Botswana’s international image continues to be eroded by issues like government’s treatment of Basarwa and the recent public sector strike, says Billy Kokorwe, founder of the Positive Africa Image Campaign (PAIC).
Kokorwe, who is also a film maker, said Botswana’s track record as a shining example of good governance, peace and democracy is now slipping.
His comments came after recent PAIC-related meetings he held with Africa-focused nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the United Kingdom.
As a result, the PAIC has changed its focus to include advocacy “for the currently stagnant and regressive state of the nation”.
Kokorwe said Botswana is not playing its role as an African country that should be held up as a success story, encouraging better portrayal of Africa in the western media. He added that the country is known more for wildlife and tourism.
Government had failed to engage Basarwa meaningfully, and created the impression that it only wanted to marginalize them and deny them their rights, Kokorwe said. The handling of last year’s civil service strike was not good for Botswana’s image, he added.
He said PAIC is now looking at Botswana to assess its governance, maturity of the opposition, role of civil society, and the work of the media as a watchdog.
Kokorwe said PAIC has called on President Ian Khama to avoid governing through directives and for government to reduce on its constant kgotla meetings, which are a “time consuming sideshow” that do not address Botswana’s pressing socio-economic problems.
“The president appears to be detached from society, perhaps through no fault of his own,” Kokorwe said. “Also, his initiative on giving people blankets goes against a positive image of Africa. In a way, it is dehumanizing people.”
He said PAIC will lobby opposition parties to set the priorities of voters above their own organizations and political ambitions. Frequent bickering, floor crossing and divisions among the opposition parties “make a mockery of African democracy”, Kokorwe said.
Reacting to Kokorwe’s comments on the opposition, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) spokesperson, Taolo Lucas, said differences within and across opposition parties are not strange in a democracy. “The ruling party also has infighting. There has to be a contest where power is involved,” said Lucas.
PAIC’s focus on Botswana will end in September. Kokorwe said PAIC will continue its non-confrontational dialogue to ensure Botswana’s international image is improved.