There are reports of growing discontent at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over increasing inclination by the President to overlook career diplomats in favour of political appointees when choosing ambassadors and High Commissioners.
Out of Botswana’s twenty or so missions abroad, at least twelve are manned by political appointees who have had no diplomatic service career.
At least two sitting Members of Parliament from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party are said to have recently approached President Ian Khama requesting appointments to the diplomatic service.
He turned them down, saying he is worried at the high number of political appointees that have found their way into the country’s diplomatic service.
While it is accepted that appointments to positions of Ambassadors and High Commissioners are the sole prerogative of the State President, career diplomats within the ministry are said to be disillusioned at how they are routinely overlooked, as the President selects well known activists from his party.
The most well known case involves Roy Blackbeard, Botswana’s High Commissioner to London where he has been stationed for the last fifteen years.
Blackbeard was sent to London after he made way for then vice President Ian Khama in the Serowe North constituency.
A former Minister, Gladys Kokorwe, was sent to Zimbabwe upon her retirement from politics.
She is assisted by Metlhaeno Gaseitsewe who is now the Deputy Ambassador in Zimbabwe.
Gaseitsewe was formerly the head of Cape Town office before the Consulate there was closed.
He was appointed to Cape Town as a reward for his defection from Botswana National Front to the BDP.
Another former Minister, Duke Lefhoko, was sent to Namibia as High Commissioner after he lost ruling party primary elections to Phillip Makgalemele at the Shoshong constituency.
Lefhoko is likely to rejoin politics. BDP insiders say he has applied for primaries and is likely to come back from Windhoek in a month or so, well in time to prepare for BDP primary elections.
When he lost favour with her principals in cabinet, former minister Lesego Motsumi was sent to New Delhi, India, after she was forced to resign from cabinet and parliament.
At Tokyo, Japan, there is Jacob Nkate, a former senior Minister and Secretary General of the BDP.
He had lost his constituency to the Botswana Congress Party’s Aarone.
At Washington there is Tebelelo Seretse, another former minister who lost to Pelonomi Venson in her bid to become a member of parliament for Serowe.
She was sent to Washington after she could not win the BDP chairmanship against Daniel Kwelagobe. She was at the time supported by President Ian Khama.
Such appointments are not only confined to political activists.
It is not unusual to see a retired civil servant appointed to a diplomatic post over and above serving civil servants who are career diplomats.
Former Permanent Secretary to the president, Molosiwa Selepeng was sent to Australia after he fell out with the then Head of State, Festus Mogae. Although he started his civil service career in the Ministry of Foreign affairs, it has not escaped critics that he had long left, and was sent to Australia just because the government did not know what to do with him, something that does not sit down well with career diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Former commander of the Botswana Defence Force was recently appointed to Nigeria as Botswana’s High Commissioner.
He has been on retirement for over five years now.
Another, retiree, Charles Ntwaagae mans Botswana’s New York office at the United Nations.
The only consolation is that before his retirement, Ntwaagae had worked for the Ministry of Foreign affairs, becoming Permanent Secretary.