Leader of Opposition Duma Boko caused uproar in Parliament on Friday when he condemned the Government for attacking China over its territorial claims to the South China Sea. Although Boko maintained that his reference to the closure of the Chinese embassy was solely based on what he has learnt from the media, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs accused him of presenting the allegations as facts and hence requested the speaker to expunge Boko’s statement from the Hansard. Although the Speaker could not grant them their wish, she agreed to avail the Hansard for full examination of the house next week. The Patriot on Sunday reported in its last edition that business came to a standstill when local employees at the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in Botswana were released to go home as the embassy staff focused attention on addressing the issue of the Islands in South China Sea. Visa application processing was also suspended, but the embassy has declined to comment on the matter.
In his statement Boko referred to the decision by the government of Botswana to issue the condemnatory statement as “one of its many instances of thoughtless enthusiasm”. According to Boko, it was a little wonder then that the Chinese government is said to have responded with such a demonstration of displeasure. He particularly fingered the Office of the President for the statement, exempting the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi from it, saying there was no chance it was crafted by the minister or her ‘circle of professional diplomats’. “We have it on good authority that this is yet another act by the over-zealous and immature Office of the President, which continues to govern and operate unbridled emotion and astonishing lack of oversight. We pray and hope that this callous mismanagement of our foreign policy does not plunge our country into an abyss from which we may not be able to extricate ourselves,” Boko said.
After highlighting how as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), they value the strategic importance of China to the economy and welfare of Batswana, the leader of Opposition tendered an apology to the Government of China, saying it was “on behalf of our members and all the right thinking people of our country,”. He further urged the government of Botswana to withdraw the “irresponsible and reckless statement”. Boko said, as a government in waiting, the UDC wishes to express and record with concern at the way the Government of Botswana has acted in relations with China. “We are of the firm view that, in the first instance, it serves no purpose to issue a statement to publicise any view that the Government of Botswana may hold in relation to China on this matter,” he said. According to Boko, Botswana should have realised the trust that China places on the people of Botswana as the privilege available to the country to engage China through the right diplomatic channels.
These quiet channels, he said, would be keeping with the values of mutual respect, political maturity and a genuine appetite for, and commitment to, effective problem solving. “We would like to remind our government that when it comes to handling issues of Public International Law and Diplomacy, responsible engagement and measured communication are the channels and means by which we best can speak,” Boko said. He said the government should instead focus on issues of immediate moment to Botswana and its people which include the current education crisis and issues affecting young people. He accused the President of being in pursuit of futile causes that have nothing to do with the immediate concerns of the country and is fuelled and fed by the fanatical certainty with which his ministers advance countless falsehoods in defence of his government. He urged all Batswana to wake up to the reality that the government is pushing Botswana to rack and ruin. “We must all rise up and rescue our country from the clutches of this perilous sycophancy and remove BDP from power,” said Boko.
Meanwhile the Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has defended Botswana’s foreign policy, saying contrary to statements made by some critics, the policy is understood by Africa and the rest of the world hence its ability to stand the test of time. Making contributions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Committee’s committee of supply submissions on Thursday Masisi rubbished suggestions that Botswana’s foreign policy might have gone to the dogs owing to the past numerous statements and the recent statement on the People’s Republic of China in respect of certain unresolved issues and territorial claims to the South China Sea. “It is a pity that the few Africans in this house are the only ones who do not understand our foreign policy,” the Vice President said, referring to Members of Opposition in parliament. According to Masisi, Botswana’s foreign policy is welcomed and held in high regard by most countries which in turn has worked in the country’s favour as it had managed to maintain a good relationship with most countries. He noted that Botswana’s decision to be vocal on diplomatic matters is not a new occurrence, saying that Apartheid South Africa is one of the countries which can be pointed out as having felt the full wrath of Botswana’s disapproval.