The government of Botswana has issued an apologetic response to a recent statement made by former President Festus Mogae, who said Botswana was regressing from its longstanding commitment to an economy that was open to foreign participation.
Government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay on Monday released a carefully worded statement in which he said government respects opinions and welcomes criticism from all quarters, including from retired political leaders.
“It is thus with the utmost respect that we find it necessary to respond to a few points that were raised by the former President,” said Ramsay.
Speaking at the African Leadership Forum in Tanzania, Mogae said Botswana no longer operates as an open economy and society as it has expelled over 2000 foreign professionals in the last six years.
“In my country we are regressing. The problem is if you criticize your successor, people think you want to rule from the grave. When I was president I would have invited you to a debate, anywhere, anytime in Botswana anywhere else…express my views, accept yours and challenging those with which I did not agree,” said Mogae.
In his response, Ramsay said government found it imperative to respond to the points raised by Mogae especially since they attracted a lot of public interest. He reassured domestic and international observers that Botswana remains firmly committed to building an open society that welcomes participation of foreign nationals and investment. He added that government’s excellence strategy promotes an enabling environment for doing business in Botswana as evidenced by efforts to fine tune administrative institutions and legislative frameworks for external skills transfer and investment.
“While opening its doors to outside participation in the economy, this government remains committed to promoting citizen participation in the economy through proactive citizen empowerment initiatives as well as the upholding longstanding labor laws with regard to enforcement of localization,” said Ramsay.
To balance foreign participation and citizen empowerment, said Ramsay, government regularly reviews requirements for residence and business permits to simplify and eliminate unnecessary processes. He added that Botswana has to be increasingly mindful of domestic and global security concerns when making decisions about the presence of foreign nationals, especially because of new threats of global terrorism and increasingly complex transnational crimes such as trafficking of drugs, humans, arms and game.
“It is unavoidable that foreign nationals involved in illegal activities would be sent back to their countries of origin,” said Ramsay.
He further revealed that numerous independent international ratings provide the best testament to Botswana’s status as an open society with an open economy grounded in democratic governance based on transparency and the rule of law. For example, said Ramsay, the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index has ranked Botswana first in Africa and 25th in the world in terms of maintaining rule of law.
“The robust quality of our democratic institutions was further confirmed by the latest, 2013, Global Democracy Index in which Botswana is ranked 30th in the world. In terms of domestic perceptions, Botswana is ranked number one in Africa by Afrobarometer’s 2014 Transparent and Accountable Governance Index (TAGI),” said Ramsay.
In recent weeks, Former Presidents Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae spoke out sternly against the current government under President Ian Khama. Masire fired the first salvo at the funeral of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President Gomolemo Motswaledi, saying a revolution happens when the people lose confidence in a government and remain with no alternative. He added that Botswana needs visionary leaders who will lead the country into the future, not those who want to create a name only for themselves. The former Presidents’ statements have rubbed government and the ruling party the wrong way. Last week, BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi told Sunday Standard that the two party elders will be summoned to explain their statements which are viewed as subversive by the ruling party.
“We should appreciate that these are party elders and whatever they are reported to have said should not be taken lightly. They play an advisory role in the party and hence there is need to engage them,” said Balopi.
He added that the BDP will also engage the Council of Elders to seek clarity from the two former Heads of State.