Masire pulls no punches

SHARE   |   Sunday, 18 January 2015   |   By Phillimon Mmeso

Former President Sir Ketumile Masire is gradually proving to be a fierce critic of President Ian Khama and his government and this came out clearly last year. Masire criticised the Khama administrationt at the memorial service of the late former Vice President Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe at the national stadium on Tuesday.

Luckily for President Khama, he was not around to receive the acidic criticism on his pet project, Ipelegeng as he did not attend the service. Masire who is the second president of Botswana first took a swipe at Batswana for always complaining that people are not respecting them while they do not give those who have served the country diligently a fitting send off when they pass on.

“How can people respect us as a nation if we do not respect our heroes and heroines when they die?” he asked rhetorical. It was not clear whom Masire was referring to as he is known to speak in idioms but one could clearly denote that he was worried by the absence of the President and other senior government officials at the memorial service.

Masire said Ipelegeng (self-reliance) which the former president said that it was a waste of money as it is not bearing any tangible results.

He said that the national stadium was built by Batswana through self-reliance who worked tirelessly with the help of the late General Merafhe, “not this current one where people are just getting a lot of money for doing nothing,” said Masire as the audience clapped hands while some whistled.

In August last year during the funeral of President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in Serowe, the 89 year old Masire hit out at BDP led government for stifling political freedom in the country.

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At the time, BDP through its Secretary General Balopi said that they will call Masire for disciplinary hearing for putting the name of the party and that of its leader in disrepute. Masire would later respond saying that he cannot be summoned by people who were not yet born when they formed the BDP, adding that some of the new leaders are only in the party to eat.

During the inauguration of MPs for the 11th Parliament and the postponement of the election of the Speaker, deputy of the national assembly and the endorsement of the Vice President, Masire took a swipe at his successor Festus Mogae and Khama for abusing the automatic succession.

In 2006 when addressing the press, he said that it was wrong to mix chieftainship with politics. He said if a chief wants to join politics he/she must denounce the former.  This was directed to president Khama who by then was the Vice President. Khama did denounce his chieftainship when he joined politics in 1998.

At one point, Masire criticized a commission that looked into sections 77, 78 and 79 of the constitution saying that it was a waste of resources. The commission was instituted by Mogae after some tribal groups complained that it was discriminatory.

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Contacted for comment, BDP secretary general, Mpho Balopi said that he did not see anything wrong with Masire’s statement.

“He was just epmhasising the importance of self-reliance that was shown by icons like General Merafhe and other Batswana who worked tirelessly to develop this country,” said Balopi.

On the issue of giving national icons respect and honour they deserve, Balopi said that his wish is to see the country having a burial place for these patriots, them so that it can be a historical monument.