We are now slightly over a month since the President declared the State of Emergency (SoE).
There was furore as to the real reasons behind the declaration since the Public Health Act was found adequate in dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Outside of the public eye and debate as to why SoE in the first place, there seems to be a conspiracy theory as to why it may have been necessary in the first place. Going by this theory, COVID-19 seems to have been the perfect opportunity to deal with former president Ian Khama once and for all.
There is no denying that the former president has been a thorn in the incumbent’s side, with the result that President Mokgweetsi Masisi had to announce to the nation in his first State of the Nation address that the transition between him and the former president has not been a smooth one.
Their relationship has since deteriorated further going into the 2019 General Election with the former president campaigning against the incumbent.
Khama, who once declared Masisi as the most intelligent and administratively astute heir, threw his weight behind the opposition. In the build-up to, and post, the elections the government of Masisi was to strip the former president of many benefits and positions of power and authority.
It is reported that Khama’s travel permit during lockdown was withdrawn. The fight seems far from over. Proponents of this theory opine that this is the perfect time for Masisi to strike a final blow on Khama whilst the opportunity exists and there is a perfect legal framework within which to do it and when Khama is at his weakest in terms of legal protection.
The premise of the conspiracy theory is that Masisi will strip Khama and his close associates of all assets that they acquired whilst he [Khama] held public office. It seems
In terms of Regulation 4 of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulation, the President may authorise the taking away of any property, which includes any property other than land, in the interest of public health. Unlike Section 8 of the Constitution, which talks of adequate compensation (market price) in the event of expropriation of property, Regulation 30 of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations leaves the question of compensation to the President, both in terms of its necessity and extent.
A challenge may arise as to what is the “interest of public health”. It is suggested that this is not the biggest hurdle to overcome given the ambiguity of the expression and the wide scope of the discretionary power under which such power maybe exercised. For example, given the budget deficit that had been anticipated and the costs arising from COVID-19, such acquisition of property could be to isolate those infected or raise funds for the COVID-19 Relief Fund. Objectively speaking, these may well be sound reasons, albeit, on the face of it targeting an individual. Again, it remains to be seen if there is any truth to this conspiracy theory or if it is merely used to discredit President Masisi and give public sympathy to former president Khama.
*Mogakolodi Masosote is a pseudonym of a senior attorney in private practice and writes about law for Mmegi.