Khama’s legacy shall be Botswana’s Foreign Policy

SHARE   |   Monday, 05 June 2017   |   By Simon Gabathuse
Khama’s legacy shall be Botswana’s Foreign Policy

Quite often in our joking and our self-created anger, we fail to point out the very good and positives right in front of our eyes. One such of things are the various instruments and elements that have shaped up President Khama’s Presidency. He has been able to take decisions where for many years or for all the life of our country, our leaders could not take. The contention is not whether this new Botswana Foreign Policy is popular or not popular. It is not about it being liked or not liked. The contention is that, though remaining unwritten, under President Khama Botswana has been able to loudly and boldly state its unwritten Foreign Policy. 

President Khama’s Foreign Relations Posture

Our days of silent diplomacy as a country are gone. Even those who castigated the Government for departing from its previous behaviour of not having a say in the affairs of the international community are beginning to warm up to the idea. Actually, most of them are ululating at the top of their voices than the initial supporters of this change of Khama’s posture in international relations. Under President Khama, we have for a change witnessed the true definition of a constitutional life that indeed Botswana is a secular state. Its Foreign Policy does not segregate in favour or against any particular religion and/or faith. Under President Khama we have witnessed a Government that does not bother spending tax payers’ money trying foreign nationals for suspected serious crimes. Those who hide under the guise of religion yet swindling the innocent citizens have not been spared deportations. Foreign ‘businessmen’ who were seen to be disregarding the law have been send packing. Those perceived speaking ill and considered lacking goodwill in favour of the Government after being afforded hospitality, jobs and a peaceful environment with their families have also not been spared. Countries that are perceived to be ill-treating their citizens have been loudly told to behave and some leaders who are seen to be failing the basic tenets of democracy in their countries have been denied red carpet treatment and treated like any other ordinary visitor at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. At certain instances some have been told that they are not welcome in Botswana. 

President Khama’s Foreign Policy has attracted the attention of the world as it defined our view and feel of institutions such as SADC, African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) etc. President Khama has snubbed all African Union meetings, choosing instead to be home and visiting the poor right in their homesteads. Khama has also refused to attend United Nations gatherings. This has also interestingly not affected the growth of Botswana’s trade presence in the global world. We are for a change, a country now known to speak its mind against any country, but in the favour of the ordinary people of any country, regardless of the distance between us and such a nation and/or trade relations. This has never happened before in the history of Botswana. This is a legacy that President Khama leaves behind, a Foreign Policy legacy that has obviously, like any other new thing, brought differing views and aroused and instigated important debates.

Khama’s Posture on Foreign Religious Leaders

Confirming its position as a secular state, the Government of Botswana appears to be only two months away from being the only African country to allow His Holiness, Dalai Lama the 14th into its borders. If things go according to plan, the Dalai Lama will participate in a 3-day Mind & Life Dialogue on Botho/Ubuntu: A Dialogue on Spirituality, Science and Humanity with the Dalai Lama. This event is organised by the Mind & Life Institute and will be held at the University of Botswana Indoor Sports Centre from the 17th to the 19th August 2017. His Holiness is a Tibetan and as the ‘Dalai Lama’ is the focus of the Tibetan people’s hope and trust. Amongst his commitments is to work to preserve Tibet's Buddhist culture, which he describes as a culture of peace and non-violence and to protect the natural environment of Tibet. To do this, Dalai Lama the 14th is on a lifelong mission to ‘free’ Tibet from main land China and thus make it an independent spiritual state. This is the centre of dispute between The People’s Republic of China and the 14th Dalai Lama. This lifelong mission is the cornerstone and foundation of China’s policy of isolating Dalai Lama from the world. In allowing Dalai Lama to enter its borders, Botswana will surely, though in a subtle way, be voicing its support for an ‘independent’ Tibet from main land China. 

Though the Government of Botswana has not yet confirmed that Dalai Lama the 14th will be allowed entry into Botswana, there is little doubt to suggest that he will not be able to enter the Republic of Botswana and give public lectures on our home soil. It is worth noting that the same Dalai Lama has never set foot on the African continent before. China has been leading the isolation of Dalai Lama by the African countries and the world. Dalai Lama has so far been denied visa approval, three times, by the South African Government. In his last attempt to enter South Africa, a country considered tolerant and welcoming owing to its liberation struggle history, Dalai Lama was invited by the renowned apartheid struggle stalwart and a Nobel Peace Prize winner Reverend Desmond Tutu. The Desmond Tutu Foundation had intended, only in vain, to have the visit as a birthday present for the now ailing Desmond Tutu. South Africa, with economic and strategic ties with China, refused to bow to pressure groups. This past Sunday, the flamboyant and controversial Prophet Shepherd Bushiri of ECG Christian Church who originates from an economically challenged country in Southern Africa; Malawi, was nowhere to be seen, with his followers waiting the whole day at the National Stadium for him. This could not materialise because he had either not applied for a Visa or his application was not successful. The drama began after the organisers of the event had booked the National Stadium, advertised the event and hyped it beyond ignorance. 

As Bushiri’s followers were getting ready to ‘receive miracles’, the Government of Botswana issued a notice that Shepherd Bushiri has been placed on the list of individuals who need to apply for a Visa to enter its borders. Ordinarily, Malawian citizens do not need a Visa to enter Botswana. Attempts by his followers to appeal to the Government to allow him to enter Botswana could not change the foreign policy of Botswana. His followers and organisers of the event tried in vain through letters, petitions and legal threats, all were nothing else but fury and desperation. Amongst other things, the flamboyant Bushiri is publicly ridiculed for charging up to P7, 000.00 (700.00 USD) to those who seek that he prays for them to receive some form of ‘miracles’. Some followers keenly believe that they have at one point or another received ‘miracle monies’ straight to their bank accounts after being prayed for by Bushiri. Illogical as it sounds, some perceive it to be true. Some opine that the Government of Botswana is merely protecting its citizens, especially the desperate poor from being robbed of their hard earned cash in a ‘fraudulent’ fashion. Some have argued that it is their money and their business to use it as they wish. It appears the government differs with this stand. 

The Government of Botswana has a few years ago deported and declared Bushiri’s ally; New season's Ministries Apostle Francis Sakufiwa, a persona non grata.  Sakufiwa was sent back to his home country; Zambia, accompanied by security agents and was, in a humiliating manner handed over to Zambia immigration control leaving behind in Botswana; his wife, a Motswana woman and a child.  It was publicly, through the media, alleged that Sakufiwa was deported and declared persona – non grata because of suspicions of being involved in various crimes. This was contrary to custom that when you are married in Botswana, you are seen and treated as a Motswana. The tone has been set that under President Khama, the foreign policy has so become loudly clear that you are our visitor at our mercy and you need not abuse our hospitality. This was never the case before. In another interesting development which borders on defining territorial integrity and sovereignty, the spiritual leader of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) Barnabas Lekganyane – a South African – was easily allowed into the country the same weekend that Bushiri could not gain entry. Lekganyane arrived in the country to officiate at a handing over ceremony, doubling as official opening of a health clinic that his church has built to the tune of P10 million (1 Million USD). This donation to the people of Mmopane village in the outskirts of the capital city Gaborone is now property of Government of Botswana. 

The facility was handed over by Lekganyane to the Vice President of the Republic of Botswana; His Honour Mr. Mokgweetsi Masisi. Masisi, who is also the Chairman of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. The listing of Prophet Bushiri on the growing list of those individuals who need to apply for a Visa to enter our borders while at the same time allowing Lekganyane to enter without any hustle is a clear indication that under President Khama, the borders belong to Botswana and as such only Botswana shall determine who is allowed in, and who is not regardless of religious and/or faith affiliation. This is a scenario that we have never experienced before as a country. This is a part of the unwritten Foreign Policy of Botswana, a legacy that President Khama leaves behind.