In the long history of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), it is a rarity for its Members of Parliament (MPs) to break rank with the party, lambasting it openly. Unity Dow’s recent distinctive presentation on the affairs of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has raised eyebrows, with many asking themselves many questions without answers. Mmegi Correspondent GOITSEMODIMO KAELO wonders if Dow’s debate is a case of bravery or just political expediency
She has already served two years of her second term in Parliament, having first become an MP in 2014 under former president Ian Khama’s administration.
She has been in Cabinet, serving different portfolios such as being Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development, then Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development as well as Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation.
Dow now occupies the backbench, after relinquishing her ministerial duties earlier this year, which gives her an opportunity to provide checks and balances on her government.
However, she did the unimaginable last week in her contribution to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s State of The Nation Address (SONA).
During her presentation, Dow requested MPs to speak with one voice against the DIS and called for a Commission of Inquiry on the organisation to find out if it is still in line with its founding Act or not. She said the most fundamental promise the BDP made to the electorate in 2019 was that it would restore good governance and the rule of law.
Dow said they can all agree that good governance can be measured by factors such as the rule of law, participation, transparency, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity and inclusiveness, efficiency and accountability.
“When we promised this nation the rule of law, we meant that we would run this country not through whims and fancies, not through force or fear, not through threats and intimidation, but rather that all persons, institutions, and entities would be accountable, to laws that are: publicly promulgated, equally enforced and consistent with international norms and standards,” she said.
Dow said in her view, the DIS has failed to deliver on the promise and as the three arms of government; they have failed in delivering good governance, in respect of the DIS. She stressed that this failure, is so critical, that it threatens the security of every individual in this country, “mine and yours included, as well as that of the State itself”.
The former Justice of the High Court said what is little known is that the Act did not just create the DIS as an ‘independent and self-regulating’ entity. Rather, it has a network of entities that were meant to oversee, direct, regulate and guide the DIS.
Her passionate submission has divided opinion. While others have labelled Dow’s remarks as an outburst, others say it was a logical, passionate and truthful lamentation that deserves an ear. Others feel her comments could bring the party into disrepute.
It is very rare to find a BDP MP breaking ranks with the party. In most cases, they are guided by caucus and would tow the line unless in an instance where one is very unhappy, troubled or is doing it out of political expediency. While Dow has been very quiet in Parliament, there is no doubt about her capabilities, intelligence and knowledge of a variety of issues of national interest. As a human rights lawyer who fought injustices as well as being the first female judge in Botswana, there is no doubt that Dow is a strong-willed character who is also fearless.
But could her remarks be taken for a brave woman politician, who is ready to take her government on, especially on matters she feels strongly against while her colleagues watch on? Dow has broken the ruling party silence and now her party knows how its inner party feels. Her presentation may have awakened something within the BDP, even though we are yet to see the party’s reaction. While what lies beneath Dow’s presentation is yet to be tested and tried, the silence from the BDP could mean that the party is in consent.
As someone who has been around power, one would argue that Dow had the opportunity to change the situation before it came where it is. Has she offered counsel to President Mokgweetsi Masisi while Cabinet minister? Was she talking on behalf of a majority within her party, a selected few or on her own behalf? Is she troubled by the DIS? If at all, why did she sit on this reasonable presentation for so long while the DIS festered into a monster and intrusive organisation.
Dow’s presentation has left many people with many questions than answers. Dow has avoided answering these questions, as she is content with what she has already said. She avoids diluting her message.
When responding to Mmegi questions via WhatsApp this week, Dow said: “I really think I have said what I needed to say for now. Test my views by inviting other Bots (Botswana) voices to comment.” She is of the view that the main actors in the story such as lawyers, pastors, politicians and ministers could better test her remarks.
“Restating my views using different words will not be of benefit to anyone,” she added.
Although her reasonable presentation has left a lot lingering on, it is exactly what the society has longed for from its representation in Parliament. It has reflected Dow’s bravery amidst doubts that this could just be political expediency at play.