South Africa’s Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, has acknowledged the role Botswana played during the dark days of apartheid.
Pandor said this during her remarks at the just ended Botswana, South Africa business round table held in Gaborone last week.
“Many South Africans passed through Botswana during the struggle for liberation, and in October we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ANC [African National Congress] Lobatse Conference, which was the first ANC conference held outside of South Africa in 1962. During the early 1960s, a number of South Africans crossed the border into Botswana in order to escape the brutal oppression of the apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Ronnie Kasrils, and Mosie Moolla are just some of the comrades who escaped the security police dragnet and sought refuge in Botswana” said Pandor.
“Our comrades were housed by citizens of Botswana, oftentimes in the home of Comrade Fish Keitseng who in the early years hid Mandela in the mountains. Madiba would spend his days reading, and at night come down from the mountains to the home of Comrade Keitseng. Batswana also played a significant role in helping comrades from our liberation movement to cross the border from Botswana into other countries. Not once did Batswana police hand comrades back to the apartheid police. We would like to use this opportunity to thank Batswana for their contribution to our struggle for liberation,” said the South African Minister.
Botswana benefits from regional economic integration and the facilitation of duty-free movement of goods with a common external tariff on goods entering any of the countries from outside the SACU. Such benefits and positive bilateral economic relations make such engagements vital for both nations.
“We would like to support the implementation of the SACU regional value chain, and the African Continental Free Trade Area. Part of the discussions which will be held will explore cooperation in mining and minerals beneficiation, which are key pillars of Botswana and South Africa’s industrialisation policy. We will also look at ways to enhance automotive component manufacturing that will contribute to job creation in our respective countries. Tourism was hit hard in both countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and together we need to develop sustainable strategies to revitalise the tourism industry,” said Pandor.
Botswana and South Africa are destined to benefit from an agricultural exchange. Botswana has abundant fertile land, yet it imports a lot of the food it consumes.
“This is a trend across much of the continent which we can work together to address so that we can produce more of what we require without importing from beyond our shores. Through economic discussions, we could further investigate the production of animal feed, fruit processing, as well as vegetable and fertilizer production,” observed Pandor.
“If we are to take stock of our trade relations in recent years, it is evident that our two countries maintain a robust trade relationship that has strengthened despite the pandemic. South African exports to Botswana were R64.4 billion last year, and South Africa remains Botswana’s number one source of imports. Botswana is South Africa’s 7th largest export market;” said Minister Pandor.
Since the hosting of the first Bi-National Commission in 2013, there have been 38 Memoranda of Understanding between South Africa and Botswana, and we are long overdue to hold the next BNC so that we can further explore areas of cooperation. There is great room for future growth in the area of outward investment, the creation of industrial value chains, and infrastructure development.