Who won the battle of the manifestos?

If you want to know where the coun- try is headed in terms of education, economic development, land and job creation, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) manifesto is not a document to read.

The past five years of BDP rule has not ushered in a deliberate and genuine policy plan to address economic growth, self-reliance and sustainable and real job creation. Despite the inclusion of Ipelegeng – a President Ian Khama short-term poverty eradication initiative, unemployment remains high, coupled by declining life expectancy.

BDP manifesto, a 36-page document, outlines a roadmap for the country in a pathetic and depressing manner that cannot pass even a kindergarten test. The document is riddled in hyperbole and lacks credibility. But it will be grossly unfair to conclude that the BDP has not done anything tangible in the past.

The rollout of antiretroviral drugs has been a milestone leading to a significant reduction in cases of TB and fresh HIV infections. A medical school at the University of Botswana is also a significant

contribution to the health sector. Running through BCP’s manifesto is a simple focus on reversing economic failures. It is Dumelang Saleshando’s continued critique of the BDP policies that the ruling party has led an “economy on a free fall,” as a result of corruption and mismanagement. So there’s a focus on reducing red tape, redefining the agricultural sector “that is impoverishing the farmers and rising unemployment” and, very interestingly, changes to the way the Bargaining Council Service works.

The relationship between government and trade unions will be improved in BCP government. But much like the BDP, the 40-page BCP roadmap is also short on specifics, especially in relation to job creation and economic diversification. That is why it is with great anticipation that one looks forward to Umbrella for Democratic Change manifesto expected to be launched before the end of this month. Judged by its previous policy document, Botswana Movement for Democracy and Botswana National Front will surely present a more meaningful document.

As the country heads for its 11th democratic election, it is facing a number of challenges, that include; high levels of unemployment, an economy still heavily reliant on mineral resources, unreliable supply of water and electricity, an education system on its knees and high levels of poverty.

EDUCATION

This is one area that separates BDP promises to the reality. Botswana education system is declining in standards and the recent cabinet re-shuffle attests to that. Botswana needs more than achieving MDG 2 on universal primary education. She needs a public education system with meritocratic selection into secondary and tertiary institutions. A system with diverse courses of study, and strong emphasis on quality technical courses at tertiary level that will immediately replace the many bogus private institutions. Both BCP and BDP have not clearly articulated their intention to reform education. For BDP, it is more of the same, while BCP discusses low morale among teachers in schools.

These are not the root causes of Botswana education problems. The BDP promises to “continue to put funding into education.” Yes, but a lot of funds has been put into education, only to leak out to corruption and benefit a few. The BDP believes that education remains its ‘number one priority.’ But again, theory does not conform to reality as the just-ended Primary Schools Leaving Examination, Junior Certificate (JC) and Botswana General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) proved that BDP's approach to education has been invariably indifferent over the years. Having created a mess in the education sector, the BDP government shows signs of stress and is rattling the government enclave.

LAND

Perhaps the worst aspect of BDP’s land policy has been its indiffer- ence to land shortage. In Botswana land shortage quickly metamorphosed into a full blown crisis in 2012 when a youth movement was established to debate land shortage especially in major cities and towns. For a vast country with a population of 2.1 million, it appears the BDP has given up on efficient land management and fair distribution. For the BCP, a ‘comprehensive’ land audit will address severe land shortage. Conversely the ruling party promises to mount a tenure reform that responds to emerging land rights issues and promote access to land and property rights.

Of late, BDP has been discouraging its youth wing from joining a chorus of disgruntled youth who call for a more transparent land distribution system. Currently waiting lists at landboards are staggering throughout the country with Mogoditshane tipping the scale at around 140 000 applicants. With over 400 000 Batswana awaiting plots allocation countrywide, shortage of land breeds corruption. BDP’s sluggish response and failure even to publicly address land issues provoked protests at Batlokwa Land Board and Bamalete Landboard recently. Such indifference and sluggish response do not give the impression that Khama and his BDP take the worries of ordinary Batswana to heart. Te BDP’s public housing programme could be likened to a socialist experience. Take the housing initiative such as the Self-Help Housing Agency (SHHA). BDP says it will continue to fund housing initiatives. This is a broad and welcome development that benefits low income groups. However, the BDP has conveniently forsaken the middle class. Graduates have always been leſt to fend for themselves. As for the BCP, the party will introduce ‘flexible packages’ for Botswana Housing Corporation to promote home ownership.

ECONOMY

There are fundamental differences on the way the two parties intend run the country’s economy. The BDP has always been known for throwing money at problems and short on inculcating a culture of self-reliance. Promotion of self-reliance has not been at the core of BDP’s approach. Judged by Ipelegeng and Youth Employment Schemes (YES), BDP does not encourage a culture of self-reliance. YES and Ipelegeng do not prevent the erosion of work ethic and responsibility. Ipelegeng - a President Ian Khama driven short-term poverty eradication initiative - pays its 55 000 beneficiaries a living wage of about $2.80 a day, barely exceeding the international poverty measure of $2 a day. But despite advice from several quarters, BDP continues to promise the people social benefits that are simply unsustainable. With each electoral campaign, they added new promises, leaving the bill for subsequent generations. Te culture of entitlement is now widespread, and will take time to reverse. It’s tragic, particularly for the next generation. Te BDP should search for new social models. There’s no avoiding that. The BDP manifesto does not have a specific chapter addressing the party’s vision on the economy.

The BCP on the other hand took a more radical approach in the way their economy will look like. Adopting what they call a ‘citizen-led economic alternative’ the party notes that the key thrust of the economic strategy will be premised on the need to deliver inclusive growth and job creation leading to improvement in the quality of life for Batswana. But some of the promises made by the BCP-a party, which believes in Social Democracy-, are really of the same type as the BDP’s. Te BCP will however have to go a bit further. Take for instance the two parties’ take on agriculture. Both BCP and the BDP have made promises that they will concentrate on developing rural infrastructure in order to facilitate agricultural development in the country.

Both parties also promise to look for reliable and regular markets for Botswana beef. BDP, which is right leaning, has been thriving on populist programmes since President Ian Khama took office. It is therefore no surprise when the party commits to pursuing Khama’s pet projects such as Integrated Support Programme for Arable Development (ISPAAD), which has been widely disparaged by analysts and politicians alike. 

The BCP, which claims to be the strongest contender among the opposition to be the next in government by its ‘ready to lead’ mantra goes further to state that they will establish an agriculture bank and credit system to serve both large and small farmers, as well as emphasising agricultural education.

LABOUR RELATIONS

The BDP government’s relationship with trade unions is not something to write home about. No one comes closer to summing up the relationship between government and unions aptly than high court Judge Lot Moroka. He observed in one of his rulings that, the birth of public employee trade unions in Botswana, has been attended by severe birth pains, which are post-nataly disruptive. The party is however claiming otherwise. It is worth quoting how the BDP actually views its relationship with trade unions. “The Botswana government has been ensuring harmonious labour relations in the country to the extent that we have avoided wild-cat strikes.” On the other hand BCP notes: Government has adopted an anti-trade union stance and perceives organised labour as an impediment to good governance and economic development. The party promises to among others, move the Industrial Court from Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs set it as a specialised court of the high court.

Last modified on Monday, 19 May 2014 11:53

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