The Botswana government has said it is ready to empower of its citizens economically, through beneficiation from natural resources like land.
The implementation of the beneficiation programme agreed at the just ended 34th Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit held at Zimbabwe’s resort township of Victoria Falls would not plunge the country into an economic circus.
There were growing fears that the implementation of the beneficiation programme would drag the country into the same path that saw the neighboring Zimbabwe swimming in poverty following the introduction black empowerment programmes.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition last week warned SADC member states through a circular that the regional bloc risks importing Zimbabwe’s economic and socio-political problems by implementing programme.
Mineral beneficiation and value addition became the key topical nugget at the SADC summit held under the theme: SADC Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition.
Although commendable in principle, the radical way Zimbabwe has implemented its empowerment agenda has been ruinous for the neighboring state with the land reforms credited with helping trigger the decade-long recession.
The development saw millions of Zimbabweans fleeing the once much admired breadbasket of Africa to countries such as Botswana and South Africa in search of greener pastures after their country was turned into a basket case itself.
In a statement, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Mfundo Mlilo warned that there is a danger that there might be an exportation of the Zimbabwean crisis to other SADC countries now that President Robert Mugabe has assumed the chairmanship of the regional grouping.
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Phandu Skelemani admitted that Botswana will be soon implementing the empowerment of SADC citizens such that they start to benefit from their resources.
However, he was quick to point out that the suggestions that the implementation will result in Botswana taking the Zimbabwean route (of economic decay) are unfounded saying Botswana is a sovereign country that has got the potential of making independent decisions.
“We will not do it like Zimbabweans did,” exclaimed the outgoing cabinet minister when contacted for a comment last week. He said the empowerment programme was agreed at the SADC summit and is not Mugabe’s brainchild.
Skelemani said the government will start repossessing land currently in the hands of foreign investors in a move to redistribute to the landless SADC citizens.
“The government started with mineral beneficiation resulting in the (Diamond Trading Company) DTC relocating from London to Gaborone,” said Skelemani, adding that the idea is to ensure that all the minerals are refined and processed locally.
Asked what could be the action taken for those resisting, Skelemani said: “Those resisting are free to go. I will be very glad gore a tsamaye (to leave the country) because ga a thuse (does not help) Batswana ka sepe (with anything.)”