Botswana’s Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Dikgakgamatso Seretse last week warned the country’s army chief, Lieutenant-General Tebogo Masire, to desist from making political statements.
According to one Botswana weekly newspaper, The Sunday Standard, Seretse told the Botswana Parliament his ministry had advised Masire to avoid making political statements.
The warning follows statements by Seretse during his recent visit to Zimbabwe’s diamond fields in Chiadzwa where the Botswana army chief was quoted as accusing the West of peddling lies that there were gross human rights abuses in Chiadzwa.
“There are no people being killed . . . The relocation of people in Marange, Chiadzwa, we got the stories from Western media. We said oh there you go again,” Masire was quoted as telling The Herald newspaper last month.
“I am sure you all know about the hullabaloo over the Basarwa people (the San or bushmen) we relocated for development. We need to develop our people.”
Masire reportedly applauded Zimbabwe’s indigenisation policy, over which the coalition partners in the Zimbabwean government are deeply divided.
Coincidentally, the Parliament of Zimbabwe last week adopted a motion calling for senior army officials accused of making political statements to be investigated.
These include Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga, Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Prison Service Commissioner-General Paradzai Zimondi.
Last Friday, Gaborone Central MP Dumelang Saleshando reportedly grilled Masire over the political remarks.
Saleshando demanded to know whether soldiers were allowed to take part in politics and whether action would be taken against the top army man.
“I contacted him (Masire) to seek clarification on whatever he is said to have uttered and he informed me that he did not make any political statements,” said Seretse.
Other MPs later intervened demanding a clear explanation on who had authorised the army boss to make political statements.
“This is not the first time that Masire has made political comments, are you going to investigate?” asked Kgatleng West MP Isaac Mabiletsa.
“How was the visit of the mines related to his job?” asked MP Odirile Motlhale.
“Were you able to find out from your Zimbabwean counterpart what really happened and what he (Masire) exactly said?” enquired MP Gibson Nshiwme.
The minister said while soldiers were not supposed to actively engage in politics, there was no written law which prohibited them to do so.
“After hearing his explanation, which I was satisfied with, I cautioned him to be vigilant in future when addressing the Press,” said Seretse.