It is at this point that the nation expects to hear and understand the president’s roadmap. In his inaugural speech in April this year, the President was full of promises, which have largely become just simple talk and less action. The president, upon assuming office had Batswana with high hopes that at least after 100 days, his ‘Out’ tray would carry people’s hopes and morale, tenets that have been dampened in the past 10 years of iron fist rule.
Observers maintain that so far the president has been more vocal on simply reversing Khama’s policies, firing people from the public service and cabinet and focusing on the internal fights of his party Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). While there was hope that there would be a clear roadmap from the president, nothing has come to the fore.
The Monday address is the opportunity for the president to prove that indeed he is fixing things by focusing on issues of national importance and restoring Batswana’s confidence in his administration, which some are now beginning to doubt.
He has to stick to his statement that he hates corruption and would not tolerate it. This is not a new statement as his predecessor sang the same song. Little, if not nothing, has been done to deal with corruption especially at government enclave. We still have high profile cases of corruption where people occupying high offices of leadership are not being prosecuted.
During oversight Parliament committees such as the Statutory Bodies and State Enterprise and Public Accounts Committee, it has been revealed that corruption is the order of the day. The president should take this seriously and act and not hang on the usual praise of international rating agencies who claim corruption is low in Botswana.
As promised by the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Nonofo Molefhi the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill should be brought before Parliament during the SONA session. The minister must also make his commitment in strengthening and empowering the institutions that deal with these matters.
“As you all know, Botswana faces a myriad of challenges such as unemployment, poverty, crime, HIV and AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse, amongst others. Therefore, one of my top priorities as the President of this country will be to address the problem of unemployment especially amongst the young people who constitute the majority of our population.
The young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future,” President Masisi said in April. This is yet to get underway.
Nothing much has been done and Batswana await the implementation of a combination of strategies required to stimulate economic growth which was to be implemented as a matter of urgency. We have new graduates who recently joined other unemployed youth. The issue of unemployment is a ticking bomb and needs the attention it deserves. Unemployment has in some quarters been associated with most of the social ills in the country.
These are the future leaders who demand answers now. There is still skills mismatch and this has made the industry to shun new graduates; therefore, the president has to firmly speak about the country’s vocational education.
Economic Diversification Drive (EDD)
This is one animal that is yet to be understood. Results are still to be realised and tangible proof be availed to the effect that indeed the programme is benefiting Batswana. The EDD has been introduced as an important strategy that is aimed at giving Batswana an opportunity to set up industries, to empower themselves and, in turn, create the much-needed employment. But where are we? Where are our success stories and what is being done to improve the programme?
The president explained early this year that in order to give concrete effect to the economic diversification aspirations, Government will prioritise the implementation of Cluster Development across various sectors, particularly the prioritised sectors of diamond beneficiation, tourism, beef, mining and financial services.
He said Government will also expedite the implementation of the Special Economic Zones which will contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of this country. It has however been observed that even SPEDU is struggling to get things running. It has emerged that companies in the SPEDU area are failing to sustain themselves.
The SPEDU revitalisation strategy has taken time to be implemented. It was reported recently that so far around 750 jobs have been created but the number continues to fluctuate because of challenges faced by companies that operate in the SPEDU region. There is lack of serviced land which makes it difficult to attract investors to set up businesses in the region.
Land and housing
Land allocation acceleration is also key and thousands of people are still waiting to be allocated land, especially for residential use. Others have already died before they could have a place they call home. This has depressed many citizens and it now seems to be igniting tribal fights as some tribes especially those in the periphery of the capital city feel cheated over their rights to own land.
The problem in the delay of allocation of land which all along has been an urban issue has now spread to rural areas. The Botswana Land Policy, which was adopted in 2015, has to be implemented. Government’s promise to give priority to the youth when allocating land for agriculture and business purposes still remains a dream for most of the young people who want to go into business.
His commitment in working with labour movements, and not against, has to come out clear. After promising to resuscitate the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) the government moved swiftly to derecognise most of the public service sector unions. This left thousands of public servants without a place to deliberate on their salaries and conditions of service.
Government being the largest employer has the responsibility to protect the country’s economy. For the past 10 years, public servants have been disgruntled and with the recent developments, trade unions have started to think they were sold a dummy, as the current administration is just a continuation of the past one, after all.
As a guarantee for a free press, the laws that were promised, especially the Freedom of Information should reach parliament with the same urgency that the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities is likely to. The media industry has through various structures such as Editors Forum and Botswana Media and Allied Workers Union placed their pleas before the President.
The industry is also on the brink of collapse because of the unwritten policy of advertising ban, which has to be lifted. If the industry is allowed to collapse because of this policy, democracy would be jeopardised as checks and balances and accountability would have no one to act on.