Police threaten use of guns on non-violent protestors

  • Critics say the best form of defence against civil unrest is tolerance and that the police should protect peaceful protestors rather than arrest them


Civil society leaders have condemned use of undue and excessive force against peaceful protestors by the Botswana Police Service in Gaborone on Tuesday this week.

Led by outspoken Pastor Thuso Tiego, the marchers called for the resignation of President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

In the aftermath, University of Botswana political scientist, Professor Zibani Maundeni, has called for a more logical and mature response to the demonstrations.

Pastor Tiego was arrested in the Main Mall yesterday and held at Broadhurst Police Station where his followers and journalists were subjected to aggression by the police.

Dr Maundeni says the heavy handedness of the police and their threat to use guns against non-violent protestors was ill-advised in a democratic society and warned that the approach could dent the country’s historically peaceful image in Africa and the rest of the world.

“Protests are a great component of a democratic society,” he said in an interview. “Different sectors and groups vote with particular interests and hopes. If these are not met, they will give feedback through demonstrations. Such cannot be stopped by police crackdowns or threats. The best form of defence is listening and reforming.”

Human rights lawyer, Uyapo Ndadi, expressed firm views against the state and its law enforcers taking away people’s freedom to hold peaceful demonstrations which are in the constitution.

He said that unlike South Africa where there is a law that permits the right to protest, in Botswana that right is regulated and permission has to be sought at the “mercy of the powers that be, the same ones people want to protest against. It is a limitation that needs to be overhauled along with the constitution.”

Ndadi emphasised that Pastor Tiego should not be arrested for peacefully demonstrating against a cause that he believes in and that the Executive should desist from exerting its might on protestors. “It is enshrined in democratic principles that citizens should feel free to hold strong views about their leaders and no one should be forced to love the
President,” he said.

“Those placards that said we will use guns against protestors are quite unfortunate and appalling that the police should use them to say that the President demands to be respected and loved. Anyone should be allowed to hold a contrary view, provided they are not violent.”

The protests The administration of President Mokgweetsi Masisi has come under fire for not living up to its promises.

While the administration heaps blame on the COVID-19, accusations allege rampant corruption, disregard for the rule of law and questionable priorities in desperate times.

This is happening to a president who ascended to office through a ticket of economic inclusion. His rule, it seems, will be marked by increased civil disobedience. Botswana in recent times has experienced individual and collective protests, most of which have been
largely peaceful. The message is uniform: We deserve better, the government has failed us.

Despite this, the Minister in the Presidency, Kabo Morwaeng, has warned of consequences for those who rebel against the state, including those whom he says show blatant contempt for the presidency. Observers say guarantees cannot be made on whether these burgeoning protests will end any time soon, especially if the President does not deliver “the Botswana he promised”.

Addressing the crowds yesterday at Broadhurst Police Station, Alliance for Progressives president, Ndaba Gaolathe, implored young people to rise and demand a better future for themselves. “We gauge a society’s economic progress by studying the future generation, and when I look at that, generations from now, I see a bleak future,” he said.

The disgruntlement cuts across the olitical divide where BDP backbenchers, according to media reports, also summoned the President to a meeting to warn and inform him that Batswana are not happy with the status quo.

This week the opposition revealed that they will be consulting the nation on a motion of no confidence on the President for having failed to deliver on his promises.

Speaking to this publication recently, BDP spokesman Mpho Balopi said the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic were going to leave many disgruntled and that they were not unique to Botswana.

Media reports recently suggested that some ministers have expressed their fears of losing the next elections if things continue as they are.

Further nation-wide protests demanding the release of Tiego are planned for today (Wednesday) by The Botswana Patriotic Front .