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The 2014 general election: revolution v counter-revolution


The emerging resistance movement for democratic restoration, economic revival, clean governance started with civil society resisting both the formation of the DIS and the new media regulatory structures in 2008. It gained momentum with the Barata Phati faction sweeping the BDP’s central committee election at the Kanye congress in 2009 (the same faction that later established the Botswana Movement for Democracy-BMD actually defeated President Khama’s all women team!), and with Secretary General Gomolemo Motswaledi taking President Khama to court that ended with the former’s recall.

The resistance movement gained ground with the expulsions and resignations of Motswaledi’s supporters that led to the party split in 2010, with the public servants strike that ended with calls for regime change in 2011, with the all-inclusive negotiations among opposition parties that ended with the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

The release of Margret Nasha’s book Madam Speaker Sir that ended with the Khama regime preventing her from observing the South African elections in early 2014, was followed by the widespread suspicions that Motswaledi’s fatal car accident was staged by some public security forces working with Israeli consultants.

The revelations concerning the possible existence of a hit list of opposition candidates facing assassination during the political campaign added its weight to the resistance movement, followed with a public media blackout on Motswaledi’s hugely attended funeral in Serowe, by former Presidents Masire and Mogae openly criticizing the Khama regime of intolerance and of diverging away from the rule of law that Botswana was known for, all culminated  into a showdown in the October 2014 general election.

The self-declared forces (represented by the UDC) of the restoration of democratic rule and good governance, stood against the BDP under Ian Khama that was portrayed as intolerant and as champion of authoritarian rule, and against the opposition BCP that was portrayed as betraying the struggle in favor of the BDP.  


In some strong sense, the 2014 election was not a normal election. Coming from the resistance movement for democratic restoration, for economic revival, and for clean governance, the forces of resistance (civil society, public sector unions, private media, social media, and opposition political parties) unleashed revolutionary energy, aimed at sweeping away BDP rule that had perceivably become authoritarian, militaristic, corrupt, arrogant and unable to take the economy forward.

True to Skocpol (1979)’s ‘states and social revolutions’ that tied revolutionary success to international support and to defections in the military,  the revolutionary coalition for democratic restoration, for good governance and economic revival, was able to attract international sympathy and support.

With international assistance from the southern Africa region (Khama’s foreign policy in the region characterized by his stand off against Mugabe’s heavy-handed electioneering in Zimbabwe in 2008 was unsettling to say the least and was opposed by most ruling parties in the region) and from overseas (his threat to arrest  President Al Bashir of Sudan in case he visited Botswana, his seemingly deliberate absence from AU summits of head s of states, his uncharacteristic support for the International Criminal Court-ICC, and his government’s public sparring with the American Government over comments concerning the arrest of a newspaper editor), revolutionary energy that expressed itself through the UDC and equally through the public sector trade unions,  private media and social media (particularly Facebook), mounted a spirited campaign that took President Khama by surprise and Botswana by storm.

Hugely organized group launches were organized for UDC candidates with glamorous tents from South Africa and elsewhere, with glamorous presidential buses, and with privately owned helicopters chartered to transport the UDC leader in order to help him look presidential, were deployed.

A private radio station, GABZ FM (with support from trade unions and from the American and British embassies) organized constituency debates and presidential debates revolutionized Botswana’s electoral democracy, were aired nationally and were attended by UDC and BCP candidates and were boycotted by the BDP. In contrast, the privately owned newspapers made a sustained attack on the alleged corruption practices of the DIS boss, disabling him from leading his spy agency into helping President Khama’s campaign.


Realizing late that revolutionary energy had been unleashed to sweep away his rule and facing regime change in the face, President Khama abandoned his earlier position of normal politics of keeping a low profile, re-launched all BDP parliamentary and council candidates across the country and made second and third visits to many constituencies and wards, transported his supporters in army helicopters and flew all over the country, employed public facilities to clear bushes to create open spaces for his political rallies, danced and rode bicycle in opposition strongholds, made no attempt to restrain some of his activists who had resorted to violent means (including house break-ins and mugging) to intimidate opposition candidates.

In short, President Khama mounted a counter-revolutionary campaign spiced with threats of war should his party lose, talks of him going to prison should the opposition win, the hiring of Israeli consultants for unspecified clandestine works, the use of army helicopters to visit several constituencies a number of times, targeted verbal attacks on certain UDC candidates, the use of threatening telephone calls by unknown callers, the use of dances and bicycle rides.


Unbeknown to Khama, an organized faction within the ruling party engineered (through rigging and other means) the loss in the party primary elections and in the general elections, of important people (particularly those with military background to prevent them from being considered for position of vice president), and the emending of parliamentary rules to require booth for the secret voting in Parliament for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Vice President.

Thus, President Khama was facing revolutionary pressures from several fronts: from a broad-based opposition coalition enjoying regional and international support (including from ruling parties in the region), from the private media, from social media, and a revolt from within his own party from an organized faction that wanted to influence who becomes vice president. But at the end of it all, the counter-revolution was partly successful and President Khama was re-elected to start his second term as president.

While President Khama’s ruling party survived and won the elections (it actually lost the popular vote and a number of seats previously held by ministers), the opposition BCP was swept away by the democratic revolutionary current and by the counter-revolution.  


The BCP never saw the revolutionary current. Neither did it see the counter-revolution that actually reversed all previous BCP gains. As a result, it never prepared for either. Being outside both, the BCP saw a normal election in which it (BCP) was destined to win power alone and to embarrass the UDC coalition!

When the whole nation was either in the democratic resistance movement of the UDC or in the counter-revolution of the BDP, the BCP’s darkened vision saw normal electioneering in which the results of the 2009 election could be relied upon to make ‘safe’ predictions of its win, in which its president could ‘safely’ walk out of Motswaledi’s heavily politicized funeral in Serowe, in which it could create artificial distance between itself and the UDC in constituency and presidential debates, in which it could deploy its president to traverse the country campaigning for his candidates in the ‘safe knowledge’ that his constituency was safe, in which it could deploy one presidential bus to drive around the whole country.

In short, the BCP organized for a normal election, not for a revolutionary current nor for a counter-revolution, both of which threatened its existence. The BCP was swept away partly by the revolution that it refused to join, and partly by the counter-revolution that rode on its back for survival. The BCP became a victim of circumstances which its visionaries failed to see and which its policy makers failed to prepare for.

Humbled by the humiliating loss of constituencies and wards, the BCP has woken up, not to join the revolutionary current, not to fight the counter-revolution, but to fight lies! Seeing neither the revolution nor the counter-revolution, the BCP has unleashed its activists to attack the UDC, the private media, the social media, and the public sector trade unions! With the BDP-controlled executive shifting the counter-revolution against Parliament, BCP is provided with a rare opportunity to join the revolution, or miss another chance presented by history and risk being swept away completely. In contrast, will the UDC survive if it promises to work cooperatively with the Executive championing counter-revolution? It is in order for the UDC to be cautious in cooperating with the counter-revolutionary forces.

Zibani Maundeni is professor of political science at the University of Botswana
 

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Greef reports Madigele to Tsogwane

20th June 2022

Gaborone Bonnignton South Member of Parliament (MP) Christian Greef has submitted a letter of complaint to party chairman Slumber Tosogwane to take stern action against former minister Dr Alfred Madigele for causing chaos in the constituency.

There has been simmering tension between the two in Gaborone Bonnignton South, where former minister Dr. Madigele is said to be busy working the ground with the intention of contesting the constituency in 2024.  Greef is said to have fallen out of favour with the party top hierarchy due to his association with the beleaguered party secretary general Mpho Balopi, something which he says is “unfounded”.  Greef told this publication that “there are some with mischievous attempts here, but I will sort them out.”

Insiders, however, reveal that it is Madigele who has been causing unrest in the constituency as he plots his comeback to parliament in 2024. This is notwithstanding the fact that Madigele has also been promised the position of secretary general, should the party faithful ratify a proposal by the party politburo to reconfigure the position.

However, Madigele does not want to count on the SG position, hence the decision to to contest the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. There are reports that there is a spirited campaign by some party members to reject a mulled plan to have the SG being a full-time employee of the party.  This has irked Greef and has since approached the party structures for redress. “We are writing this letter to issue a complaint regarding misconduct by certain members of the BDP in our constituency.

There are several incidents where these individuals have been causing uncalled-for disruptions during party activities in Gaborone Bonnington South,” a letter penned by Greef, addressed to the regional chairperson, reads. He further added, “The group of people who are causing all these unnecessary tension in our constituency is identified and allegedly known by Madigele’s teams who is said to be campaigning for 2023 primary elections.

As the branch we witnessed the same team with similar misconduct during Bophirima Ward by election which we believe caused the party to lose the ward and continue to bring the image of the party in disrepute.” Lately, Madigele has relocated to the same constituency and that has created anxiety to Greef who is a first-time MP. Greef is concerned about how his rival was accepted in his constituency without his knowledge. If he had his wish, he would kick out Madigele from the constituency.

Greef, in another letter copied to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane, says Madigele has brought the branch into disarray by campaigning for a parliamentary seat contrary to the party’s regulations for conduct of primary elections. “I therefore humbly appeal to you to call Dr Madigele, who is not a member of our branch, to order,” he said.  Party officials in the region are aware of the matter; some say the MP’s complaint is baseless. However, the MP, according to sources, will fight to the bitter end to ensure that his arch rival is purged out.

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Katlholo’s lawyers slap DCEC with bill in its row with DIS

20th June 2022
Tymon Katlholo

Monthe and Marumo Attorneys who are representing suspended Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo in a legal dispute pitting him against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have said that they would submit a legal bill to the agency.

This was after DCEC’s acting Director General, Tshepo Pilane had written a letter to the law firm demanding that some files and documents belonging to the agency be returned.  “We refer to your letter dated 3rd June 2022 wherein you advised of termination of our mandate. In view thereof we have to file a notice of withdrawal as attorneys of record for and on behalf of the Organisation (DCEC),” Monthe Marumo Attorneys said in their letter.

The lawyers also indicated that, “the firm is in the process of finalizing your invoice and upon settlement of same, we will duly release the contents of the file, in so far as it relate to DCEC.”  Pilane had informed the law firm that, “Following the Directorate’s termination of any and/or mandate between the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and your law firm and/or attorney of an Associate law firm of Monthe Marumo and Company on the 3rd June 2022.”

He added that, “I do hereby request that all DCEC documents in custody be returned to the DCEC on or before 12hours today the 6th June 2022. You are also informed that none of this information shall be used by your office under any circumstances.”  Meanwhile Katlholo has told the High Court that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was on the rampage as it continues to act with impunity.

He revealed this in an urgent application in which he seeks among others that Pilane, Deputy Director General of DCEC Priscilla Israel and the agency’s senior legal advisor Edwin Batsalwelang to be committed to jail for contempt of a court. The Court order had directed that a deputy sheriff should collect files and dockets from the DCEC office and place them into the custody of the Court.  “Consequent to the order of his Lordship, the DISS has continued on its rampage and has arrested two officers of the DCEC and detained them in a Hitler style arrangement,” said Katlholo.

He added that, quite clearly the “DISS with the assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents seeks to conceal all the evidence by obstructing Judicial process.”  He said his latest current application has been brought at the earliest opportunity following defiance and acts of obstruction at the instance of the respondents. Katlholo saidthe conduct of the Pilane, Israel, Batsalelwang and DIS are an aggression on the rule of law, the Constitution of Botswana and the Judiciary in general.

“The DISS clearly has every intention of continuing to defy my rights and with the due assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Pilane, Israel and Batsalelwang). To refuse an interdict, thereby allowing the perpetration of an ongoing wrong is an anathema to the principle of legality,” said Katlholo. He said, “The DISS cannot be allowed to continue acting in contravention of the law, and to fragrantly invade an act of Parliament.”

He reiterated that the files or documents or dockets remain vulnerable and there is need that they be removed from the office and placed in the custody of the Registrar. There can never be a safe place than Court, said Katlholo.  “Should the matter not be heard as urgent, the likelihood of the files concerned and the information therein dissipating or being interfered with is high and once the evidence of the concerned files has been compromised or contaminated there is no other relief in law that fix such, there is therefore no alternative remedy,” he said.

Katlholo added that, “Most importantly, any unwarranted access to the files may compromise the integrity of ongoing investigations and expose informants and whistleblowers. Once they have been compromised, no court action may restore such.”  He said it was necessary and extremely urgent that the Court steps in to protect the rule of law against the respondents, more particularly the DIS and its agents.

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US monitoring Thuso Tiego arrests

20th June 2022
Thuso Tiego

The United States through its State Department’s annual report on global religious freedoms is keeping tabs on Botswana’s decision to arrest of controversial pastor Thuso Tiego by the police.

The report was released a week ago.  Tiego was re-arrested this week by the police after he allegedly attempted to spearhead a campaign aimed at shutting down some shops that are run by foreigners. The US’ State Department report says Police arrested a pastor from the Bethel Transfiguration Church September 7 when he tried to deliver a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi demanding his resignation over what the pastor said was mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.

“The pastor, Thuso Tiego, also criticized the government for restricting religious gatherings at a time when he said that individuals turned to churches for counselling and support during the pandemic,” the report says.  It says Tiego was held overnight at a police station and released without charge.  The report cites media reports saying that several of his supporters were beaten by police when they gathered outside the station demanding Tiego’s release.

“The national police service did not announce any disciplinary action against the officers involved,” the report says adding that, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion, with certain exceptions, and protection against governmental discrimination based on creed.”
On other related issues, the report said the government continued to pursue court cases involving unregistered churches (sometimes called “fire churches”) coming into the country to “take advantage of” local citizens by demanding tithes and donations for routine services or special prayers.

“The government required pastors of some of those churches to apply for visas – even those from countries whose nationals were normally allowed visa-free entry.  The government said in June 2019 that it was reviewing the visa policy for these foreign pastors, but by year’s end had not released the results of this review or announced any changes,” the report says.   According to the report, former members of one of the most prominent unregistered churches forced to close in 2019, the Enlightened Christian Gathering, subsequently formed their own smaller, independent churches with local leadership that was ultimately registered by the government.

The report says, under the COVID-19 state of emergency that ended in September, the government limited attendance at religious services to no more than 50 persons at one time and limited services to twice a week.  The government also banned all religious gatherings during “extreme social distancing” periods.  Although the limits on religious gatherings lasted 18 months and prevented some individuals from fully practicing their faith, most religious groups did not say their freedom of religion was being restricted and stated that the extraordinary measures were necessary for public health

The report says the US Embassy officials engaged with Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other religious representatives to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. “Topics included government tolerance of minority religious groups, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on religious expression, and interfaith cooperation to address community challenges,” the report says.

The report says under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance.
It says the constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.

The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.”   “The state of emergency imposed from March 2020 to September 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which capped the size of regular religious gatherings and meetings, was the first time the government ever exercised this provision,” the report says.

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