The Botswana National Front (BNF) was shocked by a vicious and unprovoked attack on the opposition by President Ian Khama at the recent Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) 37th Congress in Tonota. Members of the public will recall that it is not the first time that President Khama has made such remarks about opposition parties, whose only crime seems to be their undying spirit of commitment and dedication to improving the conditions of the people of Botswana, something Ian Khama never hoped for and cannot genuinely achieve better. In the remarks Khama, speaking as BDP President attacked the Opposition for lack of patriotism. We state here that such an attack by the President of the BDP cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. Firstly, we wish to caution him that “Susu ilela suswane”. We realise that this expression may not have an equivalent in his mother tongue. Going forward, Ian Khama should be reminded that respect is not a right, but must be earned and that if he continues to show no respect for us, he deserves no respect from us. It is that simple. We note that this particular President is fond of always stooping low, far below our contempt as the Opposition. At that Congress he was quoted saying the opposition has a “blind preoccupation with positions, personal interests and deceit” and that the opposition “simply magnify and gloat about the same challenges as a cheap way of generating political capital”. He continued to remark that “Shame, poor things” referring to opposition parties and: “These are our society’s dissidents”, he told the BDP congress about opposition parties. They “harbour feelings of bitterness”, he continued. He further described opposition as “incompetent opposition” and “juvenile delinquents” (Botswana Guardian, The Patriot on Sunday, Sunday Standard and private radio stations).One wonders what we could possibly have done to deserve this level of hatred, bile and contempt from this President.
Not only does he always shout ‘patriotism’ in order to silence his critics, but he is also a fake ‘General’ who did not work his way up the BDF officer corps ladder. Although he masquerades as a war hero, he has no command (let alone combat) experience as a Colonel, Lt-Colonel, Major, Captain, Lieutenant or even a Second-Lieutenant. The so-called Lt-General Ian Khama was parachuted ahead of the more deserving and experienced officers of the then Botswana Police Mobile Unit where he was a Sub Inspector, a rank he could have achieved by favouritism. He was handpicked to attend Sandhurst Military school and later appointed Brigadier on first appointment, a one-star General, by his own father, under dubious circumstances. He has held only three ranks in the BDF, namely, Brigadier, Major-General and Lt-General. As the BDF second-in-command, he captured for his family the BDF arms procurement department, and started corruptly awarding military procurement tenders to his family owned company, Seleka Springs, run by his twin brothers. Ian Khama is now Botswana’s undisputed military millionaire, and has now joined the infamous ranks of the likes of Mobutu Se Se Seko of Zaire and Emperor Bokassa of Central Africa in the abuse of state resources, greed and self-aggrandizement. And this epitome of corruption has the audacity to call Opposition parties unpatriotic! As one Samuel Johnson once said, ‘patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’. By this he meant that scoundrels will be quick to wrap up their corrupt and unpatriotic actions in a national flag and shout from the roof tops that they are the most patriotic of all of us, a charge often made by someone dishonest and unscrupulous, in order to divert attention away from his own failures and bizarre actions. As the opposition we have tolerated that we are led by a sixty-year-old bachelor President who cannot even speak Setswana, the national language of the country he leads. Whilst we all know he was born outside Botswana, he has not disclosed the date he acquired Botswana citizenship. His academic credentials, if any, are kept a state secret and his sole claim to fame is that he is the eldest son of our former President, Sir Seretse Khama, someone he does not resemble in democratic demeanor and intellect, an LLB graduate and a firm believer in liberal freedoms, the very opposite of him! Where does Ian Khama get the courage to chide indigenous Batswana about patriotism when he knows so little about us?
President Khama and his class should note that the peace and tranquillity that this country has enjoyed is a result of the loyalty and genuine patriotism of the opposition parties in Botswana. It is not a favour that we are in existence. The opposition represents 53 percent of the popular vote that him and his party hope to reverse using the Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) in 2019. Batswana have made it clear that they like opposition parties more than his party, through a transparent and open vote. Had it not been for the First-Past-The-Post electoral system he would not be in power. What makes him perceive his power more legitimate than the right of opposition to exist in our democracy? It is clear that to him we should not even exist, yet more than 53% of Batswana want us to rule compared to 47% for him and his moribund, neo-colonial relic of a party. As the father of crony capitalism in Botswana, he has spent millions of hard earned tax-payers’money to line up the pockets of his close associates and quislings through a system of tenderpreneurship, which he introduced and perfected after he took over from President Mogae in 2008. We are aware that part of the money given to his circle always finds its way back into the BDP coffers to finance further exploitation of our people. President Khama has abused his office many times and the powers of the Presidency, which ought to be exercised in the best interests of the Republic. Instead, he uses his powers to advance his narrow economic and political interest. For instance, he has acquired huge chunks of community land in Mosu, Shakawe and Tswapong areas. The P34 million and other perks earmarked for his retirement is tantamount to official theft as MPs voted under duress, when he threatened that he would not increase their salaries unless they vote for his retirement package. He is building a huge military base at Mosu replete with a runway and helicopter pad, in preparation for flying BDF aircraft and other military vehicles after retirement. For some reason Ian Khama seems to think that he owns this country and that we only happen to live in his world. He wants to do and say whatever he pleases, much to the chagrin even of those who brought him to power such as former President Mogae, who obviously regret their decision. RreKwelagobe summarised this regret recently in his famous ‘marakanelo’ speech at Sir Ketumile’s funeral.
Whilst Khama is busy with this and that, thousands of youths go unemployed; students go to school on donkey carts; there is acute shortage of books in schools; students are taught in overcrowded classrooms, and even under trees, in a schooling system where student – teacher ratio is 50:1. At Princess Marina, the main referral hospital, patients have to bring their own blankets and sleep on a cold floor in this chilling winter. Many government buildings need serious repairs and renovations. The poor salaries paid to the public service and private sector employees, the poor labour and media relations, etc are all national concerns that he will do well to address and not waste time attacking and abusing opposition parties. When public sector employees engaged in a legal strike in 2011, he labelled them unpatriotic and has since blacklisted them for complete annihilation. When the private media unearthed large scale corruption and other vices, he calls them unpatriotic, arrests and harasses them using his notorious DISS, which is a rogue organisation under no political control. He punishes investigative media houses, who dare publish his corrupt practices by withdrawing all government and parastatal newspaper advertisements. President Khama has unashamedly appointed several of his close relatives and friends into top public positions, including his own immediate family members, such as Anthony Khama, who sits on the University of Botswana Council, alongside his friend Parks Tafa, who chairs the UB Council. His younger brother, Tshekedi, is Minister of Tourism, his pet vocation and where his private investments interests lie. Ian Khama’s company, Wilderness Safaris dominates the tourism industry and he personally has keys to Gcwihaba and Tsodilo caves which are national sites. Many of his personal friends from the BDF, such as Thapelo Olopeng and Captain Kitso Mokaila are cabinet ministers. The head of intelligence, Colonel Isaac Kgosi, is a former army personal friend he catapulted from the BDF maintenance unit.
But why does he think the opposition is unpatriotic? What we see as unpatriotic is his planned sale of national assets to himself and his circle of cronies like BCL Mine, Air Botswana, BMC, Morupule B, etc. It is also unpatriotic to destroy all oversight institutions so that looting goes on undisturbed and undetected. It is unpatriotic to silence the media so that looting takes pace in complete silence, unknown, unheard, unperceived and unseen. Who then is unpatriotic between the one who steals national assets in broad daylight and those who speak against him, who stand-up to protect our national assets? Instead of ranting about the opposition, what we want to hear from Ian Khama is how quickly he exits the stage as Batswana have had enough of his poor governance style, which has also decimated his ruling party. Today’s generation of citizens are wiser – they know that he has no clue of how to solve the mounting challenges facing this country, from a collapsing economy to rising youth unemployment to poor governance by a deeply divided party.They can see as warped wisdom for a government that could buy exorbitant military jets when the economy is going down. These are problems he and his administration created, not the opposition! Mr President, take a seat and watch the opposition genuinely and positively change the lives of Batswana come 2019. The people want change and no EVM, or fake public relations exercises are going to modify that reality for you.
BNF Information and Publicity Secretary