When Botswana has had to stick to principle against notorious conducts by her near and distant friends – Zimbabwe in 2008, Lesotho in 1998, Namibia over Sedudu, North Sudan over the Omar Al Bashir, IAAF over Makwala, and now China over Dalai Lama – it has felt right before the bars of justice and before the ordinances of Heaven. Each time this has happened, the righteous forces within and outside Africa have become sanctified and magnified and glorified. It is a rare phenomenon in modern times for nation-states to choose to be influenced in their relations with each other by principle. Modernity brought the I-Phone and I-Pad. It opened borders and accelerated cultural intercourse. But it also brought the practice that nation structure and nation building were creatures of partisan reasoning over nationalist aspirations and of investor schedules over native priorities. It surprises us not that now political executives of our time show a disjoint of moral courage to rule by principle, a feature which was abundant in earlier times. The seriousness which Seretse Khama’s administration attached to Foreign policy issues was contained in the choice of the person who became Botswana’s first representative at the United Nations and first Ambassador to the United States; Professor Z.K. Mathews. From October 1966 to his death in 1968, Z.K., Mathews worked hard to put Botswana on the diplomatic map and Seretse leaned heavily on him for advice. It was he who encouraged Seretse to take a bold line in foreign policy. So it was pleasing to note that until his own death in 1980, this was advice which not only Seretse headed. It was pleasantly shown by Botswana’s subsequent foreign policy positions in general and specifically by the current approach to the Dalai Lama-China stand-off that Z.K. Mathew’s teachings did permeate into the fabric of Botswana’s foreign policy structure.
When Botswana opened diplomatic relations with nation states as ideologically opposed to her own as China and Russia, being Communist Sovereigns, Botswana recognised their right of pursuit of a developmental programme chosen by them, for themselves. Seretse Khama defended such unusual foreign policy engagements against the dictates of the currents of the cold war. He held that nation-building and foreign relations were far too important to be decided on the force of ideology. The succeeding Presidents successfully maintained that position, albeit to differing degrees. China has been Botswana’s diplomatic friend for many years. In fact China was willing to help Botswana militarily during the formative years when other countries like the USA were then disinclined. But, as President Ian Khama has put it lately in the Botswana Guardian, China‘s enemies were not Botswana’s enemies. Dali Lama has never been anything but a friend to Botswana. To China he has been a nemesis. China wants, through “gunpoint diplomacy” that Botswana should arbitrarily hold Dali Lama as an enemy by this reason alone. To that Botswana is saying: Honourable Republic of China, we dance to a different drum beat to yours in this part of the world.
The Republic of China wasn’t the only country in the present world with such foreign policy disfigurements. All Arab states opposed to the imposed settlement of European Jews in Israel in 1948 became by reason of that opposition, enemies of the USA as well. Not because those Arab states or Arab people ever did any wrong to USA. But because Israel and the USA entered a pact in which the one’s enemy was automatically the other’s enemy. None ever rose to examine the indecency and arbitrariness contained in such foreign policies and show that nation states pursuing them, actually were absolutely without the omnipotent properties which they presume to have over other sovereign regimes. China, USA, and Israel do have military and economic muscle over many. But the force of a gun and of money were not substitutes for ethical force. Righteous conduct was not a function of cash and a gun. Z.K Mathews wrote to Seretse in 1967 and said: “all indications are that Botswana will be right in the middle of Southern African crisis as it develops in the years ahead. This will call for examination. Not reactionary foreign policy”. Long live Botswana long-live. Viva the Khama’s Viva. Regional opposition forces and labour unions and the general good willed SADC citizen was yet to appraise and uphold this beneficent aspect of our being as a people. Le go se ikgalalaletsa. A dikgato tsa tshiamo ke babusi ba lefatshe le, di se hokwe ke pheho, go le kalo. A di se bonwe ke bahaladi hela. Tsoga Morwa-motho. Ikapole kobo e o. Modimo wa Bo-Rraeno, ga wa go godisetsa go ikapola nnete.
By Daniel Tshepo Orufheng
BA Political Science