Smith critic thrown out of Botswana


An Australian academic who was a strong critic of Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith and was deported from Rhodesia in the 1970s was given 48 hours to leave Botswana after he had written a paper which criticised that country’s presidential succession.

Kenneth Good had lived in Botswana for 15 years and taught at the University of Botswana.

The Botswana Centre for Human Rights quickly stepped in to stop the deportation.

Good got into trouble because of his paper entitled: Presidential succession in Botswana: No model for Africa.

The paper criticised Botswana’s presidential succession, in which the president resigns in mid-term and the vice president automatically succeeds to the office, thereby creating a system of perpetual incumbency.


Full cable:


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Reference ID





2005-02-22 14:59


Embassy Gaborone

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


221459Z Feb 05




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E.O. 12958: N/A






A) GABORONE 00056; B) GABORONE 00243


¶1. (SBU) Summary: The GOB served a 48-hour deportation

order to U/Botswana academic and Australian citizen Prof.

Kenneth Good on February 18. Good is a 15-year Botswana

resident and critical observer of its politics. His

attorneys obtained a stay of execution from the High

Court on February 19. The High Court has ordered the GOB

to show cause for the deportation by March 7 and hearings

were scheduled to begin on February 22. At issue is a

seminar paper entitled, “Presidential Succession in

Botswana: No Model for Africa” co-authored by Good, a

political scientist, and circulated prior to its

presentation on February 23. The paper criticizes

Botswana’s presidential succession, in which the

president resigns in mid-term and the vice president

automatically succeeds to the office, thereby creating a

system of perpetual incumbency. Human rights and media

organizations, as well as UB’s faculty and staff union,

have rallied around Good. The incident reveals the

current sensitivities within the ruling Botswana

Democratic Party to criticism of any kind. Post has given

Australian High Commission in Pretoria information on the

case, per its request. Post also recommends a demarche

with like-minded countries should the deportation be

carried out. See para 15 for suggested press guidance.

End summary.


¶2. (U) On Friday afternoon, February 18, around 4:00 p.m.

five officials from Botswana’s Immigration Office

delivered a notice of deportation as a prohibited

immigrant to Professor Kenneth Good, of the Department of

Political Science and Public Administration of the

University of Botswana. The notice, brought to his

house, gave Good forty-eight hours to leave the country;

i.e., until Sunday afternoon, thus calculated to leave

him little recourse with official authorities as business

hours would not resume until after the weekend. No

reason was given on the paper, signed by the chief

immigration officer. Kenneth Good, an Australian, is

seventy-one and in frail health. He has lived in

Botswana for the past fifteen years with his daughter,

now seventeen and attending secondary school in Gaborone.

He has published extensively on political developments in

the country. His contract with the University of

Botswana, which was renewed in fall 2004, runs until

December 2006.


¶3. (U) The Botswana Center for Human Rights immediately

sprang into action, and within a few hours, Ken Good was

represented by lawyers Dick Bayford (who stood as

presidential candidate for one of the smaller opposition

parties during the October 2004 election) and Duma Boko,

one of the lawyers representing the First People of the

Kalahari v. Govt. of Botswana in the case currently

before the High Court. They worked through the night to

prepare a brief and found Judge Marumo willing to hear

their case in chambers at the High Court on Saturday

February 19. The judge ruled the deportation null and

void on technicalities, demanded that the government show

cause, and commented that the order raised problems of a

constitutional nature regarding freedom of expression.

Marumo gave the government of Botswana until March 7 to

show cause why Ken Good should be deported.


4.(SBU) At issue is a double jeopardy for the U/Botswana

academic. Having the distinction of being deported from

Ian Smith’s Rhodesia in the late 1970s, Ken Good’s left-

liberal views have not deviated; he has been an

unremitting critic of the establishment-any

establishment-for the past decades and champion of the

underdog. After moving to the University of Botswana in

the early nineties, he focused his attention on the

elitist nature of Botswana’s democracy.


¶5. (SBU) He has regularly published articles challenging

the received wisdom of Botswana as a model African

nation. In the past years, he has written and published

several articles highlighting the plight of the Basarwa.

These articles criticized the Government of Botswana’s

relocation policy. Botswana journalists writing for

independent newspapers who want an alternate view to the

government line regularly consult Professor Good. In

short, Professor Good’s status has been something like an

official gadfly. Although on occasion a GOB spokesperson

would rebut Good’s views, by and large the impression was

cultivated that Good was tolerated, occupying something

of an iconic place in the world of Botswana’s public





¶6. (U) The context for the deportation order is likely

the combination of the following factors: South Africa’s

Human Sciences Research Council is currently engaged in a

project of studying comparatively presidential succession

in Africa. A number of scholars were invited to draft

papers on this topic: Professor Good and his then-

colleague, Dr Ian Taylor, now at St. Andrews University

in Scotland, co-wrote a paper, presented at a December

2004 Cape Town conference. Subsequently, the paper was

revised and was to be presented by Professor Good in the

regular Departnment of Political Science seminar series

of the University of Botswana on Wednesday, February 23.

Last week, Professor Good circulated copies of his paper

prior to the presentation.


¶7. (SBU) The scholarly paper, entitled, “Presidential

Succession in Botswana: No Model for Africa”, almost

certainly is the cause of the GOB’s deportation order.

It is highly critical of both the automatic succession

from president to vice president, and of the current Vice

President, Ian Khama. It cites instances of high-handed

decision-making and harps on his military background as

contributing to an increasingly visible authoritarian

tendency within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party

(BDP). In the GOB view, this is tantamount to subversion.


¶8. (U) But none of these points are new or original: in

fact, Professor Good relies on media articles to

substantiate his views. All of the possibly inflammatory

language in his paper in fact consists of direct quotes

from these articles. Moreover, the topic has been under

public discussion for the past year or two. What is

interesting is the timing of this reaction on the part of

the GOB.


¶9. (SBU) The context for the ruling BDP is in fact the

end of its long glide on the wings of power: the party

is, so to speak, encountering some updrafts and

turbulence. The 52 percent of the popular vote the BDP

garnered in the October 2004 election set against 48

percent for an admittedly divided opposition does herald

a shift. Moreover, losses in what were previously

considered safe districts on the district council level

are a BDP cause for concern. The advent of personable

young opposition leaders is another factor with which the

BDP must contend.


¶10. (SBU) There are deep public reservations about the

Vice President’s political skills (Reftel A). Opposition

politicians recently raised in parliament such issues as

automatic succession to the presidency. They also have

questioned cabinet decisions such as the location of the

second university (Reftel B). It is the intersection of

an opposition that is finding its way and an

internationally known academic repeating these concerns

that no doubt accounts for Ken Good’s deportation order,

by “presidential decree”. In fact, a member of the

cabinet stated privately that the cause was Good had

“circulated subversive documents.”


¶11. (U) The University of Botswana has rallied round to

express support for Ken Good. The seminar in which the

paper is to be presented is still scheduled for Wednesday

afternoon at the University. The Botswana Center for

Human Rights issued a statement, “Deportation of Ken Good

Violates Fundamental Human Rights Principles” on February

21, and MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa

(Botswana) circulated a statement, “Deportation of

Professor Kenneth Good on P.,I. Status”. Independent

newspapers carry headlines and editorials decrying the

GOB action: typical is The Monitor’s February 21

editorial, entitled, “Barbarisms that belong to a by-gone



¶12. 12.         (SBU) Batswana attending a Bank of

Botswana function February 22 told Charge that this was

not the best step for the GOB to be taking and could

damage its image abroad, especially considering the

growing visibility of the Basarwa case. She also heard,

however, that a cabinet minister (not the one mentioned

above) had commented that Professor Good was a “racist”

and that it was about time this happened to him. As we

know, Batswana frequently use this language in response

to criticism when they mean something else.

¶13. (U) As of this afternoon, February 22, hearings on

Good’s deportation order are scheduled at the High Court.



Post is attending and will report on the outcome.   One

of the attorneys representing Professor Good, Duma

Boko, reported to MMEGI (independent daily newspaper),

that he had received death threats from an “anonymous

caller” yesterday at around noon. His office passed word

of the call to him in Mahalapye. He did not know if it

might be a prank.


¶14. (U) International colleagues of Professor Good have

indicated that they will contact media in the U.K. and in

South Africa and alert them to this overreaction on the

part of the GOB. Charge and Pol/Econ Chief met with

Professor Good February 22. We also passed press reports

to the Pretoria-based Australian High Commission, which

contacted us for information. Post also recommends a

demarche with like-minded countries should the

deportation be carried out.

¶15. (SBU) Post suggests the following press guidance on

this issue: The United States notes with concern the

Government of Botswana’s decision to deport Professor

Kenneth Good as a prohibited immigrant. This action

undermines the freedom of expression guaranteed in the

Constitution of the Republic of Botswana. The United

States notes that the deportation order is pending

further judicial review. We urge the Government of

Botswana to continue its tradition of respecting freedom

of speech as an essential component of a democratic








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