A London based global information company predicts that President Mokgweetsi Masisi will move Botswana closer to China.
HIS Markit in their country report for Botswana states that, “Masisi is very likely to forge closer ties with China, in an effort to diversify foreign relations away from those established under the long-ruling Khama family. Relations with China were poor under Khama. Masisi is working to attract greater investment from China into Botswana’s mining sector and there is a low likelihood that this will result in the cancellation of licences issued under Khama to allies of the former president, thus clearing the way for new investment in lucrative mines.”
Hardly two weeks into his presidency, Masisi indicated that he would be breaking rank with Khama over China.
Fielding questions from the floor during the International Institute of Strategic Studies April 2018 Oppenheimer Speech, Masisi said, “China was attempting to do for itself what many have attempted. … China will happen. It does not matter what Botswana thinks or does. China will be China so we have to adapt ourselves to living with China, get the best out of what we have in the relationship and share with them and make them share the values that we have of how sovereign states relate…. China is but a country and the Chinese are but a people. So are we.”
Botswana’s relationship with China remains one of the sticky issues between Masisi and Khama. Speaking to the South African media last year during a stop-over on his way to India to meet the Dalai lama Khama said the Masisi administration was against the trip to India because of its cosy relations with China.
“Because of these new-struck relations [between] the current administration of Botswana and China, I think they feel they have to do China’s bidding and have succumbed to pressure from China to have no contact with people the Chinese do not like.”
Khama said he had not supported the stance of communist China against Tibet during his presidency.
He has also been vocal about deals struck by African countries with the Chinese – which, he has warned, were brokered in China’s interests and not in the interests of African states.
“During my time as president, I felt that this was an affront to our sovereignty as a country and that we can’t be told who we can and cannot meet.
“As I said earlier on, this was particularly the case given that China is not a democracy like we are.