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Masisi-Khama face-off could scare investors

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As Khama takes his spiteful fury against party, country and nation to the international stage which some dismiss as “insignificant,” President Masisi has revved up his efforts to attract foreign investment just in case some in the international community became nervous about Africa’s oldest democracy

KEABETSWE NEWEL

Influenced by former president Ian Khama’s continued onslaught on President Mokgweetsi Masisi and his government, investors eyeing Botswana and those already invested here could develop cold feet, experts have warned.

Khama has taken his antipathy for Masisi to foreign media where he is telling the world that his successor is unfit for office as president of the country and party, saying Masisi’s policies and governance style are bad for the wellbeing of Botswana. Khama’s aim is to lobby the international community to rise against Masisi’s government in a quest to force his successor out of the leadership of both the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the republic.

Khama has been vocal against most of Masisi’s policies. After Masisi introduced reforms in the tourism sector, Khama accused him of incompetence, saying the new policies would lead to increased poaching. His criticism of Masisi reached a crescendo recently when he attacked his successor for lifting a controversial ban on hunting, describing it as a “blood policy” aimed at exterminating elephants. There was uproar in the international community where the so-called conservationists called for a boycott of Botswana’s tourism sector and diamonds, both of which are critical to the country’s economy.

Diamonds contribute over a quarter of Botswana’s domestic output while tourism contributes around 7 percent of the GDP. According to Leonard Sesa, a political analyst with the University of Botswana (UB), Khama’s utterances could make the international community jittery about stability in Botswana. “Potential investors could be unsure about Botswana’s political stability and would not want to throw their money into Botswana unless they are sure,” Sesa said. He noted that some investors had come to Botswana through their affiliation with Khama as the country’s former head of state. “Khama can easily influence such investors,” Sesa pointed out. “He is at a point where he is doing everything possible to compromise and undo what Masisi has done so he can prove a point. It is possible that he could influence some people that investing here is a bad idea.”

The university don said Masisi’s ongoing international trips were aimed at establishing new relations and attracting new investors aligned to his administration to ensure there was continuity of investment in case Khama-aligned investors pulled back. “It is like a plan B,” he noted. Masisi knows that he has to bring his own people.”

Even so, Masisi told a press conference at the State House last Friday that Khama’s utterances to the international media could not hurt Botswana economically or politically. “We are busy running this country and all we want to do is better the lives of Batswana,” Masisi said before admitting most reluctantly that there may just be a chance his predecessor’s behaviour could affect the image of Botswana and make the international community jittery.

Contacted about the same issues yesterday, the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) – who is also Deputy Chairman at Debswana – Carter Morupisi, echoed Masisi’s confidence, if only more firmly. Morupisi dismissed Khama as “insignificant” and said the former president could not jeopardise Botswana in any way. “It is just one man against the rest of Batswana,” he noted. “We have no time for that.”

Efforts to contact the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo, proved futile for the reason that she was locked in meetings all day. However, her ministry has been working hard to attract FDI, albeit missing targets it set for itself. According to 2018 annual report of Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC), total capital investment realised for the last financial year that ended March 2018 was P2.9 billion against a target of P3.7 billion. Total capital investment was P1.1 billion in Foreign Direct Investment and P1.8 billion Domestic Investment. Total employment of 3,050 jobs was registered against an annual target of 3,150. BITC’s export portfolio registered P2.3 billion against an annual target of P2.7 billion.

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