Friday, January 30, 2009

As the light glares on Zimbabwe, democracy in Botswana takes a hit

Those who read Thoughts from Botswana will remember that the Minister of Communication, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi, last year attempted to get a bill passed through Parliament that would require all journalists to be registered with a board appointed by her Ministry, therefore cutting the legs off the definition of free speech. Media workers and civil society shouted from the rooftops and Venson- Moitoi was forced to retreat. She promised everyone she would do widespread consultation as is the custom in Botswana and only then would the bill be brought back to Parliament.

But, in a move that does not bode well for our future under President Ian Khama, just before Christmas Venson- Moitoi snuck the bill into Parliament with none of the changes the media insisted be made. The opposition walked out in protest and the ruling party (the Botswana Democratic Party-BDP) passed the bill. Now it means even for me to blog here I must register with the board. If I fail to or if they deem me unsuitable and I do not get permission to write, I can receive a P5000 fine or jail time each time I post.

There is a sick smell in the air in Botswana. A wind is blowing which does not bode well for our “shining example of democracy”. For reasons best known to President Ian Khama, it was decided we needed a secret spying agency, this from the son of our first president who didn’t even want an army. Nevertheless, we now have the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS). The DIS is made of a shadowy group of individuals. No one knows where their offices are. They do not carry any identification. They operate as they like doing things no one is aware of. Rumours say they tap our phones and monitor out movements. A tribunal was to be set up where people can make complaints against the DIS in an attempt to have some checks and balances in place. The tribunal was to be made up of people from the legal profession, retired high court judges, and all appointments were to be passed through the leader of the opposition. Instead, President Khama appointed BDP cronies to the tribunal and forgot all about the vetting by the leader of the opposition. The tribunal is nothing more than fluff, leaving Batswana in a very dangerous position.

The world looked at President Khama as the sole voice of reason during the Zimbabwe crisis; the man who stood up against others for the democratic rights of Zimbabwean citizens. Funny how he can fight so hard for our neighbours rights with one hand, and yet snatch basic human rights from his fellow citizens with the other.

1 comment:

Rosie Deus-von Homeyer said...

Ian Khama ought to come in terms with the fact,that in a GENUINE DEOMCRACY,there must be a Freedom of speach!
In case the Media is offending(labeling,slandering?someone,THE DOORS OF THE COURTS ARE WIDE OPEN,dear Mr.Seretse Khama!
There are sufficient provisions in the Criminal Law and procedure of Botswana,which make a Media Practitioners Act OBSOLETE.