Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Botswana mending relations with president Skelemani once called a ‘DJ’

As the Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation in the previous administration, Phandu Skelemani, could read his principal’s mind and read it well.

That principal was greatly displeased with the ascent of Andry Rajoelina, a former mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, to the presidency of Madagascar. With the help of the army, Rajoelina toppled the democratically-elected president, Marc Ravalomanana, in 2009 and installed himself in the president’s offices. In his youth, Rajoelina had been a nightclub deejay and eager to heap as much scorn as he could, Skelemani numerously described him as a “DJ” during press interviews. When Botswana hosted Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state to resolve the crisis, Rajoelina was not accorded VIP treatment upon arrival at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, apparently on the orders of President Ian Khama. It is unclear how Rajoelina took the insult so blatantly flung in his face and how that was a factor during the mediation process but in the end, the SADC mission failed.

The African Union and SADC would later suspend the regime in Madagascar from participating in their structures. Rajoelina would step down on January 25, 2014 only to return last week as a democratically-elected presidential candidate. There can be no doubt that Rajoelina is still smarting from the DJ insult and the treatment he received at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. Thankfully though, the situation has changed. Khama stepped down on April 1 last year and his successor, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, was invited to the inauguration. He didn’t attend, instead delegating the assignment to Botswana’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Zenene Sinombe. This was one of Sinombe’s last assignment in South Africa as he has been redeployed to another station.

Following last week’s Sunday Standard story about Masisi having foiled an Israeli-sponsored coup, Khama gave an interview to one of his favourite media outlets, Argus Online, in which he criticised the “outsider-influenced” editorial decision to run that story. The main point he made was that forces who sponsored this story failed to make a calculation of how it could louse up diplomatic relations between Botswana and Israel. Khama didn’t make the same calculations when he treated Rajoelina dastardly in 2011. From the analysis of a Zimbabwean economist, Madagascar has the “highest unrealised trade potential” with Botswana in SADC. The study by

Dr. Albert Makochekanwa of the University of Zimbabwe assessed the impact of trade facilitation on SADC’s intra-trade potential.

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