First it was the South-China Sea controversy and now it is the impending visit by the Dalai Lama to Botswana, and China is not amused. The Asian giant is telling Botswana to block the Dalai Lama’s visit.
Relations between Botswana and China have taken yet another knock as China disapproves of Botswana’s decision to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Botswana and give talk as a guest at a three day conference entitled “Botho/Ubuntu: A Dialogue with the Dalai Lama Spirituality, Science and Humanity”, scheduled for 17-19 August 2017.
Chinese officials at the time of the controversy surrounding the South China Sea had adopted a diplomatic approach to Botswana’s criticism of their country. The diplomatic relations between Gaborone and Beijing which had been simmering for sometime had boiled over last week after Botswana issued a press statement accusing China of imposing “its power over others to make claims because of “its economy or military.”
But on the question of the Dalai Lama, China is very clear, it is uncompromising and “Botswana will pay a heavy price should the renowned spiritual leader be allowed to visit.” Botswana government has insisted that the Spiritual Leader is indeed visiting Botswana but not on official ticket. It states President Lt Gen Ian Khama could attend the Conference should his schedule allow.
Statistics show that Botswana’s export to China grew from US$2.86 million in 2004 to US$65 million in 2009. During March 2017, exports destined to Asia were valued at P2, 177.1 million, representing 53.4 percent of total exports (P4, 076.8 million) hence China accounting for the bulk of the exports. India received exports amounting to P592.3 million, 14.5 percent of total exports during the month. Israel and UAE followed with 11.2 percent (P457.9 million) and 10.6 percent (P431.4 million) respectively, of total exports during March 2017. Singapore and Hong Kong received 9.8 percent (P399.2 million) and 5.3 percent (P215.9 million) respectively of total exports during the period under review.
This is where China is said to be threatening to hurt Botswana should the Dalai Lama be allowed entry into Botswana. Botswana economy is dominated by diamonds, they are the biggest revenue earner. The major commodity exported to Asia is Diamonds, representing 99.7 percent (P2, 170.5 million) of all goods exported to the region during March 2017.
Why does China despise the Dalai Lama so much?
China considers the Dalai Lama a separatist and a political trouble maker, and the history latent in this distaste is convoluted and problematic. The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the traditional religious and temporal head of Tibetan Buddhists. He was made head of state at age 15 in 1950, the same year that Chinese troops occupied Tibet.
The Dalai Lama has held negotiations with Chinese officials on Tibetan self-rule with little success. In 1959, he fled Tibet for exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Over the years, the Dalai Lama has continued to lobby for self-rule in Tibet. Tibetans around the world revere him as their spiritual leader and cultural icon. He has traveled the globe, attending meditation conferences, giving speeches in universities and parliaments, and meeting people from all walks of life, from CEOs to Hollywood stars to heads of state. He received the Nobel peace prize in 1989. Overseas, the Dalai Lama is a celebrated figure. In China, he is a despised troublemaker.
Botswana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi has in the recent past called for introspection on the bilateral cooperation between Botswana and China to see how best they can move ahead in the journey of strategic partnership. She had observed that 40 years signified a period of maturity hence the expression ‘life begins at 40’ and said this was an opportune time to reflect on the successes and challenges so that the two countries could chart a path to long lasting beneficial relations.
Speaking at the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Botswana and China in Gaborone on February 10, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Pelonomi Dr Venson-Moitoi said Botswana admired the great strides china had made in recent decades. China and Botswana relations can be traced to January 6, 1975 when the two countries formally established diplomatic relationship, which unveiled a new chapter for friendship and cooperation between the two.
For over 40 years, China-Botswana relations have been developing soundly and steadily on the basis of their traditional friendship, and the two countries’ peoples have benefited from the expanding cooperation in various fields. Growing economic and trade cooperation has served as the driving force in boosting bilateral ties between the two countries and the total trade volume between the two countries has jumped from less than US$ million in early 1980s to US$343 million in 2013, which is almost 700 times increase. China has become the second largest consumer of Botswana’s diamonds; consuming 15 per cent of the total diamond output and said his country’s demand for Botswana’s diamonds is also growing by more than 10 per cent every year.
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.