WHY I JOINED THE BMD-MAJOR GENERAL PIUS MOKGWARE
From one of the most respected Army Generals to an ‘enemy of state’ to a political activist, Former Botswana Defence Force Ground Forces Commander, Major General Pius Mokgware ‘s career path makes for a compelling story.
On the back drop of his official welcome to the Botswana Movement (BMD) for Democracy last week, Mokgware talks to MMIKA SOLOMON with candour about his time in the BDF, his highly publicised unfair dismissal court case against the government which he won and his subsequent decision to join active partisan politics.
Q. Why have you decided to join partisan politics?
My interest in joining politics came after I left Botswana Defence Force unceremoniously.
When I left the army I realized that things in this country were not run properly.
Let me explain that I joined the army to protect democracy. That democracy is not there anymore.
Q. What are these ‘things’ which you say are not run properly?
I am talking about corruption in this country, which has since been institutionalized.
The rate of unemployment especially among the youth has sky rocketed.
Democracy in this country is being undermined.
The country’s economy is mismanaged.
Q. Who is mismanaging the economy of this country?
Obviously, there is somebody who runs this country.
The buck stops with that person. He is the one that should make sure all systems are put in place and the rule of law is upheld.
He should make sure the country’s economy is managed well.
Q. And that made you to join politics. Clearly you must have been motivated by other factors. Or am I missing something?
I realized that freedom of expression is now a luxury.
People can no longer express themselves freely both in their private conversations either at weddings, funerals even on their personal phones.
The press is not even free to report events as they unfold.
We read in newspapers that government media is not free.
People are being harassed when they do their work.
I believe this thing of tapping people’s phones is wrong and illegal and must stop.
I know these things are happening because I am a victim of phone tapping.
Q. Rre Mokgware let me put it to you that you used to enjoy tapping people’s phones when you were in the army.
When it is done to you, you cry foul and you say it is wrong.
Who should be tapped and who shouldn’t?
When the army bought that equipment it was meant to listen to enemies of the state.
It was not meant to listen to harmless citizens like me.
It was wrong of the BDF to tap my phones both official and personal calls.
It is not a question of crying.
It is wrong for the government to have listened to my phone conversations.
Q. Who is the enemy of the state?
I am not the enemy of government.
At the time I was not talking to any politician. I did nothing wrong even the government has admitted that I did nothing wrong.
I took them to court and we later settled out of court and reconciled.
I was compensated but I am not at liberty to divulge with how much or any information surrounding the compensation.
Q. Your phone was tapped, who was the beneficiary of that information?
My commander Lt. Gen Tebogo Masire was the head of BDF, and he was reporting directly to President Ian Khama.
I will say President Khama was the beneficiary.
Khama was so excited about what Masire did to me.
To show his appreciation Khama extended Masire’ stay at the BDF.
Under normal circumstances Khama should have taken Masire to task or even relived him off his duties but he rewarded him instead.
Q. The same President Khama over looked you for the position of Deputy Commander of the army.
What was going on at the barracks?
The BDF act, which is an act of parliament states that officers will be promoted based on who joined the army first.
I was a senior to Major General Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo.
President Ian Khama disregarded the BDF act and went ahead to promote Tiroyamodimo ahead of me.
I am told the president is covered by the country’s constitution to appoint his preferred people. That is also wrong.
Nobody should disregard an act of parliament including the president.
As an obedient soldier I continued to salute him (Khama). I had thought he will come to his senses and rectify the situation.
Q. Did he rectify the situation?
No, Instead he fired me. Again as an obedient soldier I bowed out of the barracks without a fight.
People said I should have taken the President head on.
I decided not to challenge his decision, although I could have.
Khama is a brave man, despite knowing that he had wronged me by authorizing that my phones should be tapped he went ahead to dismiss me from the BDF.
Even today I don’t know why my phone was tapped.
Q. Have you met with Khama since you left the army?
We have met on several occasions but I will not tell you why we met and what we discussed.
Q. When you were at the BDF, scores of soldiers tell me that you were the darling of many junior officers. How far true is that?
It is a fact, when I left the BDF unceremoniously many soldiers expressed their unhappiness.
I command a lot of respect from both junior and senior officers in the army.
I meet with them often, we discuss many things and we talk about life in general.
I believed in empowering a soldier.
My philosophy was that a soldier should be trained well, his welfare should be taken care of including his family.
I also believed that soldiers should be paid well so that they can focus on their job.
During my time I interacted with all soldiers in order to understand their needs first hand. Soldiers love me.
Q. Were you coerced into joining BMD or you did that out of your own will?
Nobody asked me to join BMD.
I joined it because I share their vision.
They want to protect democracy, I also want to protect democracy. However, I wish all opposition parties could unite to unseat the BDP.
Q. What changes are you bringing into politics?
I will advocate for youth employment.
I will protect the rights of the workers, because at the moment when they complain the government becomes harsh on them.
I want to see a better Botswana for all.
Q. Botswana government does not have money.
That is why jobs are cut, where will you get the money from?
There is plenty of money in Botswana government.
Government wastes a lot of funds on failed projects like Morupule Power B plant and Palapye Glass project.
At the end of every financial year various ministries return funds.
Those funds can be used to create employment for the youth.
Q. In which constituency are you going to contest in 2014?
My constituency is Gabane, Mankgodi formally Kweneng South.
If the party agrees that I contest I will take my chances on that constituency.
Q. What developments will you bring in that constituency?
Gabane is undeveloped. I will start from scratch.
The constituency needs leadership which is not there at the moment.
Q. I understand your former subordinate Colonel Duke Masilo is tipped to contest the same constituency under BDP ticket, so it going to be battlefield of army men?
It won’t be a battlefield of army men.
We are now both civilians. He believes in BDP ideology I don’t. The best man will win.
Q. What is so wrong with BDP running this country?
If the BDP government was doing things right, they wouldn’t have been any need for some us to be in politics.
Besides, there is a Chinese proverb which says ‘A fish rots from the head’. The head of government is not doing things right.
I don’t have a problem with Khama as a person, but I have a problem with his leadership style. BDP does not allow for different opinions.
BDP belongs to the founding families of the party, the likes of Seretse, Masisi, Segokgo, Morake and Masire.
If you don’t belong to any of these families you won’t even make it at BDF that is why Galebotswe, Segokgo and Morake are top brass at BDF, because of family connection.
The playing field should be level for all. We can’t have same families running the country.
Q. BMD does not have financial resources how is the party going to compete in the next general elections?
In any struggle resources are not the most important element. What is important is the will of the people.
History will tell you that even powerful leaders like Colonel Mummar Ghadafi of Libya with all the military personnel and equipment he had was still defeated by the people. So what about Botswana?
What can this army do to Batswana, if Ghadafi was failed by a more powerful army?
Q. What is going to happen to corrupt BDP people, once the opposition takes power?
It is very simple. Those who acquired their wealth through corruption will face the wrath of the law.
We will prosecute them should the need arise.
Those who invaded tax will be dealt with. It won’t be revenge but we will do what needs to be done.
Q. Thank you for interview.