On his maiden state visit to Botswana on Monday, Namibian president Dr Hage Geingob revealed that the host country was the first foreign country he escaped to during his days in exile. Addressing Botswana Parliament on Monday as the second foreign head of state to do so after former South African President Thabo Mbeki in 2003, Dr Geingob said he feels special. “Botswana was the first foreign country I came to, because South Africa was part of Namibia. So it was Botswana that I came to, outside Namibia in 1962 before many of you were born,” said Dr Geingob throwing Members of Parliament into fits of laughter. Dr Geingob said him and his colleagues stayed in Francistown-now the second city of Botswana some 450km north of the capital Gaborone, from where they launched operations against the white minority in their native country. Intensive recruitment for members to join the liberation army took place at a hangout joint called Tati Bar, where most of those targeted were mine migrants enroute to South Africa via Francistown.
He said they convinced the would-be miners to join the First People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (FPLA). “We used to sit there and watch them and as you recognised those who looked like Namibians or listened to the language they were speakng, we would walk over to them, start chatting to them and in the process tried to recruit them and told them what we could do,” he revealed. One of the first commanders of PLAN that he said he recruited in Botswana was Mackson Joseph. It was in Botswana, according to Namibia's third president, that South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) had a secret office that gathered and disseminated important intelligence information to their freedom fighters. Namibia was nearly robbed of its future president in 1963 when an aircraft chartered by the African National Congress (ANC) to take them to Tanzania was bombed before takeoff. “The aircraft was blown up while it was still on the ground because the bomb went off prematurely,” he revealed, adding that he ended up remaining in Francistown as a representative of SWAPO.
Botswana, Namibia lead
Dr Geingob commended Botswana and Namibia as some of the few countries in Africa where there is smooth transition of power. He said the two countries are setting the tone for a new Africa where leaders do not come to power through coups. He said since former President Sir Ketumile Masire set the tone in 1998 by voluntarily relinquishing power 28 more African leaders have followed suit.
Building one Namibia
Dr Geingob revealed that his mandate is to bring prosperity to the people of Namibia, something which he says is a tall order. To achieve that, he revealed that he has declared an all-out war on poverty and corruption, adding that he is a strong proponent of transparency and accountability which are key for economic development. As part of leading by example Dr Geingob informed Botswana parliament that his first step after taking office was to declare his asserts and his wife followed suit though she was not legally obliged to do that. He said 2016 is the year of implementation and he will be leading its drive. One of the priority projects for implementation is uniting the Namibian nation to make it one, in what he says is called "One Namibia One nation" which he also referred to as Namibian House. “You will only see one solid wall and I am saying that is the wall we are building in Namibia, the Namibian House so that Namibian children can hold hands and live together in peace,” he said. He also cautioned that sometimes it is not easy to build and mould a united nation out of different ethnic groups and races, but it is easier to break down that house. Giving a Vote of Thanks as Leader of the House, Vice President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi applauded Namibia for making remarkable socio-economic achievements within a short time after gaining democracy, which he attributed to the country’s unwavering commitment to democratic principles and dispensation. Masisi informed the visiting Namibian President that apart from Parliament Botswana has Ntlo ya Dikgosi (The House of Chiefs), which plays a role on advising Parliament on cultural and other national issues. “The co-existence of these two Houses and their harmonious working relations has injected vibrancy to our democratic culture,” said Masisi.
Dr Geingob impressed
As part of his state visit Dr Geingob met President Ian Khama to deliberate on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest before attending a luncheon hosted by the latter on Monday. Dr Geingob said Botswana has a sound democratic governance architecture, well managed economy and low corruption rate, which is admired by many African nations. “Be proud of what you are doing, sometimes people don’t appreciate what they have until it’s gone,” he said, adding that he is aware that Botswana faces challenges among them poverty and unemployment, which he said the country can overcome. The two Presidents also discussed ways to address the challenges like the energy crisis in the region, drought and water scarcity. Dr Geingob said Namibia has provided Botswana with a dry port at Walvis Bay so that the country could have access to the sea, and enjoy the benefits of unrestricted trade. Dr Geingob also participated at the official opening of the Botswana-Namibia Business Seminar on Tuesday morning, before he toured the Diamond Trading Company of Botswana (DTCB) in Gaborone. He also toured the world's biggest diamond producer by value- Debswana's Jwaneng Mine, before returning home on Tuesday afternoon.
Dr Geingob was accompanied by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation; Ministers of Mines and Energy and Agriculture, Water and Forest; and other Senior Government Officials. The visit has strengthened the excellent relations that subsist between the two countries.