Independence Day Message
by sunday Standard Reporter
Theme: National unity and Self Reliance - 30th September, 2006
I greet you all my Fellow Citizens.
Forty years ago, we took charge of our destiny as an independent and sovereign nation. It is a source of pride to us all that we have, throughout those 40 years, sustained our cherished values of freedom and democracy.
Today, I ask you all to join me in paying tribute to my illustrious and patriotic predecessors, the late Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire, who together with their fellow leaders, guided our young democracy through the lean and difficult years of its existence.
Let us also pay tribute to their political opponents for their role as men and women of honour, whose active participation in the affairs of our young republic nurtured and sustained our democratic tradition.
I also take this opportunity to thank every citizen, young and old, whose devotion to duty, talent, sacrifice and positive attributes have built our country into what it is today. We applaud in particular our youth, whose remarkable sporting and artistic achievements have become a great source of pride to our nation.
With the longest track record of democracy and good governance, our country can today claim with legitimacy, a prominent role in the affairs of our continent. By human standards, we have reached a stage of adulthood and maturity and must challenge ourselves to live up to the expectations of our age.
Although many challenges still lie ahead, our accomplishments as a nation are the envy of many. Not so long ago we were being referred to as “Africa’s best kept secret.”
In recent years, however, there have been a multitude of surveys that recognise our country not only as a leader on this continent, but indeed in the wider global community. This is especially true in such areas as economic freedom, good governance, and control of corruption.
These accolades, it should be emphasised, all come from independent institutions and organisations - that is to say observers that have no special stake in making us feel good about ourselves.
This month we were once more in the global headlines as a result of a new World Bank study, which is reported to be the most comprehensive comparative governance survey ever published. I am proud to say that in it our country scored exceptionally well in all areas identified as being the key components of good governance, namely:
- Public Accountability and Freedom of the Press
- Respect for Human and Civil Rights
- Political Stability and the Absence of Violence
- Public Service Delivery and Regulatory Quality
- Rule of Law and Control of Corruption
Indeed, in terms of Political Stability, we were actually ranked above most of the world’s leading industrial economies, including all of the so-called “G8” nations: that is Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The World Bank Report, moreover, was published just days after the release of another report on Economic Freedom of the World, which also ranked Botswana as number 1 in the world in the area of Credit Market Regulation!
Such accolades should challenge us all to appreciate our own potential and market it more effectively. In this fast moving, competitive world, we can no longer afford to be shy about what we have to offer both within and beyond our borders.
Let us also take pride in the fact that the democracy and good governance we enjoy today is an integral part of our own value system; not an imposed foreign ideology. We should therefore pay tribute to all of the founders of our nation.
Above all, let us thank the Almighty God for protecting us and preserving our sovereignty, throughout the turbulent years of our region’s violent past. Let us also take pride in the fact that when our neighbours resisted violent and racist minorities, our nation remained at the frontline of their struggle. Their struggle was indeed, our struggle.
Even as brutal attacks were unleashed against our people and those we supported, our unshakeable belief in democracy strengthened our will to resist. The peace and freedom many of our neighbours enjoy today is therefore, to a very large measure, the product of our people’s solidarity and sacrifice. We should be proud of that accomplishment as we celebrate our own freedom.
The sustained economic progress we have registered over the past 40 years, prudence in the use of our nation’s resources, and our determination to remain a peaceful, united and proud nation, are all amongst the many reasons why we deserve to celebrate. My fellow citizens, let us today hold our heads high and congratulate ourselves for building from the ashes of poverty and colonial neglect, a country of which we can all be truly proud.
Like all countries, big or small, rich or poor, our achievements have come to us hand in hand with challenges. It is ultimately our determination to identify and overcome these challenges and short comings, that will attest to our greatness as a nation. As we steer our country towards year 2016 and beyond, let us service our nation’s engine along our journey, search our souls, and set ourselves even higher milestones.
It is in the latter context that I have today chosen to address you on two issues that I consider to be of utmost importance for us, that is, national unity and self - reliance.
Bagaetsho, we can proudly say that we have enjoyed 40 years of economic progress and international recognition because we remained united as a nation. We should therefore continue to widen our horizons beyond membership of our individual tribes as we consolidate our unity and develop into a truly modern nation.
The founders of our nation, in their great wisdom, took decisions that have bound our individual tribes into one proud and united nation. One such decision was that all the mineral resources of the country, irrespective of where they are found, will be used equitably for the benefit of all citizens. The nation will also recall that we took the decision that any citizen of Botswana can settle in any part of the country and be allocated land in that district, irrespective of his or her tribe.
I am concerned Bagaetsho, that some of our fellow citizens have at times expressed sentiments that are contrary to these wise decisions. We should also be careful of foreigners who, in their hostile and divisive campaigns, have tried to claim the ownership of minerals and other resources in certain parts of our country, for the exclusive benefit of one community.
Let us remember that the campaigns by those foreigners are not motivated by any feelings of affection towards our country, but by their own misplaced sense of superiority. They will be the first to laugh at us and call us names when we fight amongst ourselves.
It has been through prudent management of public resources that we were able to avoid some of the downturns that have been suffered by some other resource dependent economies.
It has, furthermore, been our consistent policy that all the natural resources of Botswana are entrusted to the state, irrespective of who owns the land on which such wealth is found. This has ensured that all of our citizens - irrespective of their ethnic or regional affiliation - have a collective stake and enjoy common benefits, rather than just those few who by chance might find themselves sitting on nature’s gifts. In this way we have been able to mitigate the potentially debilitating effects of inter-communal competition for resources.
Elsewhere in some parts of our continent, conflicts over resources have brought untold misery. It is therefore our patriotic duty to avoid such outcomes. We are a proud nation that is fully capable of resolving its own internal differences.
In order to build a strong and united nation, Bagaetsho, let us ensure that all sectors of our population, all tribes, big and small, and all age groups, feel they have a stake in the running of the nation’s affairs. Above all, everybody has to feel respected and worthy as a citizen of our great country.
In this context let me remind you, Bagaetsho, that there are no tribes in Botswana called, “Meratshwana.” For the sake of our nation, I urge those who have used such terms to desist. We should all feel blessed that the existence of our various tribes has enriched our nation’s culture and made us truly proud of who we are.
Similarly, let me caution that whilst it is perfectly legitimate for tribes to promote their individual cultures, we should avoid setting up exclusive organizations whose membership is comprised of members of only one tribe. I also urge us all to learn each others’ languages and cultures, so that we can fully appreciate our collective heritage.
Let me remind the nation that through consultation, which is an integral part of our national culture, we have resolved potentially divisive problems and remained united. It is in this spirit that I toured the country to address the nation on the issue of representation in Ntlo Ya Dikgosi.
Whilst I am fully aware that not everybody is happy with the outcome of the Balopi Commission, I am appealing to the nation to allow us to implement the current compromise solution whilst we seek ways of addressing grievances.
As I have said in the past, “democracy is always a work in progress.” I should however remind the nation that whilst chieftainship will remain an inseparable part of our culture, our goal of building a democratic and modern Republican system needs to prevail over narrow tribal sentiments.
As a nation, we need to accept that the resolution of problems that threaten to reverse our hard won achievements is our collective responsibility. In this regard, let me ask that, whatever our affiliations and business interests, we should speak with one voice as we try to reverse our current tendency to over indulge in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Building a productive and healthy nation should remain our common goal.
Bagaetsho, we can not claim to have fully attained our credentials as a democracy, unless we unequivocally respect the rights of women and accept them as equal to men. We must therefore pledge as a nation, to rid ourselves of all cultural practices and sentiments that assign women a subordinate role in the affairs of the family and of the nation.
My Government will therefore continue to elevate women to positions of authority. There can be no doubt that the women we have appointed to such positions have more than proved themselves to be capable and highly deserving.
SELF - RELIANCE
Bagaetsho, in my last address to the nation, I reminded all of us that “the challenges we face will require combined efforts and collective sacrifice.” I also reminded the nation that, regardless of the development strides we have made, “we are still very much a developing society, located within a marginalized continent.” If we are to attain the levels of development to which we aspire, we need to hold fast to our national principle of self - reliance.
As I travel throughout the country, I am reminded by many of you that we seem to be losing our grip on the time tested spirit of self -reliance. Whilst I am aware that many of our fellow citizens were born when our fortunes had enormously improved, I need to remind the nation that it was only through the spirit of self -help and hard work, that our poverty stricken country survived the worst phases of its existence.
Whilst the Government pledges to continue its policy of empowering the citizens, such programs can never be a substitute for our own individual effort and sacrifice. I therefore urge all of us to join hands in the service of our country.
We have come a long way to this day. Let us consolidate and build upon the enormous strides we have made as a nation. As we travel towards year 2016, let us do so with determination to build a nation of achievers. In the words of our great and beloved folk singer Ratsie Sethako, “A re chencheng” (Let us change).
Pula Pula Pula