Masisi intervention restores Botswana – China relations

  • Relations had deteriorated under Khama
  • Botswana benefits from financial assistance
  • China writes off P80m Botswana loans
  • Botswana acquires P10 billion loan from China


Gazette Reporter

After President Mokgweetsi Masisi stepped in to restore the deteriorated bilateral foreign relations between China and Botswana, the diamond led economy has so far acquired billions in loans from China, while some previous loans have been written off.
After Masisi’s ascendance to the Presidency, Minister of Foreign Affairs Unity Dow, visited China, where it is believed that she introduced the new Masisi administration, which was ready to mend relations between the two states. Masisi himself is scheduled to jet off to China by mid-September to ‘fix the broken relations’.
Under Masisi’s predecessor, Ian Khama relations between the two states were at a boiling point.
Less than two years back, the Chinese revealed that Chinese businessmen in Botswana live in fear of their host nation. They said the Chinese were being denied VISA, work and residence permits in large numbers although some had been in Botswana for about 20 years, while some were controversially deported.
What seemed to have aggravated the tension between the two longtime friends was the purportedly low standards of construction projects by Chinese companies in Botswana, especially Sir Seretse Khama International Airport Terminal and the Morupule B project, which resulted in threats of legal action by the Botswana Goverment. Another low point in the relationship came when Botswana released a statement questioning China’s claim of the South China Sea which which was contested by Japan.
China did not take kindly to the statement by Botswana and at the height of the tension the Chinese Embassy in Gaborone was temporarily closed and operations suspended, allegedly on instructions from Chinese President Jinping. China demanded a retraction from Botswana which culminated in a hastily convened meeting between Embassy officials and then Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.
Just last year, China issued a stern warning to Botswana for allowing His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama entry into the country. Ambassador Lin Songtain, the Director General of the African Affairs Department cautioned that should Botswana allow the Dalai Lama into the country it would have crossed the line and for that it will have a ‘high price to pay’. “We will not compromise, without this foundation there are no relations between us,” he said.
In the last three years China spent US$ 100 billion on developments in infrastructure, health, education, skills development/ human resource development and peace keeping in Africa but Botswana was excluded. Trade balance between the two countries currently stands at $276 million/ year. China being the 2nd largest importer of diamonds, beef products and highly advanced tourism sector should naturally be a strategic partner for Botswana who is looking to identify new markets for her resources and diversify the economy.
According to Tang Shenping, Director of the Political Section at the Chinese Embassy there are over 100 Chinese companies operating in Botswana employing over 20 000 Batswana. These numbers, he said are a concoction of small to large companies, which contributed in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).