Minutes after the Gabz fm radio had aired what transpired at the Molepolole Kgotla where the M-word was uttered and callers demanded that Khama should apologise for the derogatory word, the BDP command centre called on the radio station to discontinue the talk and apologise for criticising 'His Excellency' President Ian Khama.
Apologise for what? According to the command centre pawns, the President "was joking ... !" That being so, the nation apparently was expected to giggle the normal giggles the BDP faithful giggle when Botlogile Tshireletso's ample figure and weight is caricatured at BDP rallies; they were expected to applaud the budding comedian President. My!
Shall we say in mitigation about the President's crude jokes - some would say atrocious - it is his fan club, the bewitched admirers whose complicity it is, that makes him refuse to learn that he must desist from making unwelcome jokes?
Khama obviously has learnt that he is more popular than the BDP, that a good number of Batswana think he is a spit image of his father, Sir Seretse Khama, that he is the most patriotic Motswana this side of eternity and that many Batswana silently support Olifant Mfa's proposal that when his term expires, it be extended ad infinitum.
What aggravated the impudence of the BDP office was the veiled threat, (I have yet to confirm) that unless the apology was made, the omnipotent command centre might sever relations with the radio station. The advert-starved Gabz fm radio station, knowing which side their bread was buttered, quickly retraced their steps to avoid dire consequences, and of course offered an unconditional apology to a President who owed an apology to the nation.
Whoever said there was freedom of speech in Botswana? That the media can write, broadcast and publish without fear or favour? I do not think that even the maligned Media Practitioners Act in its provisions stipulates how compliance with its provisions will be enforced. The threat from the BDP office is the foretaste of how non-compliance with the edicts of the BDP government will be rammed down peoples' and institutions' throats. The stage has been set for either or options in government-business relations. We are a people under siege, our vanguard, the media have their backs against the wall. Press freedom days are numbered!
When I heard that the President had said those who criticised him for the M-word were mischievous, I remembered the story of a jackal and a lamb. The story goes thus. A jackal and a lamb were drinking from a brook a short distance from each other. The jackal was up stream and the lamb downstream. The jackal, snout in the water had one eye on the well-fed lamb and his brain was feverishly scheming a predatory step to devour the innocent lamb. A brain wave. why not accuse the lamb of polluting the water? Armed with the mischievous whim, the jackal trotted towards the lamb.
"Hey, you! Why are you polluting the water, I am drinking?" Before the bewildered lamb could challenge the logic of pollution of water downstream for someone upstream, the jackal pounced on the lamb tearing him to pieces and making a sumptuous meal of him before he could say, bah!
I wish to call upon Khama to come down his high horse and apologise. Derogatory words used in public against foreigners smack of xenophobia, used against subordinates they belittle, insult and defame the image of the subordinate; they are un-presidential if uttered by a president; they cannot be a source of humour, since they humiliate and hurt the subject; they shock the public that hears them and do not leave the speaker alone; derogatory words diminish the speaker in the public eye. Mr President, please apologise for the gaffe; you may have uttered it instinctively, which often happens. No matter, say sorry! Take your cue from Sepp Blatter, the FIFA supremo who initially thought it was a joke to dismiss blatant racism in international football as humour, to be laid to rest by a handshake. The wrath of the anti-racist world called upon him to step down.
He refused to step down, but at least he apologised for the gaffe. It is a mark of courage to come out of the trench when you realise it is exposed to enemy fire and unsustainable. Another courageous leader who apologised for a faux pas made during the heat of an election campaign was former British prime minister, Gordon Brown who denounced a party supporter who embarrassed him with uncomradely remarks. He apologised publicly and personally to the woman. Some observers are of the opinion that his gaffe might have cost him the elections. I beg to differ. Had he not shown the public contrition and chivalry by apologising as he did, the loss of the New Labour at the 2009 British general elections would have been heavier. The New Labour ship was sinking gaffe or no gaffe. By apologising, he salvaged his personal image and blunted the knives drawn against him.
Let us face it. In the global village today, there is nothing as poisonous to human relations as xenophobia, ethnocentrism, racism and apartheid in all its hues. Mokwerekwere, coolie, kaffir, hotnot, lekutwane, nigger and any derogatory word thrown about indiscriminately poison the political air we breathe.
Fights, even wars, civil strife and social discontent are basically products of the discrimination expressed in un-wanted name-calling. Political leaders must dissociate themselves from tendencies that wittingly or un-wittingly flaunt their superiority or differences between themselves and others. Trying to find unfunny excuses, about gaffes is inexcusable.