Khama blast media, opposition over fighter jets
By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone- President Ian Khama has accused opposition parties and the media of being unpatriotic by opposing the planned purchase of Gripen military fighter jets that observers say could trigger an arms race in the region.
Officially opening his ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) meeting in Tonota village in northern Botswana, Khama noted that opposition parties and the media did not have the interest of the country at heart.
“They are the ones who do not want this government to protect this nation and the people of Botswana by providing our soldiers with quality equipment to better defend them.
They simply do not care to protect our citizens,” he said.
Khama was referring to a decision by the coalition of opposition parties, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), to petition Swedish authorities against the planned purchase of the military fighter jets budgeted for more than 16 billion pula.
“Just why anyone would harbour feelings of bitterness about their own country doing well is something incomprehensible. These are citizens who have enjoyed top quality education locally and overseas on government support,” he said.
“These are citizens who on account of our enabling policies have attained middle class and higher social and economic status never enjoyed by their parents just a generation ago.”
Khama further noted: “We are witnessing the phenomenon of citizens who will never think of living anywhere else in the world besides Botswana because of what it provides for them but who in the same breath never say a single positive utterance in appreciation.”
According to Khama, opposition parties and what he called their allies in the media are banging the loudest drums about the need for a change of government whilst unable to show what some new government that exists only in their imagination holds in store for the country.
“We have so many positive and uplifting stories to tell about our government that will pale into insignificance any negative portrayal peddled by our rivals.
Let us in the period leading up to 2019 seize the initiative and tell the stories that reflect the reality of our country,” he said.
Therefore, Khama said, the duty of every BDP member was to educate the voter about the disaster of any temptation to cast a protest vote against the only party that knows how to govern and where to take this country, the BDP.
“I remain optimistic we are on course to do better and continue rallying around a common cause that advances our country and its people and not any individual interest,” he said.
Khama, who is expected to step down in April next year after ascending to the highest office in in 2008, urged the BDP to start preparing for the 2019 general elections against a united opposition.
Khama said the BDP should never be found wanting in articulating its policies as a party and in its government delivering services and programmes to the nation.
“We must never falter because this will simply create an opening for a clueless opposition, better fitting the definition of a protest movement which has no coherent policies that would lead this country astray should it by accident ever be in government.
Such an accident can only be created by ourselves because without it our position in government remains solid,” said Khama.
He further warned that when primary elections kick in, all candidates must adhere to the code of conduct which emphasises that both successful and unsuccessful candidates and their followers must come together and demonstrate commitment, loyalty and support to the party.
“In saying this I am urging democrats, however, not to be complacent on the basis that the opposition is incompetent, unpatriotic and power hungry. The inherent instability that characterises all opposition parties in this country points to their track record of a lack of harmony, knowledge and ability within their ranks,” said Khama.
He said because the opposition parties remained vulnerable to internal dissension “and as preachers of the book of lies, we can only imagine the kind of chaos this nation would experience should they find themselves in government”.
Batswana with their government led by the BDP, Khama said, had invested too much in building the kind of country they had today and they cannot afford an opposition in government that will inflict damage on all and sundry due to a blind preoccupation with positions, personal interest and deceit.
Khama said Batswana must be wary of opposition parties that not only lack a blue print for governing but cooperate simply because no single opposition party can match the BDP on their own.
“Our rivals must be reminded that power must not be an end unto itself but rather an opportunity for public service for the betterment of the welfare of the nation and its citizenry,” said Khama.
He said besides issuing baseless threats to prosecute everyone ever associated with the BDP government, the opposition has failed to provide a single idea of how they can resolve the challenges which the BDP was able to address.