Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi was sworn in as the 5th President of Botswana on 1 April 2018. He follows Ian Khama, who as has become traditional, stepped down from office to make way for his Vice-President Masisi with 18 months still to go to the next elections in October 2019.
Masisi's father, Edison Masisi, was a long-serving member of Parliament and had been a member of the Cabinet on several occasions. While at school in Gaborone, the young Masisi showed considerable talent for theatrical acting, including an acclaimed performance in a stage version of Cry, the Beloved Country. After graduating from the University of Botswana in 1984, he became a teacher and moved up the national education ladder. In 1989 he obtained a Masters in Education from Florida State University and later worked for UNICEF in Botswana.
After becoming a Member of Parliament for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, he rose rapidly to become Minister of Education and Skills Development in October 2014. President Khama appointed him Vice-President the same year. Khama also appointed Masisi as the Chancellor of the University of Botswana in July 2017, following the death of former President Quett Masire who had served in that capacity.
Until the global recession of a few years ago, Botswana was one of the fastest growing countries in the world but its heavy dependence on diamonds and other extractive industries meant that growth Stowed down and unemployment increased. The diamond market has stabilised and the outlook is promising but Masisi will need all his skills to shepherd the country to renewed growth and tackle underemployment while balancing the budget. With his inherent charm and interpersonal skills, it seems that Botswana has once again succeeded in getting the right person in the right job at the right time.
In keeping with the AU's declaration of 2018 as Africa's Anti-Corruption Year, Botswana hosted a regional conference on battling corruption organised by the EC A and the AU's southern region offices and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime of Botswana. According to Transparency International, Botswana is Africa's least corrupt country, but do you see threats from this quarter?
There are many threats. One is that those who perpetrate corruption never cease busily identifying loopholes and gaps. They never cease in finding new coalitions and new methods--particularly now that we are increasingly digitising.
The transition from manual payment systems to electronic payment systems has unique challenges. If that can be broken through, such as through hacking and methods like that, it presents a lot of risk.
But we also see risk that's brought about by new values that emerge as more convenient products and services, and opportunities to spend on those leisure items, develop and the appetite for those grows. Corruption may be stimulated by the general marketing of a new good or service.
There is always a threat from the degree to which those who man institutions to stem corruption, to prevent corruption, to investigate corruption, can get shaken. They too are exposed to temptation or persuasion and if our laws, our systems are weak at one end, this may have a ripple or deleterious effect at the other end.
For example, if our judicial system was compromised in one way or the other that would clearly weaken our capacity to contain and deal with even known corruption because the court system may not be able to process it.