A letter to Swedish Ambassador Cecilia Julin
I have not slept for a couple of weeks since the rumour that your Swedish government and its army was selling or disposing its used fighter jets to Botswana. First and foremost, let me tell you that, I have been in love with Sweden as far back as the 80’s and when I became an intellectual, I loved the way your modelled your democracy and economy to become the 7th richest nation in the world.
You are an epitome of success in the Nordic region and admired by many. Whilst studying a module on Urban Design in my architecture studies, one of my precedent study was on how your government through the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) transformed one of our oldest squatter camp or informal sector #OldNaledi or Zola as it is known into an integral part of Gaborone in 1970. We really appreciated that for many years as we were still a very poor and undeveloped country. But your significance in our country waned over the years when we were promoted to a middle income economy.
Those who understand Sweden, will understand it from you Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United), Hendrick Lasson (former Barcelona player), Volvo, Skoda, Sonnny Errikson mobile, Atlas Copco etc. This is what made you country to opt out of the Eurozone Monetary Union. A successful and sustainable economy does that. But 46 years later after you had helped shape our Urbanism and other philanthroic roles, you have reneged from what we believed was your government’s outmost insertion. The dislike of war conflicts and a strong believer of Anti-Armament of countries. That is the reason your government is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Your government stance has always believed in bringing peace to war torn countries. The primary role of your army was always in bringing peace in war-torn countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Bosnia & Herzegovinia (1992), Liberia, Lebanon etc as Peace Keeping Force. Your army has been involved in most African civil wars more any other Western countries.
Whilst we appreciate your strong standpoint on anti-armament of countries in war torn areas, the latest development has put an egg on my face. Your government understand the polemics and dynamism of Botswana as a country and its politics. You have been one of the first embassies to set up in the country since 1966. You have seen Botswana besieged by regional conflicts of the liberation struggles of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Mozambique, Angola, Apartheid South Africa. We could not defend our country by then, but just to allow refugees in the country. The conflicts since the 1960’s did not affect the livelihoods of our people, the economy, infrastructure etc. We have been very fortunate, God was on our side. We did not even possess an army that could even defend the Maitengwe border region against the Zimbabwean rebels, nor the Caprivi strip against the SWAPO rebels or the Angolans rebels against the Portuguese. The wars started and ended without any harm to our country. The region is now as peaceful as ever with the last country to be independent being Namibia in 1990. What is left basically is just domestic politics in the liberated countries which pose no real threat to Botswana in a realistic way.
But your government has come to shock the daylight out of the knowledgeable Batswana in recent weeks. Can we remind you that Botswana has been successful since 1966 and we improved dramatically in the Human Resources Capital investment? I find it very bizarre that, when the agents representing the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) approached your army in the acquisition of your used Gripen Fighter Jets, your government did not discuss this in Parliament nor inferred with our embassy on the need for the ammunition. Let me highlight something to you and your government that you might or might not be privy to.
Botswana does not have a Defence Strategic Council which might in turn brief Parliament and its sub-committees on defence and its welfare and equipment regulation. The decision to renew our armament was taken by cabinet alone and parliament was left with no choice but to endorse it. Botswana as a country should have been downsizing on its expenditure on the army as far back as 1996 (20 years ago). The Swedish government downsized its army from 100, 000 at the end of the cold war in 1991 to just around 60,000 today that includes reservists and volunteers. What the BDF should have done was to have army reservists in the regional peace zone who could be in other careers, but needed when there is a conflict. Your government had that strategy, why couldn’t you advice the BDF. Your government has failed to ask the Botswana government why they needed the Gripen Jets these questions when they signed the deal in Gaborone a few weeks ago.
The very pertinent questions that would have been asked by the representatives of your government at the signing ceremony would have been;
Have you reached your Millennium goals?
Have you improved the socio-economic injustices?
Have you improved your health care system?
Have you reached your infrastructural development needs (water, sanitation, telecommunications?
Have you improved your education system?
How is the economy growing, is it creating sustainable jobs?
Has your agricultural sector grown to sustain food security?
On the backdrop of the deal your government selling to us your used (fongkong) jets, let me remind you that cabinet has solely without due diligence closed the BCL and Tati Nickel Mines and sent 7,000 workers home, affecting a cumulative 30,000 family beneficiaries. BCL needed just P 6bn to survive. Well, since you reside in Pretoria not far from Gaborone, our youth unemployment hovers around 65% and with almost 80% of new graduates unable to find work. Corruption has become rampant but the institutions tasked with fighting corruption are just ceremonial. Most parastatals, are now restructuring and sending many workers home. Morupoule B power plant has failed to take off after the government squandered BWP13bn (US$1.2bn) and cabinet has decided to sell it. Sir, you live in South Africa, you know these developments stories in Botswana of Morupule B and Eskom. The economy in now on its knees and we might be faced with a domestic recession.
But Ambassador, here is your government selling an African country with a struggling economy its used weapons at US$30m (BWP320m) each and for the eight of them, this is costing our government a whooping BWP6bn (US$562m) including transactional fees and transportation. But is it the conscience of the Swedish government and its people to find a moral ground of your government selling its used weaponry to an African country with a myriad of domestic problems in a completely peaceful region with no real and direct threats prevailing currently?
Your government is no better than the other East Europeans countries who were selling illegal ammunition to the rebels in Liberia, DRC, Sierra Leon that killed innocent civilians. I held you in high esteem, but I am being proven wrong.By the way Ambassador, the minister who signed the deal comes from a village called Bobonong. There are no hospitals, youth and recreation centres, Sport facilities, water, etc in Bobirwa region. It’s still a relatively a poor area with a huge income inequalities and no real economic activity. The region is battling Foot & Mouth disease coming from the Zimbabwe side. The farmers can’t sell their cattle to BMC. Botswana is still very under developed Sir/Madam and poverty is growing a rapid rate. If I had the power, I could urge your government to halt the sale of the Gripen Jets, and you advise our government to invest the money to transform the ailing economy and get our priorities right to reach the Millenium goals. Sweden is becoming a champion on Renewable energy, ICT and Tourism. Why at least don’t your government advise our government to send our children to study in your best universities in ICT, Tourism, Urban Design, Green technologies and invest that BPW6n wisely over the next 10 years?
Anyway, I have made my point, it might not matter much to you and your government whether poverty is prevailing here, or people are losing jobs, or we are selling national assets. After all, we are JUST LIKE ANY OTHER AFRICAN COUNTRY. What’s so special about Botswana anyway?
NB: Look at these images attached and decipher where we went wrong. Old Naledi is still the same as when SIDA left, Bobonong is still a village. But compare that to Vajox, your small town and wonder.
Thank you in advance
Poverty Stricken Caesar Tshupelo