leave. Not many had heard of such and many voiced their reservations.

Eight years later, on April 1st 2008, Khama ascended to the highest office in the land and presented his roadmap heavily premised on the four Ds of democracy, discipline, dignity, and development. Just a bunch of everyday English words but we were grateful nonetheless. Nobody had ever put them together in that order. And just when we were adjusting to the four Ds His Excellency tossed in one more in the form of ‘delivery’ following the 2009 general elections. Whether or not he has delivered on the five Ds remains a topic for discussion.

Also in 2008 Khama introduced the infamous Alcohol Levy that infuriated some alcohol consumers. The President introduced the levy, which initially stood at 30 percent, as his way of curbing the rate of alcohol consumption in Botswana. “parents are failing to instil discipline in the family, now you the public have appealed to government for help; it has become a common sight to see people drinking beer in our communities from as early as 8am; the youth copy this habit because that’s what they see around them growing up, they assume it is part of the culture to drink alcohol. We will introduce a 30 percent alcohol levy as an anti-alcohol abuse measure and I will continue to increase the alcohol levy,” he was quoted as having said at a kgotla meeting.

In 2009 we were all introduced to Presidential Immunity. Following his suspension from the BDP and consequent denial to stand for the general election on the BDP ticket then Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi sought to challenge Khama’s decision at the high court. “The constitution has granted to a sitting President of the Republic of Botswana immunity against criminal prosecution for all activities done both in his private and official capacities. The same provision in the second part also grants him total immunity against civil suits in his private capacity. Such immunity is total and not relative. It is granted in the form of prohibition-in a mandatory fashion-not to allow prosecution and suits covered by immunity. In the premises therefore, this application must be dismissed because it is prohibited by Section 41 of the constitution granting immunity to a sitting President of the Republic of Botswana,” then Chief Justice Julian Nganunu read the judgement. Ruling on Motswaedi’s subsequent appeal a special sitting of the Court of Appeal distanced itself from making a pronouncement on whether President Khama’s decision to suspend Gomolemo Motswaledi was valid. The court in unison agreed that section 41(1) granted Khama immunity, stating that the wording of the said provision were clear and unambiguous. Motswaledi was seeking reinstatement and to be declared the party’s parliamentary candidate at Gaborone Central for the 2009 general elections.

Sedition: In 2014 government security personnel arrested Sunday Standard editor Outsa Mokone and detained him at Broadhurst Police Station. The arrest followed a warrant of arrest issued against Mokone concerning an article published by this publication alleging that the Office of the President had tried to conceal details of a car accident that President Ian Khama was involved in.Mokone was charged with sedition under Sections 50 and 51 of the Penal Code. Until then most Batswana had never heard of the word. Both sections of the Penal Code deal with the publication of articles likely to cause disaffection or hostility towards the head of state or the government. In a statement the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) criticised the decision to arrest Mokone on sedition charges. “For an offence under section 50(1) of the President to be established prima facie, the prosecution ought to show that the article in issue brought ‘hatred or contempt’ or excited ‘disaffection against the person of the President.’” When reading the article in issue, the LSB said, they could not believe that the same can be said to be capable of leading to the eventualities contemplated by section 50 (1) of the Penal Code.

“The issue here is not whether or not the article or the parts thereof are true or false, but whether the facts and circumstances can sustain a charge of sedition. In the view of the LSB this is far-fetched.” Mokone was eventually released without charge and sedition became the new buzzword.

Just when the dust had settled on sedition, and the nation had just learnt (through Khama) it was actually constitutional for a non-parliamentarian to hold a ministerial post, along came theEconomic Stimulus Package (ESP). President Khama pulled yet another surprise when he announced the ESP at a BDP Special Congress saying for the first time ever, the country will dig into the Foreign Reserves in a spending spree that his government hope will re-energize the sluggish economy. Khama said the package would target tourism development, agricultural production, construction of buildings and roads as well as manufacturing. When the dust settles on the ESP the nation will be left wondering what His Excellency has in store for them.

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