… but some will say aspects of COPE leader’s statements betrayed a poor understanding of the reality in Botswana
South Africa’s opposition Congress of the People (COPE) has exalted Botswana but warned that the country’s model of governance could be emasculated by its much larger neighbour south of the Molopo River.
The National Chairperson of COPE, Pakes Dikgetsi, told the South African media over the weekend that Botswana was an African success story worth emulating where necessary.
Dikgetsi’s statement coincided with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s arrival in the country on a working visit.
Ramaphosa touched down in Gaborone on Saturday on the last leg of a regional tour that also saw him landing in both Angola and Namibia.
A press release form the Ministry of International Affairs and International Cooperation stated that the SA leader was to hold bilateral discussions with President Ian Khama on issues of mutual interest before departing on the same day.
COPE, a break-away formation from the ANC, currently has three members in the South African National Assembly.
In his calculated statement, Dikgetsi stated that there were two major lessons that Ramaphosa could learn from Botswana. The first lesson to take away from his visit, he said, was Botswana’s political stability.
He noted that while in South Africa political ousters and intra-party soft coups appeared to have morphed into a recurring phenomenon, such things were an alien occurrence in Botswana.
In an irony of ironies, COPE itself a resulted from such an ouster that took place in 2008.
Founding members of COPE split away from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in protest over the way the then South African President Thabo Mbeki was hounded out of office.
“All the Botswana presidents have completed their terms of office without divisive and destructive upheavals, unlike what we have experienced here at home since 2008,” Dikgetsi noted.
But some may say aspects of his statement betrayed a poor understanding of the reality in Botswana. An instance of this was view that unlike in South Africa, party and state were kept separate in Botswana.
“They do not conflate the party with the state and are led by strong constitutionalists who don’t behave like chameleons.”
Furthermore, Dikgetsi was quoted as saying that the second lesson that Ramaphosa would find was the real definition of true economic improvement in the country.
“What will President Ramaphosa find in Botswana? He will find a real good story as opposed to the fallacy peddled by his party of policy stability which leads to economic progress,” he said.
Dikgetsi is also quoted as pointing out that the African Development Bank’s Group Outlook 2018 for Botswana forecast real GDP growth projected to rise to nearly 5%, up from 4.3% in 2016 and an estimated 4.5% in 2017.
“Compared to the performance of South Africa over the past nine years of the Jacob Zuma era of economic destruction, since the 2008/9 economic downturn, the Botswana story is very impressive and a source of envy and worthy to be emulated, where appropriate,” he said.
Less than a fortnight ago, South African opposition leader, the Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane, made similar remarks in Gaborone.
Maimane spoke about the so-called ‘cadre deployment’ where ANC operatives are deployed to positions in government, arguing that the method must make way for the hiring of suitably qualified professionals.