Botswana-Bophuthatswana relations in the context of Lucas Mangope’s quest for international diplomatic recognition, 1977-1994
Makgala, Christian John
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This article is an account of the relations between independent Botswana and her South African Black homeland neighbour of Bophuthatswana, whom Botswana steadfastly refused to recognise as a sovereign state. Bophuthatswana was used by South Africa to punish Botswana for assisting liberation movement groups such as the African National Congress (ANC) in their struggle against apartheid. Lucas Mangope, president of Bophuthatswana, tried to pressurize Botswana into recognising Bophuthatswana through diplomatic relations. Initially, he tried to capitalise on the common Tswana cultural heritage between Botswana and Bophuthatswana and their long common border to achieve his objective. The paper also looks at how Mangope sought to use Pan-Tswana links and soft power on the main opposition party, Botswana National Front (BNF), to get the international recognition for Bophuthatswana. The focus then shifts to how a failed military coup that sought to oust Mangope in 1988 further strained the relations between Botswana and Bophuthatswana. Finally, the article discusses Botswana’s response to the demise of apartheid and Bophuthatswana in 1994. The paper adds to the corpus of literature on the contribution of Botswana to the liberation of South Africa and the Southern African region generally which President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana rather mistakenly lamented in late June 2021 that it has been neglected in terms of documentation. This points to the need for teaching of the history of Botswana in the country’s education system which is currently very limited.