Last week, private newspapers were awash with stories of Ndelu Seretse’s acquittal by the Gaborone Magistrate Court. Regional Magistrate Barnabas Nyamazabo surely gave Seretse a new lease of life. The monkey that has been on his shoulder has now been removed and I have no doubt in my mind that it was a happy day for him and his family.
Seretse’s lawyer, Parks Tafa, is quoted in one of the newspapers saying that President Khama has always known the outcome of the case on the basis of what was written on the charge sheet. The statement by the defence attorney left a nasty taste in my mouth. I think he could have put it differently or just kept quiet. But I guess he was overwhelmed by excitement and ended up making a statement that says a lot about the case and the manner in which our judicial system works.
As a highly experienced lawyer, Tafa should know that the last thing that we want in this country is for citizens to lose confidence in the judicial system. If the President can confidently know the outcome of cases before they are concluded, then it gives one the impression that our courts are put under pressure, one way or the other, to make rulings that will not rock the president’s boat in anyway. What happened to the much-vaunted independence of the judiciary that we have always been told about?
Hardly twenty-four hours after his acquittal, President Khama re-appointed Seretse to cabinet as the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security. That Seretse was re-appointed to cabinet did not come as a surprise to me. It has always been clear that Edwin Batshu was holding the fort for him. But the thing that surprised me about his re-appointment is the fact that President Khama could not wait for twenty-one days to elapse before he could give Seretse what “rightfully” belongs to him. Even though he knew about the outcome of the case on the basis of the charge sheet as stated by the defence attorney, I strongly believe that he should have waited for three weeks to establish if the DPP was appealing the judgement or not.
He waited for more than eight months and I cannot understand why he could not wait for another three weeks just to ensure that the issue is brought to its logical conclusion. And now the man that he trusts so much still has to go to the high court as the DPP is reported to be appealing the judgement. The questions that come to one’s mind are: Is Seretse going to resign while waiting for the issue to be concluded by the high court? And most importantly, what is President Khama going to do should the high court set aside a ruling made by the Magistrate?
I guess I am not off the mark to suspect that President Khama has always believed that Seretse’s trial was also a trial against him. He views it as the work of evil people who are determined to bring his administration down on its knees. It is a trial that is meant to derail his grand succession plan.
But as a man who never wants to lose a fight, he is so determined do defeat his “detractors” in every way possible. That is why he deemed it appropriate to re-appoint Seretse with immediate effect to show all of us that no one can stop him from doing what he believes in. He knows that no one or no institution including the DPP, can stop him from doing what he wants. Afterall, he is the appointing authority, he is the boss. He is only accountable to himself.
Seretse’s re-appointment to cabinet indicates that President Khama has little regard for legal procedures. His hasty decision is an indication that he is either not advised properly or he simply ignores advice that is given to him. It is an indication that he allows emotions to cloud his judgements. He is overwhelmed by the desire to protect his ego, image and personal interests. We, therefore, have a vindictive leader who wants to show people that he is in control of the affairs of the nation as I have already stated in the preceding paragraph.
True leaders do not allow their emotions to overwhelm them when they make decisions on important national issues. They remain calm when things do not go their way. They know when to lead and when to be led. They do not ignore the procedures that are used to ensure orderly governance of the society. They do not personalize national issues because the countries that they lead are more important than them.
Leadership is not about protecting personal interests. It is about doing good things for the nation. And for as long as President Khama does not view leadership in this light, then we need God’s intervention to steer our nation in the right direction. We are orphans traversing a very difficult terrain with a leader who is only interested in protecting his personal interests.
Let me now turn my attention to another issue that I believe warrants God’s intervention in the affairs of our nation: the conflict between Kgosi Kgafela II and the state. My views on some of the things that the former has done in his area of jurisdiction are well known. I am against the manner in which he unleashed his regiment on residents of the Kgatleng district and I have always been hopeful that the conflict between Kgafela and the state will be resolved amicably. But it is now clear that I was wrong.
Last week, Minister Mokalake decided to de-recognize Kgafela with immediate effect. He was so angry with Kgafela that he did not deem it appropriate and necessary to give him a hearing before reducing him to a lesser mortal. He did not even deem it necessary to inform Bakgatla about his decision and the implications thereof. He did not engage members of the Bakgatla royal family with a view to finding an amicable solution to the conflict.
De-recognizing Kgafela means that Bakgatla do not have someone to perform the duties of a Chief. They have been reduced to orphans even though their Chief is still alive and well. Minister Mokalake, just like his political master, allowed himself to be overwhelmed by emotions. Is de-recognizing Kgafela going to resolve the conflict that he has with the state? Will Bakgatla endorse any person that Mokalake or Siele appoints as a Chief while Kgafela is still alive and willing to lead his tribe? My answer to the two questions is: No.
In view of the manner in which things are unfolding, I am tempted to suspect that Kgabo will soon lose his freedom. My suspicion is based on the pronouncements that were made by the High Court on the constitutional issues that Kgafela raised during his trial. But what is likely to happen in Kgatleng if Kgabo was to lose his freedom? Things that are unheard of in our country are happening. Someone born as a chief has been stripped of his birth right by the stroke of a pen. The water is getting muddier and we definitely need God’s intervention.
*Dr Mothusi teaches Public Administration at the University of Botswana