Thursday, April 2, 2020

Government sets record straight

Dear Sir

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has followed with interest newspaper stories and other commentary on the decision by Government to impose visa requirements on certain foreign nationals ÔÇô Government notices No. 153 and 217 of 2007. The Ministry finds some of these involving Mr. David Ivan White, malicious and absurd, and obviously intended to portray the Government of Botswana in bad light in terms of its treatment of visitors at the country’s ports of entry.

The Ministry hereby wishes to set the record straight and state the following:

On July 24, 2007 the Pretoria-based Head of the European Investment Bank, Mr. David Ivan White, a British national, reportedly arrived in Gaborone aboard South African Airways Flight SA 1767 at 1815hrs. Upon presenting his travel documents to Immigration at the port of entry at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport, the official noticed that Mr. White’s first and last names matched the names of a UK national called David White whose name is listed among the names of individuals who require a visa to enter Botswana in terms of Government Notice No 153 of 2007 dated 13th March 2007.

Following questioning by the Immigration official regarding the purpose of his visit and his host in Botswana, Mr. David Ivan White is said to have initially stated that he was on a private visit at the invitation of a Mr. Rupert McCarmen. The mention of the name Rupert apparently made the Immigration officer even more suspicious as another individual by the name Rupert Isaacson is also listed in the above stated Government Notice.

The Immigration officer thereafter proceeded to notify her superior of her suspicions and was advised not to allow Mr. David Ivan White entry into Botswana pending further investigations to ascertain his identity. The Ministry’s investigations revealed that it would have been helpful if Mr. David Ivan White had been forthright in identifying himself to the Immigration officer and in his explanation of the purpose of his visit to Botswana.

His demeanor instead aroused the suspicion of the Immigration officer. As it was already after office hours, contacting the relevant officials to deal with the matter proved to be a lengthy process as they had to be traced through their residential and/or mobile telephone contacts. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation official was however finally contacted and investigations and consultations ensued in earnest involving Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, EU Head of Delegation in Botswana, Deputy British High Commissioner, Mr. Rupert McCarmen and Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs officials, amongst others. It was thereafter established that the matter was evidently one of mistaken identity. Mr. David Ivan White was subsequently allowed entry into Botswana. In accordance with common courtesy, an official apology was made personally to Mr. David Ivan White and the EU Head of Delegation to Botswana HE Mr. Paul Malin as well as the British High Commission.

It should be clarified here that diplomats accredited to Botswana, both resident and non-resident, are issued Diplomatic Identity Cards by the Ministry, to facilitate, amongst others, their work and travel to Botswana. At the time this incident occurred, Mr. David Ivan White had no such identity. This oversight has since been brought to the attention of the EU Delegation in Botswana who had been advised to ensure that all their diplomatic staff, both resident and non-resident who are accredited to Botswana, are issued with Botswana diplomatic identity cards.

The Ministry is aware that certain quarters, for reasons best known to themselves, are critical of Government Notices No. 153 and 217 of 2007. The position of Government, however, remains. As Hon. Minister Tibone stated, it is the prerogative of every sovereign state to impose visa requirements on nationals of foreign countries and Government is not obliged to give reasons for such action. The Government of Botswana has in this regard chosen to require the listed individuals to submit applications for entry visa prior to their travel to Botswana.

Attempts to portray Immigration officials who handled Mr. David Ivan White’s case as overzealous, are in our view unfair and malicious. Genuine visitors to Botswana with appropriate status and documentation are welcome at all times and Government will ensure that they are treated with the respect and courtesy that they deserve when they enter the country.

Clifford Maribe
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs)