- Australian-born political scientist Kenneth Good today successfully challenged his presidential expulsion order in the Botswana High Court, which ruled that the constitutionality of the decree first should be examined. According to Botswana's presidency, however, government officials still are working "expeditiously" to have Mr Good expelled, still without stating any reason.
Professor Good, who has lived and worked in Botswana for 15 years, on 18 February received a sudden order to leave the country within 48 hours, decreed by President Festus Mogae in person. No explanation has been given, but Mr Good and human right activists put the expulsion order in connection with his co-authoring of a critical report titled, 'Presidential Succession in Botswana: No Model for Africa'.
The Australian-born professor immediately challenged the expulsion order, which today was treated in the Botswana High Court in Lobatse, south of the capital, Gaborone. Here, he won a temporary victory as the court ruled that immigration authorities were not allowed to execute the presidential decree until the constitutional validity of the order had been proven.
The court's interim order set 7 March as the return date on which it shall hear the details of Professor Good's application as well as the views of the Batswana government. Mr Good meanwhile was to "continue to remain in Botswana and enjoy all the benefits he has been enjoying before [he was] declared a prohibited immigrant," said judge Justice Stanley Sapire.
According to information released by the Gaborone presidency, Botswana's Attorney General upon becoming aware of the court order "acted expeditiously and filed papers with the High Court to oppose the interim relief" granted to Mr Good. The Attorney General holds that Mr Good as a foreign national is not immune from a presidential expulsion order and challenged the court's competency to grant interim relief on a presidential decree.
- It should be noted that the court has not yet heard, much less ruled on the validity of Kenneth Good's claim, said Deputy Attorney General Abram Keetshabe in a statement released today. "In this context it would, therefore, be misleading to suggest that the court has made any findings either in his favour or against government," Mr Keetshabe added.
Judge Sappire however did not agree with the government lawyers' viewpoints as presented in court today. Where there is a conflict between Botswana's constitution and any other law, the constitution prevails, the judge ruled. "The President cannot validly exercise his powers under a law, in this case, the Immigration Act, solely to defeat the provisions of the Constitution," Mr Sappire said.
Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, today released a statement agreeing with the High Court's interim order. The group said it believed that "people affected by presidential decisions, which violate their human rights, should be able to challenge such decisions in a court of law." Today's decision had confirmed that "the judiciary should be an independent arm of government," Ditshwanelo said.
Not only Batswana human rights activists have become involved in "this landmark case" (Ditshwanelo). Professor Good's expulsion order has engaged freedom of expression groups and the academic environment worldwide. If the reason for Mr Good's sudden expulsion is indeed the expression of his intellectual viewpoints, democracy and human rights are at stake in Botswana, activists hold.
Johann Fritz, Director of the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), today wrote a protest letter to Botswana's Minister for Presidential Affairs, DK Kwelagobe, saying "the action against Good appears to be an attempt to prevent him from expressing his critical views about the presidential succession in Botswana." This would be running counter to Botswana's constitution and to "the government's commitments to uphold freedom of expression," Mr Fritz wrote.
IPI and other global and regional organisations promoting the freedom of expression urge President Mogae and the Botswana government to withdraw the deportation order and to consider repealing the so-called "insult laws" in Botswana's penal code. While Botswana mostly is considered an African success story regarding democracy and human rights, freedom of expression still remained too limited in the country, these groups hold.
Also Professor Good's international social scientist colleagues are mobilising to assist him. Ian Taylor, a British co-author of the report allegedly leading to Mr Good's expulsion, last week started campaigning on his colleague's behalf, asking the British and Australian governments and the Commonwealth to intervene.
Jeff Ramsay, the spokesman of President Mogae, however claims not to be concerned by Dr Taylor's "ongoing efforts to mobilise external opinion against us," as he wrote to the British academic on Saturday. Botswana expected other governments "to refrain from undue interference when and if we exercise our own lawful governing authority," Mr Ramsay wrote. "To put it mildly after four decades of post-colonial democratic development, we do not require outside prefects," he added.
The presidential spokesman refuses to reveal the reasons for Mr Good's deportation order. "I can only observe that your conviction that the deportation order is the result of your seminar paper is quite presumptuous," he told Dr Taylor. "My own honest academic opinion, by the way, is that in the paper you and your colleague have merely regurgitated a litany of opinions and innuendos culled from our local tabloids, hardly earthshaking stuff," Mr Ramsay adds.
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