Saturday, November 19, 2016

Khama’s Un-Pan-Africanism Irks South Africa
November 18, 2016
Peter Fabricius, Correspondent
Zimbabwe Herald

SOUTH Africa under President Jacob Zuma’s administration evidently enjoys better political relations with northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, than the western neighbour, Botswana.The comparison is revealing about Pretoria’s basic world view.

The reason for SA’s better political relations with Zimbabwe than Botswana is less about governance than about ideology.

The African National Congress (ANC) government clearly prefers President Mugabe’s aggressively anti-Western, anti-neo-colonialist and enthusiastically pan Africanist posture to what it quietly regards as Khama’s pro-Western and un-Africanist stance.

Botswana’s criticism of SA’s decision to leave the ICC irritated Pretoria, enormously.

On these scores, Khama has recently confirmed a few times that Botswana is indeed an outlier in the region and even perhaps the continent.

In October, he told a Reuters reporter Zimbabwe’s 92-year-old leader should, “without doubt,” have vacated State House “years ago”.

Then Khama’s government issued a statement saying it was “regrettable” that SA was pulling out of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Botswana is the Hague-based court’s strongest defender in Africa even as the rest of the continent’s relations with the ICC continue to deteriorate.

And then, just for good measure, Khama’s foreign minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi suggested to her SA counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane last week that Khama’s scheduled visit to SA to meet Zuma should be postponed because by then Zuma might have been removed from office by the Democratic Alliance’s no-confidence vote in Parliament.

One can imagine Nkoana-Mashabane’s indignation at receiving this missive. According to the Sunday Times, she told Venson-Moitoi that Zuma would still be securely ensconced in office on Friday. Khama duly visited.

Whether Khama really thought the ANC was about to jettison Zuma or was just mischievously highlighting Zuma’s domestic political predicament is not clear. Either way, it clearly irritated Pretoria, enormously.

As had Botswana’s criticism of Pretoria’s decision to leave the ICC. South Africa’s High Commissioner to Botswana and Sadc Mdu Lembede told the Sunday Standard that “nobody can tell us about encouraging impunity. Nobody has a right to say that”.

He noted pointedly that on June 30, 2003 Botswana had signed a Bilateral Immunity Agreement with the US, pledging not to extradite American citizens to the ICC.

Lembede no doubt intended to underscore South Africa’s apparent perception that Botswana is a stooge of the US.

Pretoria also believes that Khama is not committed to the continent, is not a “pan Africanist”.

Apart from his criticism of President Mugabe, an official African icon, and his support for the ICC, which the African Union regards as an anti-African weapon of neo-imperialists, Khama very rarely — if ever — attends AU summits, which he dismisses as mere talkshops, they say.

Pretoria believes Khama is not committed to the continent, is not a “pan Africanist”.

Khama’s eccentric positions are stoking tensions between SA and Botswana about the election in January of the new AU Commission chairperson.

Sadc has officially endorsed Venson-Moitoi as its candidate for the post.

And after his meeting with Khama on Friday, Zuma publicly confirmed his support for her.

Nonetheless there is clearly very little enthusiasm for Venson-Moitoi in Pretoria, and Gaborone evidently suspects SA is “de-campaigning” her.

A senior SA official confides that if he were in Zuma’s seat at the AU summit in January, he would take advantage of the secret ballot to vote against Venson-Moitoi, “because Khama is not a pan Africanist”. Whether Zuma feels the same remains to be seen.

Another burr in relations between the neighbours is the working of the Southern African Customs Union. This union sets a common external trade tariff around the perimeter, with free trade among its members within that perimeter. It has dictated economic relations among its member states for 106 years.

The revenues accruing from this common external tariff are distributed disproportionately among the five members, with a much larger proportion going to the four smaller “BLNS” countries than their share of imports would dictate. For these countries, Sacu revenues represent a critical percentage of government income.

But SA has been agitating for several years for the formula to be revised, suggesting it can no longer dispense so much of what it clearly regards as disguised development aid. Botswana and the other smaller members point out that they have paid a high price over the years for this revenue by providing SA with an open market for its exports.

They argue that they have been largely constrained from reciprocating by SA’s dominant economy and its control of Sacu policy.

The statistics seem to bear this out.

Last year SA enjoyed an immense trade surplus of about R53 billion with Botswana, exporting about R59 billion worth of goods to it, and importing just over R6 billion, according to the International Trade Centre.

Analyst Gerhard Erasmus writes in the online trade journal Tralac this month that “South Africa plays the dominant role in Sacu and carries the bigger responsibility for solving its problems. The management of the Common External Tariff is done by Pretoria and includes rebates and duty drawbacks which are extensively used as part of South Africa’s industrial policies.

— ISS.

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