Work permits impasse could finally end



The first meeting of the private sector with newly inaugurated President Mokgweetsi Masisi at the High Level Consultative Council (HLCC) last week yielded some light at the end of the tunnel for foreign investors, who mostly suffered from arbitrary refusals and repudiations of work and residence permits.


Investors regularly had to pack their bags and relocate to other countries such as South Africa, leaving a few hundred Batswana employees in the lurch, sometimes because their spouses and children would not be given permits for whatever reason.


Masisi revealed that Cabinet has decided to make adjustments on Botswana’s immigration position. He cited that employers, investors who have been struggling with VISAs and permits “will now be facilitated with speed and efficiently.”


The business ecosystem of the country has for the better part of the last decade felt the impact of rejections and arbitrary repudiations of work and residence permits for foreign nationals who desired to work or run businesses in Botswana.


Business Botswana president, Gobusamang Keebine, told Global Business that there are no details as yet regarding the changes that president Masisi alluded to.


“We don’t have details yet regarding the changes; what I know is that they met as Cabinet last week and then the announcement was made,” he said, adding that “we will meet the secretariat of HLCC, who will indicate exactly what the requirements will be and what we as Business Botswana need to do.”


Keebine however, cautioned against a total unconditional opening up saying that often times, companies arrive only to give locals minimal wages and then pack up after a few years, having made their money in the country.


“We have been advocating for this for the past six years or so but we don’t want unconditional opening up; we need Batswana to participate meaningfully in this economy and not just as employees but as equity holders; it’s a two pronged focus,” said Keebine.


“I know other countries such as Angola are now cancelling the requirement for citizens to have equity in foreign owned companies but we can structure it in such a way that Batswana benefit meaningfully,” said Keebine.


In Parliament, last year legislators on both sides of the aisle, pleaded for liberalization of the issuance of permits, even pushing for the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) to be removed from the process as they are thought to be behind the vague ‘security reasons’ that are often proffered whenever individuals are refused entry or ejected from Botswana.


However, some observers have fingered the Masisi administration as the only body that could bring a remedy to the long standing impasse caused by what many termed a security neurosis. Many see the departure of former president Ian Khama, former Director General of DISS, Isaac Kgosi and former Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu as telling; with regards to the direction that Government could take on the issue.