Monday, December 6, 2021

‘High Commissioner Blackbeard is a star performer’

Contrary to what the street wants to believe, Botswana’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Roy Blackbeard, has not been transferred because, according to foreign affairs minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, “we have been satisfied with his performance.”
Blackbeard took up the London post in 1998 and while other envoys have been transferred, he has stayed put all these years. On Thursday, Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi, asked Venson-Moitoi why this is so. In pronouncing Blackbeard’s sterling performance, the minister also pointed out that at least one ambassador has served for longer than Blackbeard at a different station. Although that diplomat was not named, Sunday Standard has ascertained that the person in question is Joseph Legwaila who was Botswana’s representative at the United Nations for a very long time.
The uniqueness of Blackbeard’s case goes beyond how long he has stayed in London. Prior to joining the diplomatic service, Blackbeard was the Member of Parliament for Serowe North. Being the politically interesting year it was, 1998 saw Lieutenant General Ian Khama resign from the army on March 31 and become vice president on April 1 in the middle of a parliamentary cycle. Section 39 of the constitution says that the vice president must be an MP and then President Festus Mogae found himself in a quandary with a constituency-less deputy. The solution came in the form of Blackbeard giving up his parliamentary seat to Khama. It is widely believed that the government’s end of the bargain was to give Blackbeard a prestigious diplomatic posting and that he was the one who dictated the terms of such posting.
The assertion about Blackbeard being a star performer would certainly be found wanting with regard to how his office handled Survival International (SI), a London-based pressure group that is prosecuting the right of Basarwa to live without conditions in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve. When SI started its campaign, the government was too slow to push back allowing the former to define the issue to an international audience.
Presenting her ministry’s budget for 2015/15, Venson-Moitoi requested P26.8 million for the London mission. Some P2 million of that sum will be used to undertake extensive renovations at the mission.

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