President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his cabinet announced this week that the current immigration policy will be overhauled, and be replaced with a more pro-investment policy, following turbulent investor relations with government during President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s reign.
Masisi addressed the media this week, revealing his roadmap that will guide his decisions during his presidency. Dorcas Makgato, the new Minister of Immigration, Gender and Nationality stated that she has been given a clear mandate by President Masisi to be at the forefront of the immigration system that will be an “enabler” for business instead of frustrating it, as it has been the case. The immigration system was also emphasised by new Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo as an integral part of business reforms that will transform the ease of doing business in Botswana.
This admission by the Masisi government that the country’s immigration system is somewhat troublesome vindicates many strong critics of his predecessor’s immigration policy. One such strong critic of Khama’s immigration policy was Mogae, who called the policy regressive and detrimental to the country’s economic success. In 2014, Mogae launched a scathing attack on Khama’s administration approach when dealing with foreign nationals.
“We were a small country that ran an open economy and open society but our present government has reversed all that. They have expelled over 2000 foreign professionals in six years years,” he said at an Africa Leadership Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. “In my country however I did my best endeavours by passing laws, but what is happening is that the present regime does not respect the rule of law. It is inward looking when we have prospered in the past because we have used professionals from all countries including Tanzania here.
We trained our people here, and in South Africa, Ghana, and Nigeria. But the present government has reversed all that, so I am not a good example when you are talking about success.” Mogae contended that foreign companies no longer wanted to come to invest in Botswana because they did not feel welcome. He also wanted Botswana to use immigration as a catalyst that will attract skilled foreigners for the benefit of the economy, as it is the case with successful economies such as the United States, Australia and Canada among others.
Mogae’s sentiments were shared by state owned entity, Botswana Investments and Trade Centre’s (BITC), which has been mandated with promoting foreign direct investments and export promotion of locally manufactured goods. In 2016, then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BITC, Letsebe Sejoe, when appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises, revealed that foreign investors were still finding it hard to pick Botswana as an ultimate place to do business because of the complications associated with running businesses in the country.
Sejoe, who has since left BITC under a cloud of controversy told the committee that Botswana is entirely opposite to what it has the world perceiving it as. He listed Permits and VISAs as the biggest challenge facing investors as he noted that delays in issuing the two frustrates inventors who end up going to other countries such as Rwanda, which has built a more conducive environment for investors.
The issue of permits and VISAs is reportedly handled by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DIS), which has unlimited discretion on who is accepted or rejected. The parliament committee also heard that there is no turnaround time agreed on, and that the premises and VISAs can be rejected without explanation. Sejoe said part of solving the problem is to create a legal framework or policy which will guide certain procedures needed to facilitate business for companies lured by BITC to do business in Botswana.
“For instance, in countries like Mauritius they have what they call silent means approval. If a permit is supposed to be processed within 24 hours and there is no response after that time, the applicant has the right to go ahead because lack of response shows no objection,” he said. “Government does not appreciate the enormous impact foreign direct investment can make in the country’s economy. We have this attitude of treating everyone the same. There is also lack of appreciation of frustration experienced by these investors,” Sejoe told the committee.
Sejoe said not only are new investors facing problems of permits, but that foreign owned companies, some of which have employed hundreds of citizens, are facing the same problem when they want to renew their permits. “Botswana is not an open economy like we say we are to the world. There are people who have been doing business in Botswana for over 30 years and government rejected their application for citizenship over the period and all of a sudden they were told to go,” he said.
“Investors are cagey on this. Some who are already doing business in Botswana are sceptical about expanding their business because their future in Botswana is uncertain. Investors need certainty and some level of predictability,” he further advised. Sejoe narrated that some companies with operational businesses in Botswana but with their directors residing outside Botswana have had their directors’ VISAs rejected when they wanted to attend a business meeting in Botswana; he said this recount proved that Botswana is a difficult environment to do business in.
The immigration policy was central to frustration of many sectors including tourism, which is Botswana’s second highest revenue earner after minerals. DIS’s excessive interference in the process has been mainstay in the previous administration’s immigration policy. WeekendPost understands that the tourism industry has also been hit hard as rejection of VISAs for tourists who want to visit the country has also been noticed. According to Ministry of Environment, Natural Resource Conservation and Tourism, the number of tourists visiting Botswana has been declining in recent years. Tourism is the country’s second biggest contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) after the mining sector.
In 2015, another Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told that for the financial year ending March 2015, Botswana lost P4 billion worth of investment, as investors who could not secure businesses in Botswana shifted their focus elsewhere. There was concern that Botswana was quickly earning a bad name for its self as its image as a friendly and welcoming nation had started to fade away. Indications were that countries like India, and China, who are one of the biggest investors in Botswana’s economy, were rejected in recent years, compelling them to look elsewhere.
DIS’s involvement in VISA process saw even accounting officers at immigration being left in the dark as to why some foreign nationals were placed on VISA restriction contrary to the agreement between their countries and Botswana. Countries like South Africa, United States, and United Kingdom have a diplomatic agreement with Botswana that their nationals do not require VISAs to visit Botswana.
Notwithstanding that, the department of Immigration has placed some citizens from these countries on VISA restrictions and those nationals have on several occasions been denied entry into Botswana. The PAC members pointed out that this created tensions between the countries implicated and therefore was detrimental to the country’s foreign policy.
As possibly part of transforming the immigration policy, Masisi dropped Edwin Batshu from the Immigration ministry, replacing him with Makgato. Makgato, who has also served previously as Minister of Trade and Industry, was instrumental in dealing with investors during her tenure at the Botswana Export Development Investment Agency, (now BITC), as Chief Executive Officer.Masisi has also relieved the controversial Director General of Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), Colonel Isaac Kgosi from his duties, replacing him with Brigadier Peter Magosi.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.