‘Don’t take our country to the dogs’

Members of Parliament across the aisle have expressed concern at the possible bad image that the country could attract due to the strained relationship between President  Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor. Since last year Dr. Masisi and former president Dr. Ian Khama have been entangled in a polarised relationship that has divided the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).

Debating the budget for Ministry of International Affairs and Cooperation this week, MPs expressed concern that the situation has escalated and would possibly affect the country’s image in the international arena. MP for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi said while they appreciate that the current president is visiting other countries and participating in international meetings it is worrisome that the relationship between Dr. Masisi and Khama is strained. The legislator stated that Dr. Khama’s failure to attend regional and international forums was negatively affecting the country. He however expressed worry that even though Dr. Masisi is doing a good job sometimes his statements are likely to annoy some countries especially those that Botswana relies on.

“He might be trying to mend relations but some of his public utterances are a cause for concern. The president must be careful what he says and to whom he says it to. “The recent issue about wildlife, I think the president should not have said the words he said. We do not want to find ourselves fighting with other countries especially western countries. “He might have said the words with good intentions but we always have to be careful and choose correct and diplomatic words. The way he approached the issue it is like we do not care as a country,” said Mmolotsi adding that western countries have got nothing to lose but Botswana as a small economy has a lot to lose.

He told Parliament that the fighting within the BDP is not good for the country. The former president would say something and then Dr. Masisi would say another, pointed out Mmolotsi. He called on the International Affairs and Cooperation Minister Dr. Unity Dow to engage the duo to safeguard the country’s image. MP for Gaborone Central Dr. Phenyo Butale said the disagreement between the former and current presidents should not be allowed to harm the country. He stated that the interest of the country has to be protected.

He challenged the consistency of the country’s foreign policy. He said the government used to “say something about the Dalai Lama but today we are saying a different story. “There is need for us to be consistent. We cannot have a situation where two leaders are competing and saying bad things in the public space which have the potential of denting our image.” According to Dr. Butale the country has always been cautious of what it says or does because of the delicacy of its economy. “We do not want our country to be taken to the dogs by our two leaders because we do not know what exactly happened between them,” said Dr. Butale.

The MP said while Dr. Masisi is representing the country well at international level, it is important to apply a robust approach about multilateral relations. He said there is need for an aggressive approach in pursuing the interests of the country. MP for Francistown East Honest Buti Billy said it is costing the country to see the situation between Dr. Masisi and his predecessor. “As an individual, one might think the matter does not concern them but it does. “People out there see it differently. We are known to be a peace-loving nation but what is currently happening is telling a different story and the world is watching,” Billy told Parliament.

He said the duo has to be serious and sort out their differences. He wondered what people will tell their grandchildren about the current situation if it is not attended to. “I know people do not want us to talk about this issue, but we have to talk about it because we cannot ignore it anymore,” he said.

Minister Dr. Dow said at ministry level regarding the relationship between the two leaders is to ask the question ‘what you do is it for the country or is personal?’ She told Parliament that as the ministry they will only celebrate and appreciate those who do good for the country and not for personal gain. She said they however do not control what people speak at their individual level.