Botswana swears in retired teacher as its new president

Botswana on Sunday swore in its fifth president, a retired teacher Mokgweetsi Masisi. Masisi, the former Vice president takes over from former army general Ian Khama who stepped down on Saturday after ruling the country for a decade.

The ceremony took place in the country’s capital, Gaborone, where lawmakers, security forces, the judiciary and even members of the public were in attendance. Surprisingly, the people of Botswana came out of their homes to witness the ceremony despite the morning downpour of rain.

Masisi becomes third Botswana’s leader outside the Khama dynasty since its independence from Britain in 1966. During the swearing-in ceremony, Masisi said that he would give priority to tackling youth unemployment and diversifying its economy which has been dependent on Diamond trade for years.

Botswana has been one of the world’s fastest growing economies since gaining independence, averaging about 5% per annum over the past decade. Botswana’s impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, and a cautious foreign policy.

According to Reuters news agency, however, the country’s opposition predicted little change, saying Masisi as deputy president was instrumental in an economic strategy that had failed to adapt the economy to the needs of a new generation of finance and science graduates.

“There is no need to celebrate, the change of guard will just be cosmetic. As vice president he … failed even at the time he was at the ministry of education,” a spokesman for the UDC opposition coalition, Moeti Mohwasa told Reuters.

However, Masisi noted that the new administration’s top priorities will be “to address the problem of unemployment, especially among the young people who constitute the majority of our population,” as “Botswana faces a myriad of challenges, such as unemployment, poverty, crime, HIV/AIDs, alcohol and drug abuse, amongst others.”

Masisi, 55 will remain the president of the country for 18 months before the national elections scheduled for October 2019. Batswanas will vote for their members of parliament and then the party with the majority of votes, in turn, elects a president.