- Convinced Botswana is not interested
The South African government has reportedly given up on its request for a meeting with Botswana to discuss the latter’s ban on importation of fresh produce following Botswana’s sustained reluctance to accede to the request.
The request for dialogue was initiated by SA’s Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, in an attempt to address the simmering tensions over the ban, which has ignited debate about the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) agreements.
Sources at the South African High Commission in Gaborone say Botswana’s prolonged silence has prompted South Africa to abandon efforts to pursue the meeting it sought.
Botswana’s Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Fidelis Molao, has long confirmed receiving a letter requesting the meeting last year.
“South Africans see the reluctance and unreasonable delays as a refusal to engage,” says one source. “Botswana’s reluctance to commit to a meeting continues to hinder any resolution to the dispute.”
The ban – which Botswana imposed simultaneously with Namibia – has caused perturbations among South African farmers who say it violates the SACU agreement.
However, Botswana’s position is that the ban is necessary to protect domestic producers and provide them with access to previously inaccessible markets. It affects an extensive range of fresh produce that is often reviewed, usually to add more items.
Agri SA, a federation of agricultural organisations in South Africa, has emphasised the importance of SACU maintaining a common external trade border and free flow of goods within member countries of the common market, namely Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia and South Africa.
Meanwhile, Botswana government holds that there are clear indications of burgeoning growth within the country’s farming community following the imposition of the ban on New Year’s Day last year.