It was, literally, ‘business’ as usual when President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa addressed delegates and the media at the just ended bilateral Business Forum roundtable in Gaborone.
For those oblivious to the current political climate, it would have been difficult to suss the tension pervading the air inside the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) main hall during the media’s question time.
The two Heads of State had, unsurprisingly, went to great lengths to stop the media from addressing the elephant on Ramaphosa’s table.
It came as a shock to many, that a whole two day business forum would be limited “strictly” to only two “strictly forum related” questions for the tens of journalists looking to exploit a rare opportunity.
It is no secret that former Botswana president Ian Khama has become a source of tension between the two heads of state and by extension, their governments. His sustained public attacks against his successor from the comfort of his South African residence could not have escaped Ramaphosa’s attention, particularly given the backing of mainstream SA media.
Masisi would rather choose to address the matter in a closed Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) meeting, telling his fellow Democrats that he had warned Ramaphosa that “if they are aiding and abetting someone who is busy attacking there will be consequences,” the president was overheard in a leaked audio clip. Just a week prior to the just ended bilateral business forum, Khama released the third of his three part series of open letters addressed to Masisi and in response to the leaked audio.
“Well let’s wait and see who will… end up in the rubbish heap of history when the next government digs Botswana out of the political mess and leadership crisis that he (Masisi) has subjected the country to,” Khama wrote.
While Ramaphosa told the media following the Botswana-South Africa Bi-National Commission meeting in Pretoria in April this year that they discussed the matter, nothing has since indicated any action being taken. However, the two Heads of State used the latest meeting to, for the umpteenth, keep up appearances and continue with ‘business’ as usual.
“It is my sincere hope that the Business Forum we just had during the past two days is the beginning of the regular business to business interactions between our countries,” Masisi told the business delegations and media from the two countries this past Thursday 5, 2022.
He emphasized the “strong” diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries, which he said complement and enrich the longstanding historical ties.
“I am of the conviction that we need to trade in a mutually beneficial and efficient manner as neighbors. I look forward to more information exchanges of this nature, as well as an increase in areas of cooperation between our two countries.”
Like his Botswana counterpart Ramaphosa was all praises for the “close” relationship between the two countries. “Botswana and South Africa can both achieve more by working closely together. It is our expectation that … we will jointly identify the priorities for strengthening the Botswana-South Africa economic relationship.”