FRANCISTOWN: Despite divided opinion, political analyst, Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao says President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s seemingly aggressive globe-trotting is justifiable.
Masisi’s frequent regional and international travels have starkly divided opinion amongst Batswana. Since taking office a month ago, Masisi has been regularly on the plane, jetting off to foreign lands.
“In my opinion, Masisi is not doing a wrong thing. Botswana’s foreign policy has been in tatters over the last 10 years. Botswana has been isolated from the international community for some time. What he is trying to do is to re-establish bilateral relationships that were almost non-existent in the last 10 years (under Ian Khama),” said the University of Botswana lecturer.
“He has done a lot of travelling in the SADC region. It is important for him to do that because Botswana is the regional headquarters of the regional bloc.
It is vital for him to familiarise himself with the people he will be working with more often which justifies his travels,” he said, referring to the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Lotshwao added that he does not see Masisi travelling a lot once he has settled in, in his presidential role.
“One would assume in his favour that as time goes on, he will not leave domestic issues behind. It is important for him to strike a balance between international and domestic issues. I think once he has settled in, his travels will target Botswana’s strategic partners and important gatherings,” he said.
Lotshwao stated that Botswana’s foreign policy has been portrayed in bad light by other countries under Khama. He noted that Masisi’s recent travels are a way of restoring the confidence of other countries on Botswana’s foreign policy which could possibly attract
This week, social media users engaged in a stern debate over Masisi’s travels. Those infuriated by his wanderlust believe that because his predecessor, Ian Khama, was often chided for being absent during international gatherings, it does not mean that he (Masisi) should travel more often as he has done of recent.
Additionally, they feel that Masisi’s travels should be selective and target strategic partners of the country as well as other important gatherings.
Their thinking is that Masisi’s more pressing challenges are at home, which is why he should curtail travelling.
On the other hand those backing Masisi believe that it is important for him to travel in order to solidify Botswana’s relationship with other countries that reached an all time low during Khama’s ‘near autocratic’ reign.
From the time he took over in 2008, Khama often shunned regional meetings as well as visits and other important international engagements.
Observers said Khama’s attitude towards issues surrounding bilateral relations isolated Botswana from the global space and also attracted a bad image for the country.
Most notably under Khama, Botswana was the only country whose president was continuously absent from international meetings like the United Nations General Assembly (UN) and SADC summits.
Khama has often delegated his vice presidents the late Mompati Merafhe, Ponatshego Kedikilwe and Masisi to attend important international gatherings and State visits meant to solidify bilateral relations with other countries.
It is widely thought that the former minister of Foreign Affairs Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi lost the African Union (AU) elections on account of Botswana’s reluctance to take part in vital regional activities under Khama.