Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi has reportedly blackmailed the business community into join Government in its advertising ban against the private media.
Masisi is reported to have issued the veiled blackmail last year a day after the ruling party held a Special Congress where in great fanfare it was announced that there will be an Economic Stimulus Package.
The meeting between the ruling party and the business community had been called by National Treasurer of the Botswana Democratic Party, Satar Dada. An accomplished businessman, Dada had called the meeting specifically to allow the BDP high command to hear directly from the business community what challenges they were facing in doing business in Botswana.
That meeting was held at Dada’s luxury resort home in Notwane outside Gaborone.
At that meeting businessman after businessman complained about Government immigration policy.
The businessmen present, many of who were of Asian extraction said the uncertainty created by the Botswana Government’s Immigration Policy was making it impossible for them to commit to Botswana through long term investment decisions.
Some of them said it was painful for their compatriots to be told to leave Botswana on account of the new policy after staying here for over 20 years. They came up with suggestions to amend the Immigration Policy and make it investor friendly.
According to those who attended, President Ian Khama attended the meeting but left before it was completed. The meeting was thus left to vice president Masisi to represent government.
Leader of Business Botswana, formerly BOCCIM, Leta Mosienyane also attended.
Among other things President Khama acknowledged before he left, the seriousness of the situation, and admitted that his administration had not fully appreciated the extent of problems caused by rejected residence and work permits.
“The president effectively said he had up to that stage thought that people complaining about work and residence permits were trying to create a mountain from a molehill. In the end he effectively blamed BOCCIM for failing to articulate the problems of business at HLCC [High Level Consultative Council].”
HLCC is a meeting of government, business and the civil society. It is is chaired by President Khama.
Also at the Notwane meeting, President Khama called on Mosienyane to submit within two weeks proposals to amend HLCC with the intention to making it more representative, especially of the SMEs sector.
Responding to complaints by the business community as part of his closing remarks after President Khama had left, vice president Masisi called on the private sector to help government against the private media that he alleged was out to topple the ruling party from power. He accused the business of sustaining the private media.
“He did not explicitly mention the word ‘advertising’ but it was clear to all of us present that he meant it. He effectively said if the BDP government was going to help the private sector, they too would have to meet the government half way against the private media. It was the case of scratch my back and I will scratch yours,” said another businessman in attendance.
Over the last year Government has cut out advertising to newspapers perceived to be either pro-opposition or anti-BDP.
This has led several newsrooms across the country watering down their editorial policies to reflect a pro-government bias as a way of survival. It remains to be seen if that strategy would work since the figures released by Government last year reflected that over twelve months about ten newspapers shared between them P4 million expenditure from Government which under normal circumstances is not sufficient to run a small newspaper outlet.
Government has persistently denied the ban saying newspapers that are not receiving Government adverts are those that have not complied with tax requirements.
A close analysis has however revealed that even newspapers that are tax compliant are not getting any government advertising patronage.