President Mokgweetsi Masisi yesterday announced that the country had been removed from a three-year global negative listing for money laundering, the latest in a series of high profile 'victories' for the head of state.
The President has also been accused of failing to deliver on his party’s election promises from 2019, a situation he has said is due to the onset of COVID-19 and the havoc it has played with the laid plans.
Within his party Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Masisi is reportedly battling to rein in factions and widening divisions, amidst speculation of a rift with allies who helped deliver the October 2019 electoral victory.
In frank remarks during a press conference recently, the President revealed that he had noted the increasingly bitter criticism of his presidency and the growing insults and vulgarities used against him, particularly on social media.
However, in the space of a week, Masisi has enjoyed a period of key 'victories', helping push back against his critics, particularly in the image and confidence war being waged against him.
Since October 15, Masisi has launched the P781.5 million Masama wellfields project and the P1.1 billion Lobatse Water Supply Master Plan, both projects being in line with election promises made in 2019.
Yesterday, the President announced that the three-year greylisting of the country by global authorities for money laundering, had ended, a major boon for the country’s investment allure at a time when economies are fighting to recover from COVID-19.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the world’s leading multinational anti-money laundering agency, placed Botswana on its greylist in 2018 citing deficiencies in its money laundering structures. The decision led to the European Union placing the country on its blacklist in 2019.
The listing increases the cost of local financial institutions doing business with international banks and other organisations due to the higher due diligence that will be applied to them. There are also delays in funds being transferred to and from Botswana, due to the need for greater due diligence.
The FATF’s plenary in Paris, held between Tuesday and Thursday, reviewed Botswana's written and oral submissions, as well as the findings from a site visit recently, before deciding to lift the greylisting.
A briefing originally set to be held by the finance minister Peggy Serame was shifted from the ministries’ gardens to the Office of the President gardens, late yesterday afternoon, where Masisi led proceedings.
“The minister was in the plenary which ended a few minutes ago and as is customary for a loyal, serving minister, she informed her principal before going to the Press, on the decision,” Masisi said in a televised address.
“Botswana has been approved for exiting the greylist on the basis that the action plan has been fully implemented.”
He added that the removal from the greylist was a significant development for the local economy.
“This is a major achievement for confidence building, financial system integrity and viability, which must not be taken for granted,” Masisi said.
“We are members of the international community and we cannot trade or prosper when we do not comply, whether this is through inaction or on purpose.”
In a virtual press briefing after the plenary yesterday evening, FATF president, Marcus Pleyer praised Masisi’s administration for its political commitment to implementing the reforms necessary to enhance anti-money laundering.
“We encourage Botswana to continue its good work,” he said. Masisi, in his briefing, also stressed the political commitment displayed by his administration.
“The high-level political commitment was confirmed to those who came to assess us, not just by ministers but by myself in person. “I will not step back but instead lead from the front and make sure we sustain our momentum.”
To exit the greylisting, Botswana passed 25 pieces of legislation in 2018 and six more after that. In 2019, cabinet also approved the National Anti-Monetary Laundering/Combatting the Financing of Terrorism and Countering Proliferation strategy.
At the Paris plenary, Botswana was just one of two countries removed from the FATF’s greylist at its plenary, while three others, Jordan, Mali and Turkey were added.