The Botswana National Front (BNF) was shocked by a vicious and unprovoked attack on the opposition by President Ian Khama at the recent Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) 37th Congress in Tonota.
Members of the public will recall that it is not the first time that President Khama has made such remarks about opposition parties, whose only crime seems to be their undying spirit of commitment and dedication to improving the conditions of the people of Botswana, something Ian Khama never hoped for and cannot genuinely achieve better. In the remarks Khama, speaking as BDP president, attacked the Opposition for lack of patriotism. We state here that such an attack by the president of the BDP cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
Firstly, we wish to caution him that “Susu ilela suswane”. We realise that this expression may not have an equivalent in his mother tongue. Going forward, Ian Khama should be reminded that respect is not a right, but must be earned and that if he continues to show no respect for us, he deserves no respect from us. It is that simple.
We note that this particular President is fond of always stooping low, far below our contempt as the Opposition. At that Congress, he was quoted saying the Opposition has a “blind preoccupation with positions, personal interests and deceit” and that the Opposition “simply magnify and gloat about the same challenges as a cheap way of generating political capital”. He continued to remark that “Shame, poor things” referring to opposition parties and: “These are our society’s dissidents”, he told the BDP congress about opposition parties. They “harbour feelings of bitterness”, he continued. He further described Opposition as “incompetent opposition” and “juvenile delinquents” (Botswana Guardian, The Patriot on Sunday, Sunday Standard and private radio stations). One wonders what we could possibly have done to deserve this level of hatred, bile and contempt from this President.
Not only does he always shout‘Patriotism’ in order to silence his critics, but he is also a fake ‘General’ who did not work his way up the BDF officer corps ladder. Although he masquerades as a war hero, he has no command (let alone combat) experience as a Colonel, Lt-Colonel, Major, Captain, Lieutenant or even a Second-Lieutenant. The so-called Lt-General Ian Khama was parachuted ahead of the more deserving and experienced officers of the then Botswana Police Mobile Unit where he was a Sub Inspector, a rank he could have achieved by favouritism. He was handpicked to attend Sandhurst Military school and later appointed Brigadier on first appointment, a one-star General, by his own father, under dubious circumstances. He has held only three ranks in the BDF, namely, Brigadier-General, Major-General and Lt-General. As the BDF second-in-command, he captured for his family the BDF arms procurement department and started corruptly awarding military procurement tenders to his family-owned company, Seleka Springs, run by his twin younger brothers. Ian Khama is now Botswana’s undisputed military millionaire, and has now joined the infamous ranks of the likes of Mobutu Se SeSeko of Zaire and Emperor Bokassa of Central Africa in the abuse of state resources, greed and self-aggrandizement. And this epitome of corruption has the audacity to call Opposition parties unpatriotic!
As one Samuel Johnson once said, ‘patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’. By this he meant that scoundrels will be quick to wrap up their corrupt and unpatriotic actions in a national flag and shout from the rooftops that they are the most patriotic of all of us, a charge often made by someone dishonest and unscrupulous, in order to divert attention away from his own failures and bizarre actions.
As the Opposition, we have tolerated that we are led by a 60-year old bachelor President who cannot even speak Setswana, the national language of the country he leads. Whilst we all know he was born outside Botswana, he has not disclosed the date he acquired Botswana citizenship. His academic credentials, if any, are kept a state secret and his sole claim to fame is that he is the eldest son of our former President, Sir Seretse Khama, someone he does not resemble in democratic demeanour and intellect, an LLB graduate and a firm believer in liberal freedoms, the very opposite of him! Where does Ian Khama get the courage to chide indigenous Batswana about patriotism when he knows so little about us?
President Khama and his class should note that the peace and tranquillity that this country has enjoyed is a result of the loyalty and genuine patriotism of the opposition parties in Botswana. It is not a favour that we are in existence. The opposition represents 53% of the popular vote that him and his party hope to reverse using the Electronic Voting Machine in 2019. Batswana have made it clear that they, like opposition parties, more than his party, want elections through a transparent and open vote. Had it not been for the First-Past-The-Post electoral system, he would not be in power. What makes him perceive his power more legitimate than the right of Opposition to exist in our democracy? It is clear that to him we should not even exist, yet more than 53% of Batswana want us to rule compared to 47% for him and his moribund, neo-colonial relic of a party.
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