IN HIS timely counsel the Botswana Chamber of Mines (BCM) executive officer Charles Siwawa shares lessons of history through a voice of rationality, offering clarity, frugality and solutions as well as good governance wisdom.
Truly, Zambia can learn valuable lessons from Botswana on how it has utilised its vast mineral resources through good governance, low levels of corruption and value addition as well as the need to diversify the economy beyond the mining sector.
Needless to say, for years, Botswana has been known economically as an African success story and politically as a beacon of democracy. At one time, IMF got a loan from the government of Botswana for onward lending to other countries of the world. Such was the state of the nationâ€™s economy. Civil servants including cabinet officials are perhaps the most disciplined lot on the continent.
They are not allowed to drive government vehicles after office hours, or over weekends and public holidays. Government vehicles are expected to be parked at the government transport yard at 17:00 hours, during weekends and public holidays. On the issue of financial management of government projects, Botswana prudently undertakes and executes donor-funded projects to the extent that any savings realised are thankfully given back to the financing donors.
In sharp contrast, government officials in Zambia are wedded to the ostentatious lifestyle to the extent of mismanaging government funds that come into their custody as part of their job responsibilities.
Year-in and year-out the annual Auditor Generalâ€™s reports can attest to this fact. And expecting them to emulate President Edgar Lungu to reduce their salaries by 50 percent seems to be a pipedream.
Admittedly, in both Botswana and Zambia foreign direct investment is in general something that is to be welcomed. The worrying thing today is the terms and conditions upon which those investments are taking place, especially when it comes to the issue of land, where the perceived relative benefits between the investors and the host countries are not always clear.
These deals have too often been made in private between the traditional and political leadership and the foreign investors, so the parliaments donâ€™t know the terms of the deals; the citizens donâ€™t know either, and what one would say is that there ought to be greater transparency and involvement of the parliaments and civil society so that they can debate and agree on how best these investments should be made, what the mutual obligations between the investors and the countries are, and how fair they are. Probably, Zambia could learn more lessons from Botswana regarding land issues.