It is easy for opposition parties to criticise the ruling party, but for a member of the ruling party to step forward and state that what President Ian Khama is doing is wrong takes a brave and true patriot. Well known Gaborone lawyer and former advisor to President Festus Mogae, Sydney Pilane, has an excellent article in this week's Sunday Standard titled Would Lt. General Ian Khama Please Stand Down and Make Way for Mr. Ian Khama.
People outside of Botswana may not be aware that there is a growing fear in my adopted country. On the day President Ian Khama took office he gained my allegiance. His speech about the 4-D's (discipline, democracy, development and dignity) showed his vision for Botswana and I was ready to get behind him. But since that day, step by step, Batswana have watched his concerted efforts to dismantle a democracy his patriotic predecessors (including his own father, our first president, President Seretse Khama) had worked so hard to build. And as the democracy we took for granted slowly slips away, he is replacing it with orders on high and fear around every corner. His cabinet has become little more than lackeys and yes-men. He rules by decree without thought to the consequences. The recently passed media law will control the press he so despises. But none of this can hold a candle to the recent events in this country.
Two weeks ago, an alleged petty thief, John Kalafatis, was pulled over by people who were either members of our new spy department, Directorate of Intelligence Security (DIS), the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) or the police; to date everyone is pointing the finger at someone else. Kalafatis was forced to get out of the car he was in and then he was assassinated. He was shot at least eight times at close range. According to witnesses in the car, he was unarmed.
Mmegi and The Sunday Standard broke the story. According to the story, Kalafatis knew that the DIS were after him after he allegedly robbed a house of some Gaborone big-wig with the right connections, the name has yet to be confirmed, even the theft. Allegedly, DIS officials told him and members of his family that they were going to kill him. Kalafatis left a letter with his lawyer detailing just that.
After Kalafatis was killed, the government's reaction has been astonishing. They held a press conference excluding all private press. At that 'press conference' the journalists were spoken to as if they were children who had misbehaved, instead of professionals with an obligation to report what happens in the country. The president has since decided to sue The Sunday Standard which alleged that the house robbed by Kalafatis belonged to his elder sister and that he rushed to her side on his motorbike once he heard. Now the government has issued an order that no government departments or parastatals are allowed to advertise in any of the Mmegi papers or The Sunday Standard. In the current credit crisis situation, it could mean the death of these privately owned papers, which would be a tragic loss to this country and a knock to democracy . The government once before tried to do the same thing to The Guardian and The Midweek Sun which took them to court and won, so they are aware that what they are doing is against the law. Doesn't matter. Even killing unarmed suspected thieves is okay- our vice president recently said that killing one or two people is no problem.
President Ian Khama does many wonderful things, but unfortuantely these do not outweigh the damage he is doing to our country. Where I stood 100% behind him, I am now keeping my registration card in a safe place and plan to vote for the opposition in October. I will not stand by and let Botswana go the way of her northern neighbour. It's the duty of Batswana to see that that never happens.