Gaborone- Botswana (PANA) -- Botswana vice-president Gen.
Ian Khama has filed a pula 500,000 libel suit (1 USD = pula 5.
50) against the privately-owned Guardian newspaper.
The youthful editor of the publication, which has had previous running battles with the government, Outsa Mokone, confirmed that Khama's lawyers had written him a letter in which they demanded compensation for defamation of character.
Guardian newspaper had on 28 April published an article alleging that the Vice President was adjudged by the Ombudsman for abuse of office and misuse of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) property.
It quoted the Ombudsman's report, which asserted that Khama, a former armed forces chief, had been violating the BDF Act by flying military aircraft when he is no longer a soldier.
The Ombudsman further said that Khama should not have taken civil servants to a political rally during the 1999 general elections.
According to the Guardian's story, Khama admitted his errors but said that President Festus Mogae had authorised him to fly military aircraft.
However, according to the report, the Ombudsman asked Mogae to advise Khama that he had no right to pilot BDF helicopters because he could not held responsible for any loses as he was no longer covered by the BDF Act.
The office of the president later explained that Mogae had allowed Khama to fly military aircraft as part of a deal to convince him to retire as commander of the BDF and join politics to heal divisions within the ruling party.
Mogae's office dismissed the Ombudsman's report and denied that Khama was ever found guilty of any wrong-doing.
Soon after, the paper ran another story calling top government officials "Fat Cats" because of their huge salaries.
This angered the authorities who imposed a ban on all government departments, state corporations and parastatals from advertising in the Guardian and its sister publication, the Midweek Sun.