Vol.21 No.123

Friday 13 August 2004    

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Opinion/Letters
A march for democracy

TALKING POINT
8/13/2004 1:21:53 AM (GMT +2)

"IN ordinary times the state, be it monarchical or democratic, elevates itself above the nation, and history is made by specialists in that line of business - kings, ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, journalists. But at those crucial moments when the old order becomes irrelevant to the masses, they break down the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference, the initial groundwork for a new regime".


That signals "the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny".

As the date set for the BNF-led mass action against Btv, which has been turned into a BDP propaganda instrument draws near, one can only remember these profoundly powerful words of Comrade Leon Trotsky, one of the architects of the Russian Revolution.

Hitherto, news headlines and history in the opposition parties was made by leaders of political parties, senior party officials, parliamentary and council candidates who have repeatedly spoken out against the abuse of state resources by the ruling BDP at public rallies, but to no avail. For many years the opposition political parties have been calling for electoral reforms that the Botswana government has accepted in SADC but deliberately refuses to implement. This is in tandem with the numerous verbal protestations and condemnations of opposition parties. We have witnessed a sustained attack on the freedom of the press at Btv, Radio Botswana and the Daily News by the over-zealous Minister of Communication, Science and Technology Boyce Sebetela.

On August 14, the struggle will go up by one gear, as the ordinary people will speak out against these injustices. People would doubt our sanity if we were to continue to beg for our rights and appeal to the non-existent moral conscience of the BDP to stop using the national broadcaster as their party propaganda machine. We cannot continue to pay hefty taxes to the government only to have Btv used as the propaganda instrument of the BDP. The BNF leader, Otsweletse Moupo will lead the protest march because, as a political organisation, we have a responsibility to channel the anger of the masses into a worthy and disciplined political course. The fact that the march was mooted and will be led by the BNF should not deter members of the civil society from joining.

As usual, the BDP has delivered the exact opposite of their 1999 election promises where they "reaffirmed" their "commitment to a free press". The state media has been repeatedly gagged and manipulated by the BDP. Why was coverage of political activities of opposition parties stopped? Why does Btv cover everything the President of the BDP and his Vice and Chairman of the BDP do? Why are important conferences and official launching of opposition candidates not covered while those of the BDP are always covered on Btv? Why did the coverage of political profiles of candidates in the Daily News suddenly stop? Where is the original Masa-a-sele with its famous interactive phone-in aspect? Why was its equally popular presenter Laona Segaetsho removed from the programme? Why was the review of the newspaper headlines on Btv stopped? Where is the simple and innocuous reading of newspaper headlines on RB 1? What happened to the documentary on Marietta Bosch? Why was the famous programme Hot Potato that used to feature on Gabz FM banned? Where is Andrew Sesinyi? The Mirror (31st March, 2004) noted "Btv may soon ground to a halt following revelations that more than 15 senior and junior level staff have quit the station last year, citing the frustrating work environment".

The Leader of the Opposition Cde Modubule, laments the fact that recently an arrangement he made to have Btv give live coverage of both the President's state of the nation address and the response of the Leader of the Opposition, as is the norm under working liberal democracies, was cancelled at the last minute when Sebetela personally ordered the Btv crew to go back to the station. Consequently, only President Mogae was covered, thus feeding the nation with only one side of the story. Despite the adoption of Modubule's motion by parliament years ago, and despite nationwide calls for the reinstatement of Radio Botswana programme Dikgang tsa Palamente, it remains banned. Equally, calls for an alternative Btv coverage of parliamentary proceedings have been rejected.

At one point, the government banned government advertising on the Guardian/Midweek Sun group following stinging articles on the government's perennial blunders but their dictatorial decision was overturned by the courts. When Andrew Sesinyi, the then director of information and broadcasting, publicly criticised the proposed Mass Media Communications Bill, his days in the civil service were numbered.

On August 14, the ordinary people and all those who genuinely cherish the limited democratic civil rights and liberties will be called upon to stand up and be counted. They must speak out through mass action against this insidious injustice. Mass action speaks far louder than the millions of words of the leaders at freedom squares. But then numbers, not just the messages in their placards, are absolutely essential. We would like the entire peace-loving nation to join this march for democracy, freedom of the press, fairness and justice. We appeal to all Batswana in their different walks of life - the workers, the students, the teachers, the youth, the intelligentsia and the general civic-minded citizenry to come out in large numbers and support this noble cause. Waving placards, toy-toying and signing freedom songs the masses will directly make history, they will in a small way, break the barriers excluding them from the political arena by marching to the Office of the President to register to their protest.

Comrade Moore

Gaborone

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