At the end of it all there was no prolonged standing ovation from Members of Parliament. Not even from members of his party: the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
The one occasion when BDP MPs showed appreciation was when the president announced the growing participation rate in constituency sport tournaments-a brainchild of his-and that a number of players have graduated from constituency tournaments to mainstream league teams. In his close to three hours prime-time speech to the nation on Monday, Khama said exactly what many expected to hear-lots of paragraphs and nothing new.
No promises made. No commitments made on new sustainable jobs. Though it was billed as Khama’s big speech, no decisive announcements were made, save for the one that Tirelo Sechaba will be reintroduced. But this was not a big announcement. Khama was merely reiterating an earlier announcement he made recently-during his numerous Kgotla meetings. Many believe nothing really happens after the president’s speech. And certainly many were not inspired by the speech. University of Botswana student, Billy Matlhagela (28), told the Botswana Guardian’s sister publication, The Midweek Sun that there is a lot of playing around with words and repeating the same themes in all the State Of the Nation addresses without any substance or walking the talk. Botswana Congress Party president, Dumelang Saleshando thinks the speech was too sugarcoated.
Debating in parliament on Wednesday the BCP leader picked a number of contradictions between Monday’s speech and others made by the same president a few years back. Decoding Khama’s speech Saleshando noted that paragraph 49 talks about the problems facing the agriculture sector but completely forgets about the solutions he made a few years ago about the same problem. The president seems to have forgotten about the Agricultural Insurance Scheme that he pledged to introduce in 2008 to protect farmers against risks caused by climatic variability, he noted.
“He has not delivered on his promises. He has no moral authority to talk about delivery because he has failed.” One other contradiction is that the president announces a decline in poverty but at the same time announces a bigger budget aimed at reducing poverty. Adds Saleshando: “Like before, the recently delivered state of the nation address is painfully lacking in content, promise and creativity. It follows a boring precedent set by the ones that came before it.” One of Khama’s own BDP members Daniel Kwelagobe also seemed to challenge the promises made by his government.
On Monday Khama said quality education could never be attained without the active participation of parents, teachers and the wider community, as well as willing and disciplined students. However Kwelagobe has a different view. According to him quality education will not be attained as long as students are taught under trees at primary schools. Kwelagobe, who is MP for Molepolole South, said some students in his area are still taught under trees. Kwelagobe also questioned the constant lack of water and electricity despite promises made earlier.
This is what Khama said in 2010, “To further mitigate the high costs associated with electricity connections, last month we began the phased introduction of a basic P5000 National Electricity Standard Connection fee, which is scheduled to reach all areas by October 2011.” Kwelagobe on Wednesday wondered whether this has changed or not because in Molepolole which is a bit far from the Botswana Power Corporation transformers people are charged exorbitant fees amounting to P600 000. The MP wondered why will government announce such initiatives if it is not ready to implement them.
On Monday the president spent a longtime speaking about the youth. He dedicated at least 11 paragraphs of his speech to the youth. The second longest time he spent on a subtopic. This is where he announced the reintroduction of Tirelo Sechaba, which will enroll up to 15, 000 participants next year. He also talked about the success of other youth programmes such as the YES Boot Camps. But some of the youth political leaders feel it was just rhetoric.
Phenyo Segokgo of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) who says hewas not inspired by the Monday speech argues that some progammes such as the Youth Development Fund (YDF) are failing. This is because, he says, of a lack of clear policy from government to sustain such programmes. Segokgo notes that most of the youth funded projects are collapsing because of a lack of markets.
He dismissed the reintroduction of Tirelo Sechaba saying government should instead come up with sustainable jobs for the youth. “The government has no clear cut job creation strategy and Khama failed to commit himself,” he noted. Saleshando also dismissed Tirelo Sechaba as another short-term programme.