Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sydney Pilane- A Real Motswana Patriot

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.


Moroni said...

Hi Lauri.
It is heartwarming to know that there are some Batswana out there who take their duty to the country and democracy seriously and vote for the good of this country not just petty issues. Rest assured yours wont be the only vote cast to take our country back to the years of democracy, where dissent and consultations with the nation were the order of the day. I however hesitate to endorse your opinion on Sydney Pliane. Granted the man spoke out against a president who is increasingly authoritarian. However I have to ask: How long has he known Khama? Why didnt he criticise him when he still (presumably) had his ear as the advisor to his boss?Where was he when both Khama and Mogae chose to ignore the laws of the country and international best practice when they ignored the recommendations of the Ombudsman that Khama should stop misusing national assets (in particular BDF helicopters)? Was he not Mogae's advisor when the same signed into law the Intelligence and Security act (which effectively established DIS)?This was done inspite the fact that the then minister of justice, defence and security (Skelemani) denied the opposition an opportunity to make ammendments to the said act. Yet he (Skelemani) wasnt in too much of a hurry to consult his BDP colleagues. He even went on to postpone the debate to go for a SADC meeting (in Zambia, I believe). Pilane was there for all these things. Nary a word from our knight in shining armour. Until of course he gets rejected by Ian . Then suddenly he sees that he is not such a "swelll guy"? I dont argue with his thesis. i do however question the patriotism of BDP members who while they are part of the inner circle will defend all that comes from the high office. Then once they are on the outside they tell us what is wrong with the people in the high table. A brave man is one who risks his "bread and butter" for the truth and justice, not wait until it is taken from him then put on a show of courage. Call me a cynic but if I were Ian and wanted to shut Pilane up, I would appoint him my advisor or even give him some obscure post in the OP (if not Specially Elected MP!). As to Khama, like you I actually did give him the benefit of the doubt. I always thought it was unfair that people assumed on the basis of his military background that he will be a dictator. I guess i owe Duma Boko and other members of oppostion an apology.
PS: Sorry for the long comment.

Anonymous said...

Batswana know the taste of democracy. We have feasted on it (and grown fat on it) all these years. It is not something we will relinquish. I will be voting and making my voice heard. I want to applaud the two lawyers, Duma Boko (always eloquent, ever-flamboyant) and Dick Bayford (cool and analytical) for telling us what we needed to hear this week about the Kalafatis case. The revelations made at press conference were SHOCKING. On another note, was the late Mr Kalafatis ever convicted of any crime? If not, let us refrain from labelling him.

Lauri said...

Moroni- Thanks for your post, and it wasn't too long BTW. I agree, a braver man is the one who even stands up when ALL is at stake. But in the end at least he came forward. Slowly the DIS is making us think before speaking. I rewrote this very post many times- I'm not brave, I have no wish to be a martyr like Mr Kalafatis. The fear is building. Did you see the Sunday news bulletin? I was thinking it's the beginning of the end. They were making no pretense that state assets belong to the state- they NOW belong to the president and we should accept that.

Initially I thought the DIS might be something that USA and UK were forcing on Botswana to fight terrorists so to be honest I was not fearful because I'm not a terrorist. I thought Ian Khama was going to be a great president- there are posts all over this very blog in which I state that. Perhaps Pilane thought the same, who knows.

Anonymous- Yes, I did write alleged thief fot that very reason. Like most things in this case nothing has beeen substantiated.I agree Bayford and Boko need to be applauded. Even under police intimidation they went forward with the press conference. The public has the right to know and the government has made it apparent that they will not be enlightening us any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Ivestigations take time...

The BIG mistake,which Ian Khama is making,is to be sooooooooooooooooooo
SENSITIVE in regards of the Media.

he should allow them to participate in the press conference in John Kalafatis case.

To sue Sunday Standard is also a meanigless...his lawyers shall be happy to file a suit for LIBEL(there is NOT a legal cause of action called degfamation in Criminal Procedure)but it will not bring anything.

Seretse Khama has to prove that the FALSE and Malicious publiation

According the rules of EVIDENCE public officials and public figures MUST prove gross negligense and RECKLESS disregard of the truth on the side of the publisher(the Sunday Standard).

Allegations as such can not expose a

public official to PUBLIC SCORN.

The newspapers of Botswana are ull of PRASE of Ian,who is loved by the common people.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Every country has Intelligence and Security organs.
Why should Botswana be an exception,taking in consideration that such a country as South Africa is next to you!

And 2010 is coming and millions of people from the whole world are coming to Southern Africa...regrettably not all people are ANGELS!
There drug lords,spies(political and business),terrorists,professional killers and who knows what kind of criminals ,who would like to use the World Cup socker games for their private agendas.

I have been following Btswana's press recently and what I read is that Khama has been cruising the villages there and taking his time to greet young &old during the Kgota's meetings.
I think "The Voice" wrote that ORDINERY people love im...I do not know...I am far away...

Anonymous said...

I am of the opinion that if Kalafatis was in fact a criminal that this sends out a message to those who wish to participate in crime in this country that they will end up worse off. Crime is creeping into Botswana and I am hearing of people leaving the country because of it.

I am also going to be devils advocate and wait to hear the true course of events. Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon with the story and I have not yet heard the otherside pf the story. What I do know is that our security forces are not murderers they are trained to do a job and that is to keep you and i safe in our own country.

I wonder if it was you or I in the situation of those security members at the scene whether the events would have taken place any differently....I really wonder.

No-one pulls the trigger of a gun lightly or for no reason especially with witnesses around,so all I am saying is lets hear about this John Kalafatis guy and lets hear the security forces side of the story. Too often the press in our country gets its wrong and sometimes very wrong and we are also aware of the politics which plays a role in our media so I am afraid I am not very confident in the media's balanced reporting. This was evidenced when the media bill came out, which I have read and which actually protects Botswana citizens yet the media saw it as an intrusion of privacy. In every other country in the world there is a media bill why should Botswana not have one to protect those that are being written about.

Anonymous said...

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaa...probably it was a mistake to elevate Ian Khamato the Presidentail chair.

I read the interview with him in the

"Voice".He spent his youth's life at

Botswana Defense Forces and learned
to be a part of a garrison and
to follow orders or GIVE orders(later when he was a chief).

Regrettably a country is NOT a

garrison,dear Seretse Khama!

A country has to be ruled with a

"Fingergef├╝hl" as the Germans are saying...with kids gloves;plenty of diplomacy and PATIENCE!

Then there is the issue of extreme SENSITIVITY...

The Media in Botswana is talking about Ian Khama because it LOVES him!

As long as they write about you,Mr.Khama,they show they are

thinking of you ...once they stop writing...then you should worry!

The journalists in Botswana are claiming that the Media Practitioners Act tangates their RIGHT to Freedom of Speech,not their privacy.

I do NOT know...I shall read first this Act.

Kalafatis case has to be investigated and suspects and witnesses interrogated...then

the President could react.

It does not make any sense to speculate now,before the Police have completed their work.

Anonymous said...

So..............dear Seretse Khama,

YOU read the Media Practitioners Act...regrettably I could NOT read it on the Internet.

I clicked the webpage of Botswana Government but it says"Access to the law statutes is restricted".


All I could do is to read opinions in the newspapers about the Act.
Even such small countries as Bulgaria or CYPRUS are publishing ALL their laws on the Internet.

I disagree that the Media Practitioners Act protects "those about whom is written"!
There are sufficient provisions in the Botswana Penal Code(TORTS),which give people,victims of libel or slander,standing to sue.

Then YOU say:"I know that our security forces are NOT murderers they have been trained to do a job..."

You can not possibly know what every security agent is doing in his/hers private life!

People are lured by MONEY to act in a way they were not trained...

Not all people are SAINTS like you,Ian Khama!

Anonymous said...

The Anonymous sounds like Ian Khama...that is the way he speaks...
I heard him on African Voices.

Even if Kalfatis was a common criminal,this does not justify his murder!

Die Hard Khama loyalist said...


VIVA Seretse Khama Ian Khama, VIVA!!

Anonymous said...

Crime should be dealt very harshly.
As of Botswana democracy is well an alive, it is my option that lots of batswana need stop complaining about useless things, Ian Khama is he to remove the wool from the eyes of the nation, he fights for the poor, that is why they hate him