- Botswana's President Festus Mogae has explained the controversial deportation of social science Professor Kenneth Good as an act to get rid of a "threat to national security." The President claimed Mr Good had described Botswana's diamonds - the country's key export commodity - as "blood diamonds", thus threatening national security.
The independent daily newspaper 'Mmegi' referred to President Mogae's comments, made on a press conference earlier this week. The Batswana President said he was disappointed by the local press who made a "big hullabaloo over the deportation of a single, solitary white man." He said he observed a tendency amongst the press where the normal treatment of people becomes injustice when the subject is white. Professor Good is an Australian citizen who had lived and lectured in Botswana for 15 years.
President Mogae told the press that Mr Good and Stephen Corry, Director of the British-based group Survival International, had written numerous documents in which they described Botswana's diamonds as blood diamonds. "Given that Botswana's diamonds are the mainstay of the economy, it appeared from the President's remarks that an attack on the diamonds was an unpardonable sin for which Good had to go," 'Mmegi' noted.
Also the Professor's connection to Survival International was seen as an unpardonable sin. The British group heads a loud campaign against President Mogae's government following the deportation of San communities from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, which according to Survival has been undertaken to start mining diamonds in the reserve. The San are Botswana's aboriginal people and remain discriminated by the Tswana majority.
Professor Good in a statement today denied the claims forwarded by President Mogae. "I have never described Botswana's diamonds as 'blood diamonds', nor have I ever 'teamed up' with Survival International to sabotage Botswana's 'diamonds for development' campaign," he was quoted as saying by Survival.
The Professor earlier has claimed that he was deported for criticising negative trends in Botswana's democracy. In a recent discussion paper, co-edited by Mr Good, social scientists conclude that the succession of Presidents in Botswana - ruled by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) since independence in 1965 - is undemocratic and "not a model for Africa". Leaving Botswana on 31 May, the 72-year-old Professor stated that his deportation symbolised "the death of democracy" in Botswana.
Most human rights and freedom of expression groups have so far agreed with Mr Good, saying the case against him was an effort by President Mogae to silence a government critic. Several organisations have protested his deportation as a strong attack on the freedom of expression in Botswana.
This, however, was denied by President Mogae. If he had the opportunity, he would have challenged Mr Good on his intellectual claims about declining democracy in Botswana, the President said. "Why only a model for Africa and not Eastern Europe?" asked Mr Mogae. He added that the Western world was no better than Africa as they go to war and kill other people.
The Batswana President ended the press conference by telling the press that the deportation case had been handled in a correct way. Without being asked, Mr Mogae said his operatives had not broken into Mr Good's house and stolen his computer. The Professor today questioned this. "I have certainly exchanged correspondence with Survival," he said. The only way Mr Mogae would know of my email correspondence is if the government had seen the contents of my computers," Mr Good added.
President Mogae however somewhat agreed to the criticism regarding the lack of transparency in deportation cases in Botswana. There was a need to reform the country's deportation laws to infuse transparency, he said. Nevertheless, he argued that in some cases it was not possible to disclose the reasons for deportation.
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