Over the years Botswana has made a concerted effort to attract foreign direct investments into our beloved country.
We have gone all out to invite businesses to come and set up in Botswana and create jobs for Batswana.
Millions of Pula have been invested in this project. We have even invested in programmes such as BEDIA and Brand Botswana with the view to promoting our image internationally.
Ironically though, successive administrations have been belligerent and intolerant of critique, especially from foreigners living in Botswana. Under QKJ Masire some 115 people were declared prohibited immigrants. During FG Mogae’s tenure as President nearly 800 people were deported from this country, notably Prof Kenneth Good.
Under SKI Khama’s first term as President he deported over 400 foreign nationals. Recently Minister Edwin Batshu responding to a question in parliament said that since 2008 about 40 foreigners from 13 countries have been put on the visa list. These are people whose countries ordinarily do not require a visa to enter Botswana.
Some of these people are human rights lawyers who have been advocating for the freedom of Basarwa, others are academics who in their course of work have been critical of our so-called democracy, others are journalists, whilst for others their only crime is to be friends with members of the Opposition. We cannot on the one hand invite people to come and accompany us in our development and at the same time create intolerable conditions for them to live here.
The fact of the matter is that we are using our foreign policy for partisan politics instead of national interest.
You may get rid of these people but in fact you have lost us our integrity and respect as a country.
You have denigrated the name ‘Botswana’- and it is not your name alone, it is our name, and the name of those who will come after us. Where do we get this imperialist attitude? We have children and nationals of this country living in other countries and they are well received. I have travelled and lived all over the world and have been well received.
I have not been a silent sojourner in these lands. In Britain I was a regular speaker and a critic of the racism that persists in that country.
I am regularly invited to the USA and other countries to speak on issues such as immigration, racism, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so forth.
I have never been thrown out when I have offered less than complementary views on these countries. The nature and character of a democratic society is that it must be open to critical discourse about it. That is how we can grow and become a mature country at par with older democracies.
At the heart of our foreign relations should be the preferment of a welcoming spirit, hospitality and tolerance. Beyond selling our diamonds, beef and other commodities we should be known for our botho.
Anywhere we go in the world people should respect and want to emulate our generosity of spirit, which should not only be seen in our human relations with others but in our foreign policy as well. We are delusional if we think people still honour us as a country.
Those of us who travel economy or who mingle with ordinary folk from other countries are jeered all the time. The question that most often ask is what has happened to Botswana?
I know that some will retort to this statement by reminding me that Transparency International and other such organisations have declared us to be the best in Africa.
Whilst the credibility of these organisations is a conversation for another day, I wish to implore us that we need to set a higher standard for ourselves. Let us not put ourselves in the same scale as countries that have gone through civil wars, coup d’états and dictatorships.
We had the fortune of having a head-start over others and so to try and measure ourselves against them is incomprehensible. Lest I be misunderstood, one is not arguing here that people who pose real threat to our country should not be dealt with. We should declare people Prohibited Immigrants only in exceptional cases. When it is clear that such people pose real threat to our security as a country.
And we have to be clear that political opinions cannot justifiably be seen as security threat.
Further, we should expand the panel that considers and ultimately declares people Prohibited Immigrants. It could be a committee that is diverse and is inclusive of representatives from the security forces, law society, AG, cabinet, and the backbench.
Rev. Dr Prince Dibeela
UDC Secretary for International