Khama’s open letter to Mugabe is akin to throwing stones….

SHARE   |   Monday, 27 November 2017   |   By Adam Phetlhe
Khama’s open letter to Mugabe is akin to throwing stones….

President Ian Khama is reported to have written an open letter to the former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe on 21 November 2017. For starters, I thought President Khama’s office would better know how Presidents engage each other however strongly they differed. In 2016, Khama demanded Mugabe’s resignation due to his old age. In an embarrassing twist to Khama’s demand, ZANU-PF’s MP Joseph Tshuma told him to ‘shut up’ for being ‘extremely undiplomatic’ for that demand (Zimbabwe Daily 23 September 2016). Recently, Khama is reported to have been forced out of the road by South Africa’s Bokone Bophirima province Premier Mahumapelo’s motorcade. Khama did not demand Mahumapelo’s arrest nor did he write him an open letter. Instead, he properly and expectedly addressed this incidence through normal and acceptable diplomatic channels. In arguing the subject matter, I will refer to Governance in Botswana and Zimbabwe respectively by indicating that while the President suggests that Mugabe was found wanting in Governance which is the case, Botswana is no better after all. As a cherry on top, I will also deal with the Rule of Law in both countries. 


Governance in the context of the President’s open letter would include issues such as honest electoral reforms, independence of the judiciary, respect of human rights, fair and equitable access to government media by all political parties. These issues have been widely reported in the negative light in Zimbabwe because Mugabe had a tight grip on undermining Governance. Here at home, we still vividly recall the recent report by the Ombudsman wherein he reported that Botswana Television accorded a lion’s share of airtime to the President’s party. Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation television channel is known to be the mouthpiece of ZANU-PF. Khama cannot therefore and justifiably so, lecture Mugabe on governance issues when he himself violates it.  In his open letter to former president Mugabe, Khama says “….the people of Zimbabwe have for a long time been subjected to untold suffering as a result of poor governance under Mugabe’s leadership”. I fully concur with President Khama! But he is painting a picture that suggests that his leadership in governance is extremely better than Mugabe’s. The Telegraph newspaper dated November 22, 2017 carries a report by 2017 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) on ‘Governance ratings on a nosedive’. The newspaper reports that “Botswana has witnessed a sharp decline in overall governance rankings since President Ian Khama assumed office in 2008….Over the last five years Botswana shows signs of ‘Increasing Deterioration in Overall Governance’. State institutions whose mandate is to ensure that good governance and the rule of law are the cornerstone of any constitutional democracy are required to be wholly independent of any undue political pressure and influence. Dr Moses Adagbabiri of the Dept. of Political Science at Delta State University in Nigeria says in his paper: ‘Constitutionalism and Democracy: A Critical Perspective’ that “A constitutional framework, built on a prudent regard for human beings, must enable the government to control the governed”. In our instance, the DCEC, DIS, IEC to mention but a few, are under the direct supervision of the President. While it will be unfair to suggest that people who lead them belong to the President’s political party, the perception that this is so cannot be ignored on the basis that in politics, perception is the truth. Perception not so ignored naturally suggests that the President’s influence over State institutions will dictate that only those cases he wants investigated will be so investigated. The case of the Director General of DIS which has been outstanding for so long is the case in point. This scenario of the control of State institutions by those in political authority obtains in Zimbabwe. People with liberation war credentials it has been said, man them and so the President cannot by any stretch of the imagination, purport to be better than Zimbabwe. In an opinion piece in the Sunday Standard dated 16 May 2016 by Thabo Seleke titled “The Presidency of Ian Khama: Disciplinarian or Dictatorship!!!”, he observes that “his critics have been a constant thorn on him and have argued that President Ian Khama has traits of an autocratic leader where democracy and human rights are trampled upon and dissenters are harassed, victimised and hunted down. In support of their arguments his critics join the dots and find a pattern that includes state sponsored victimisation and imperialist style of leadership…” We will be reminded that the former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Rre Pono Moatlhodi was threatened with removal from parliament by President Khama about what he (Moatlhodi) called ‘militarisation of the public service’ (Mmegi online edition dated 18 August 2009). 

The Rule of Law     

Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in a research paper titled ‘Our Hands Are Tied’ Erosion of the Rule of Law in Zimbabwe conducted in Zimbabwe from August 18 to 30, 2008 that a police officer in Chegutu, Mashonaland West in Zimbabwe said that “Our hands are tied. We cannot do anything where ZANU-PF is involved. However, if your case was not political we could have helped you – all political violence matters are off limits for the police”. As recommendations to the research, HRW recommended that the restoration of judicial independence, enforcement of the equality under law, defending judges against political pressure and so on. This is a synopsis of the rule of law in Zimbabwe around that period and nothing suggests conclusively that the situation has changed or improved. Here at home, the BCP lodged a case in connection with a fake petition by the BDP in 2013. This fake petition, we will recall, caused the postponement of a parliamentary by-election in the Francistown West constituency. As fate would have it, the Commissioner of Police is reported by Mmegi online edition dated 9 May 2017 that “The Botswana Police Service (BPS) has finally admitted that a petition that led to postponement… November 2013 was purely fraudulent”. Notwithstanding that there was overwhelming evidence, no prosecution was effected. One can safely conclude that this is because the President’s party was at the wrong side of the law. Around the middle of this year, Zimbabwe’s parliament passed a Bill to amend the Constitution that sought to give the President sweeping powers to solely appoint the Chief Justice for example, without consulting any other institution. Under the 2013 Constitution, the President could only appoint the Chief Justice from candidates recommended by the JSC. Under this Bill, appointment of Chief the Justice in Zimbabwe would be the same as it is here. Khama also appoints as per the High Court Act the Chief Justice without consulting any other institution.   

According to the Rule of Law Index 2014, The World Justice Project, an American non-government organisation, “ranked Botswana number one in Africa and 25th out of 99 countries surveyed around the world in terms of the rule of law”. In 2015, Mo Ibrahim Index ranked Botswana 3rd in Africa. Notwithstanding these impressive rankings, the situation on the ground tells a different story. The Patriot on Sunday online edition dated 9 October 2017 carried a story titled “Khama blocks Ramaotwana”. Ramaotwana was recommended for appointment to the position of Senior Magistrate in 2015 by the JSC. The recent ‘reluctant’ appointment of Judge-designate Motumise by the President, which appointment he contested frivolously up to the Court of Appeal at great cost to us taxpayers, is perhaps the mother of all disregards to the rule of law. In other cases, litigants have had to apply for civil imprisonment of Permanent Secretaries and even the BDF Commander for refusing to comply with court orders for no good cause. The President’s government is picking and choosing when to comply with the rule of law and when not to. The current instability in the judiciary where unwarranted political interference and influence appear to be at the centre stage, impacts negatively on its independence. All in all, I will argue that Khama is throwing stones when he lives in a glass house. Henry B. Eyring said: “We live in a world where finding fault in others seems to be the favourite blood sport. It has long been the basis of political campaign strategy….Whenever we meet anyone, our first, almost unconscious reaction may be to look for imperfections”. Notwithstanding his ‘personal resent’ of Mugabe, Mugabe has been here on numerous occasions where he has been accorded respect and dignity befitting his office notwithstanding his malfeasance. Open letters to presidents are for us the riff raff because we do not have access to diplomatic channels and privileges. In my view, Khama’s letter is diametrically against Vision 2016 pillar of “A Compassionate, Just and Caring Nation”. He was simply flogging a dead horse. Judge for Yourself! Send your comment to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.