- “Gazette reporter Sonny Serite must be targeted”
- Says BDP should behave like Boko Haram
- Reporters lie about ministers
- We should have ‘team assassination’
- I can be very cruel- Mekgwe
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) member Tiro Mekgwe has confirmed creating and circulating on his party social network groups an audio recording inciting members of the ruling party to kill journalists and close down media houses that expose corruption in government.
Mekgwe is heard in a WhatsApp audio leaked to The Botswana Gazette in which he is making illegal utterances inciting mass violence and political intolerance as well ascalling for the annihilation of anyone who speaks negative about the BDP. The inciteful and inflammatory voice recording was allegedly posted in a WhatsApp group that includes ministers and BDP leaders.
“Nna tota bagaetsho ke akanya gore re itire bo Boko Haram, koore mongwe le mongwe o senyang puso ya ga Domkrag leina kana yo o e buang leswe, kana media kana mmega dikgang, are bolae. Are bolaeng hela re bolae, re bolae ka gore re lapile!” (It’s about time we operate like Boko Haram, I mean anyone who speaks negatively about Domkrag, media or reporter we should kill. Let’s kill, let’s just kill because we are tired.)
Mekgwe’s shocking recording comes in the wake of court cases and allegations of rampant corruption implicating elite members of the BDP. In the same week, President Ian Khama, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, Minister Thapelo Olopeng and BDP Treasurer Satar Dada were implicated at court in a financial scandal involving P250 million allegedly plundered from the National Petroleum Fund by Bakang Seretse’s lawyer Kgosi Ngakaagae. The DCEC arrested and dragged Bakang Seretse who was the Fund Manager before courts. Director General of the DIS Isaac Kgosi is alleged to have authorized the use of some of the disputed millions while the court was told that DCEC had already questioned the vice president. Seretse’s partner was murdered late 2017 in South Africa after he raised questions about millions that were flowing in and out of his company accounts. Seretse has himself raised fears for his own life. Office of President has denied the allegation that Khama and Masisi benefited from the NPF funds.
This weekend, DCEC investigators claimed to have found P50 000 in cash buried at Minister Prince Maele’s yard in Block 6, Gaborone.
It is in light of the ongoing media reports that Mekgwe made a call for the public to use of violence and brutality on members of the private press. “Media houses that publish ‘rubbish’stories about our party should be closed, government should close them and remain with Radio Botswana and BTV only, they are undermining us,” Mekgwe spewed vitriol allegedly at the audience of party members in the group.
Mekgwe singled out The Botswana Gazette investigative reporter Sonny Serite on a second recording, alleging that his reports tarnish the party’s name and emphasized that time had arrived for the BDP to establish an assassination team to kill anyone who dares to discredit. “We need team Assassination, you see me when it comes to brutality, I can be one such person, team Assassination…re ba bolae…re bolae,” Mekgwe said repeatedly on the second audio clip.
In 2015 state security agents and the DCEC raided The Botswana Gazette, arrested its Managing Director, Editor, reporter and attorney following intensive reports of alleged corruption implicating senior government officials and the BDP.
Subsequently, in 2016 Serite was victimized and jailed by the state while reporting on corruption at the Office of the President. Serite said that although he does not believe Mekgwe’s threats were sanctioned by the BDP leadership, it was difficult to take the threat by its member lightly.
“I am going to open a case with the Botswana Police so that they can investigate the veracity of these threats to harm myself and some members of the media,” Serite said when interviewed.
Contacted to account for his ‘kill the reporter’ statements Mekgwe quickly confirmed that he made the audio clip in the BDP Whats-App group and said he thought it was a joke. “I did not think the members of the group will take it to other platforms, I thought we were just having fun and a stupid BDP member shared it with the public, what I did was not right,” Mekgwe pleaded.
According to figures from the International News Safety Institute, more than 1000 journalists have died on the job in the past decade and the issues have raised serious concerns globally. On the same day, yesterday, that Mekgwe made and distributed to his party members his message, the High Court was to preside over another case of media crackdown by the DCEC on Sunday Standard where it was in 2014 interdicted from publishing contents of the corruption investigation dossier once again involving allegations against DIS boss Isaac Kgosi. The hearing has been postponed to June.
Mekgwe’s sentiments to shut down media houses that are critical of government are not isolated. Reports from 2014 have cited that an “unofficial” Government Memorandum instructing all departments and Parastatals to only advertise with Media houses approved by Government…” and this has since introduced an advertising ban that is financially crippling newspapers.
MEDIA BODIES CONDEMN THREATS
The Botswana Editors Forum Chairperson Spencer Mogapi in respone to Mekgwe’s infalamatory statements said that, “For ten years now the media has lived under constant political ridicule and harassment and when it comes to media harassment everybody has taken their cue from the top and this has made it easy for culprits to get away with it.”
A sentiment held by the Editors Forum was that after listening to the tape, while it was shocking, it was not altogether surprising.
“In the meantime, we await the response of the main leadership. The target today is the media. Tomorrow it will be somebody else. Where does the killing stop?” asked Mogapi.
Media Institute of Southern Africa Botswana (MISA) said that the BDP should take the matter seriously and report the said member. “We expect them to show concern by taking action. Journalism has played an integral part of this country’s history since the early 90s and any attack on journalist is an attack on the constitution which provides for freedom of expression,” MISA board member Tshireletso Motlogelwa charged after hearing the audio.
Minister Maele who sources alleged to have been in the said social network group where these incitements were made, rubbished the sentiments. “It’s utter rubbish. Where is the tolerance?” Maele asked.
BDP Deputy Secretary General Shaw Kgathi said he was not aware of the said audio statements and distanced himself from Mekgwe. He however, advised that a complaint can be lodged with the police.
BDP spokesperson Thapelo Pabalinga said that the BDP is not media intolerant and that the recording was done to put BDP in bad light. “Why would a BDP member say such thing? My take is this is a recording done in studio or deliberately to try and soil the BDP name, its propaganda like the so-called hit lists.”
To listen to the Tiro Mekgwe’s full audio recording visit our Facebook page.