President Ian Khama has abandoned his plans to sue the weekly Sunday
Standard newspaper for defamation arising from the shooting to death of
suspect John Kalafatis by security agents, writes Oliver Modise in Mmegi.

The withdrawal was announced in a televised statement read by Information and Broadcasting director Mogomotsi Kaboyamodimo after Botswana Television (Btv) 9pm news bulletin on Friday.

According to the statement, the decision to withdraw the suit was taken at the meeting of the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) held to discuss progress towards Vision 2016, held on June 12.

The courtroom battle between Khama's lawyers, Collins Newman and Company, and the paper's legal brains Dick Bayford, was averted by one of the participants who raised the issue and appealed to Khama to re-consider his decision to sue paper.

"However, following serious reflection, His Excellency the President has acceded to the appeal by the HLCC and has, in the interests of the nation, decided to abandon his intention to sue the newspaper," reads the statement from the Office of the President (OP).

The statement, which has already been distributed to media houses, said that Khama was not connected to the killing of Kalafatis, as the story written in the paper had alleged.

"His Excellency the President would like to assure the nation that contrary to the defamatory allegations made in these articles, he is not in any way associated with the death of John Kalafatis," the statement read in part.

Khama says that he believes in the rule of law and that when a person is killed by security agents in the course of duty investigations should be carried out in accordance with the laid out procedure. He says that he does not condone unwarranted use of force by the security forces.

According to the statement, Khama initially took the decision to sue the paper to protect his name and integrity.

Khama states that although he has withdrawn the case he believes that he has a strong case that was irrefutable and was bound to succeed in his P850, 000 claim against the paper.

"While His Excellency is fully cognizant of, and is prepared to accept constructive criticism and the public scrutiny that comes with occupying the highest office, it should be understood that this is not a licence for defamation of his person," the statement adds.

The paper, through its lawyer, had threatened to counter-sue Khama for defamation as well as challenge Khama's legitimacy as the country's president. However, Khama says that any counter claim would have been vigorously defended by the Attorney Genera,l Athaliah Molokomme. In an interview with Monitor, the newspaper's editor Outsa Mokone commended Khama for withdrawing the suit.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Mmegi's website.