BotswanaPost, the government-owned postal service, is reliable, but often slow. They have post offices in all the larger towns, and then a network of many agencies in some of the larger villages. You'll find a brief listing of these on www.botspost.co.bw and also details under 'Postal Services' in the yellow pages section at the back of the telephone directory. These include offices or agencies in Francistown, Ghanzi, Gumare, Gweta, Kasane, Maun, Nata, Nokaneng, Rakops, Sepopa and Seronga.
Currently letters are classified by size, with a 'standard' size being up to 120mm x 235mm x 20mm, and a 'large' one up to 229mm x 324mm x 20mm. Provided they weigh under 200g, postal rates are:
Botswana SADC region Europe Elsewhere
in pula surface/air surface/air surface/air
postcards 0.55 0.90/1.95 0.90/1.95 0.90/1.95
standard 0.55 1.10/1.95 1.45/2.75 1.65/3.30
large 1.45 4.20/5.50 4.95/9.35 5.50/11.00
over-sized 2.35 8.15/11.00 9.90/16.50 11.00/19.80
SADC – the Southern Africa Development Community – is a regional grouping of states and includes Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
There is a post restante service at all the major post offices.
Botswana's telephone system is generally very good, and you can access some remarkably offbeat places by just dialling from overseas. There's very rarely a need to redial repeatedly to get a line, as happens in so many countries in the region.
To dial into the country from abroad, the international access code for Botswana is 267. From inside Botswana, you dial 00 to get an international line, then the country's access code (eg: 44 for the UK, or 1 for the USA), then omit the first 0 of the number you are calling.Number changes
From 2001 to 2003 there's been a rolling programme of number changes which, when complete, will ensure that the number for every land line in Botswana has seven digits, rather than the previous six. Normally the old and new numbers have both worked in parallel for two to four months, during a 'change-over' period, and the transitions have been run efficiently and smoothly.
So if you're looking at any old literature and see a six-digit number in Botswana, then it's likely to be out of date. The main ones that you're likely to come across include:
Kasane changed from 65xxxx to 625xxxx
Nata changed from 61xxxx to 621xxxx
Maun changed from 66xxxx to 686xxxx
Francistown changed from 21xxxx to 241xxxx
With more numbers overall, Gaborone's changes are much more complex. For example, to illustrate just a few of the main ones:
30xxxx changed to 390xxxx 35xxxx changed to 395xxxx
31xxxx changed to 391xxxx 37xxxx changed to 397xxxx
32xxxx changed to 392xxxx 39xxxx changed to 310xxxx
34xxxx changed to 394xxxx 5xxxxx changed to 31xxxxx
If you've got web access then there's a particularly useful website site run by Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, www.btc.bw, which includes a residential directory, the white pages, at www.btc.bw/dirwhite.htm, and a business directory, the yellow pages, at www.btc.bw/yellow.asp. This is a service to find out a number for any person, or business, in Botswana – but you can also input an old number to find out how it has been changed. It's excellent when it works, but note that fax numbers, or anything else not in the usual directories, don't seem to be covered.Public phones
Dotted around the main towns you'll find public phone boxes, some of which take coins and others phonecards. A recent innovation are the 'scratch and dial' cards, available from post offices, fuel stations and some shops. These are available in three denominations – P20, P40 and P100 – and incur the same call charges as a normal payphone. The cards have a number on the back, only revealed when you scratch it. With this you dial 1351 (a free call) from any phone, and following the voice prompts to enter the card number and then the number you wish to call. The cost of this call is then deducted from the card's balance. You can use this repeatedly until your card's balance reaches zero.Fax
If you are trying to send a fax to, or within, Botswana then it's often wise to use a manual setting to dial the number. Then listen for a fax tone on the line yourself, and only when you finally hear one should you press the 'start' button on your machine to send the fax. You'll find a directory of fax numbers at the start of the telephone directory.
Telex machines are still used in some places, but are becoming less and less common. Where they do exist, they provide communication that you can instantly verify. You need not worry if your message has arrived, as the answer-back code will confirm that for you. Again, you'll find a list of these near the start of the telephone directory.
Email and the internet
Like most places, Botswana is rapidly adopting email and you'll now find that most people are on email, and a lot of businesses have websites. That said, outside of the main towns, email is often limited to a radio-based service known as 'bushmail', which has a tiny bandwidth and so is only practical for simple text messages. (Never send attachments to a bushmail address!)
With a small population, many in rural locations, the press here is equally small, and partly relies on the larger South African media companies. However, Botswana has several newspapers, radio and TV stations.Independence issues
Botswana's small media is generally fairly free and expresses its opinions, even when they disagree with government policy. Even media which are owned by the government are obliged by law to give basic coverage of opposition views as well as the official versions. That said, disagreements do occur on a fairly regular basis, and clearly the independent press here fights a continuing battle to remain independent.
In May 2001, all government offices were instructed to stop using the two independent weekly papers, The Guardian
and The Midweek Sun
, following their criticism of Vice-President Ian Khama. Given that the government is the largest advertiser in these papers, this had significant commercial impact. Shortly after this, the papers' editors began proceedings against the government and, in late September, a High Court judge ruled that the advertising ban was unconstitutional as the authorities were deemed to be applying unfair financial pressure on the papers in order to curtail their right to freedom of expression.
Subsequently, the government has looked into bringing out a 'Mass Media Communications Bill' which would establish a 'press council', though critics have decried this as state censorship by another name – and it's not yet been passed through parliament.
Occasionally the press also comes into the firing line for sensationalism, which is claimed to be fuelling ethnic tensions, and once recently a High Court judge started proceedings against Mmegi
In late April 2001, the head of news and current affairs at the official Botswana Television (BTV) station quit his job in protest about government interference in the station's editorial policy and programming. He alleged that officials had threatened him, and that the authorities had blocked the broadcast of a documentary on a South African woman who had been convicted of murder by a Botswana court and subsequently executed.
Botswana's most widely read newspapers are the Botswana Guardian
and Mmegi: The Reporter
; both are weekly. Mmegi
has the largest circulation (about 27,000 copies) and comes out every Friday; it's a fairly weighty tome. Recently this has spawned a sister-publication, the Mmegi Monitor
, which comes out on a Tuesday. Other papers include the Botswana Gazette
, the Midweek Sun
and the government's free weekday newspaper, the Daily News
Botswana has a couple of radio stations that broadcast around the main towns, but there's generally nothing but long-distance shortwave services away from these.
The state-run Radio Botswana has two stations, both mixing Setswana and English in their schedules, and often their programmes. The non-commercial Radio Botswana One (RB1) has no advertising and majors on news and current affairs, whilst the commercial station Radio Botswana Two (RB2) features mainly popular music from ballads, R&B, house, reggae, fusion and jazz to pop and disco. Within this you'll find the usual inane banter, as well as full news bulletins at 07.00, 13.00, 18.00 and 21.00 every weekday.
Alternative independent stations include Yarona FM (106.6MHz) and GabzFM (96.2MHz). See www.advertiser.bw/gabzfm.htm for the schedules of the latter.
Botswana launched its first national television service on July 31 2000. Based in new headquarters on the outskirts of Gaborone, this is part of the Department of Information and Broadcasting (which also runs Radio Botswana's two stations). This broadcasts for just a few hours in the evening, usually 17.00–21.00, and originally aimed to carry at least 60% local content.
Apparently in the months preceding the launch there was some doubt about it being on schedule, so a consultancy team from Britain's BBC was brought in. They observed that, 'Ten days before the launch, the general manager and his colleagues laughed at the idea that the launch would take place on time. The government even cancelled plans for a lavish ceremony and speech by the president at the national stadium on launch day. So we booked the stadium and arranged a charity shield football match between the country's two best teams, which attracted a bigger television audience on July 31 than the abandoned show would have done.' This charity shield match has now become a regular fixture.
In Gaborone there is a private channel, Gaborone Television, which is owned by Gaborone Broadcasting Company (GBC) and funded by advertising. Throughout Botswana most people with televisions are connected to one of the large South African networks – like the MultiChoice satellite service. There is no cable TV.