The Unpleasant Side Of Botswana

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

From The Guardian

When the news media turns a penetrating gaze on Africa, Botswana rarely makes headlines. The southern African nation is best known for diamonds, heart-stopping natural beauty and inoffensive politics. It ranks second behind Mauritius in the latest Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

But there is trouble in paradise. So far this month an editor has been arrested and a reporter has fled, triggering a diplomatic spat with the US, while a South African politician has been barred from entering the country and there are concerns over its use of the death penalty.

The unpleasant side of Botswana came to light when president Ian Khama, who once appeared on Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson and co,was reported to have been involved in a late night car crash which resulted in the other driver being given a new jeep.

The editor who published the story, Outsa Mokone of the Sunday Standard, was arrested and charged with sedition. “I would rather spend 100 years in their prisons rather than be a prisoner of guilty conscious,” he said upon his release.

Police raided the offices of Sunday Standard and seized documents and computer equipment. Mokone’s colleague, journalist Edgar Tsimane, fled to neighbouring South Africa where he applied for asylum. In an interview with that country’s eNews Channel Africa (eNCA), he painted a highly unflattering picture of a country that many revere as a beacon of democratic progress for the continent.

“There was information from my sources that my life was in danger,” said Tsimane, explaining his decision to leave Botswana, which he went on to describe as increasingly repressive.

“I think it’s been a gradual process. It’s now becoming more and more visible. I can tell you that we’ve been experiencing extra-judicial killings in the country. The public is losing confidence in the government of the day.”

He cited the case of a petty criminal shot dead by military intelligence, who riddled his body with 10 bullets. “How can you kill a man without subjecting him to the court of the law?”

Read more at The Guardian