The State of the Nation Address delivered by President Festus Mogae over a fortnight ago has been described as “very flat and sterile.”
In what is perhaps the most comprehensive and engaging dismissal of the speech by any single member of parliament from either the ruling party or opposition benches, the Botswana Congress Party’s solitary member for Gaborone Central, Dumelang Saleshando, ridiculed Mogae’s presentation as “tired from a tired Head of State leading a very tired ruling political party.”
Saleshando’s biggest gripe is that by presenting such an “out of steam” speech, Mogae had failed to lead from the front.
The president missed a golden opportunity to set higher standards.
He behaved just like the rest of the BDP members.
“It could possibly mean two things; maybe he has run out of ideas, which is understandable. He has been at the helm of the state for eight years. Or maybe the entire organization that he represents, the Botswana Democratic Party, has no new agenda, because it is also tired after forty years of governance,” he said, surprisingly to the delight of even some BDP backbenchers, who were clearly mesmerised by his sharp intellect, his love for detail and an unmistakable grasp of issues.
Saleshando said Mogae is not the right man to lecture parliament, let alone the nation, on accountability and performance, given the president’s now irrefutable failure to teach his chosen successor, Ian Khama, the same.
“For the first time in our history, we will possibly have a Vice President who, for ten years, will have spent a minimum amount of time attending parliamentary debates. It is hardly 35 minutes since parliament started and he is gone for the day, taken a day off, it was a busy day at work for the Vice President. Off he goes,” said the youthful MP.
Further bashing Mogae, Saleshando said it is pointless for Mogae to pretend he cherishes the independence of parliament when he has sat without acting on the recommendations of a report that sought to enhance parliamentary independence.
“He has done nothing to demonstrate that he is committed to ensuring that we do have truly independent Parliament. I do not think we should just clap our hands because he has now pronounced that he supports it. Action speaks louder than words.”
He then went on to decry the weaknesses of such important officers such as the Ombudsman, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, saying the “executive led by Mogae has slept” on assignment to empower these offices.
On productivity of the national assembly, he said he shared Mogae’s concerns about low productivity of the house, but said he is dismayed that a high number of motions debated and passed by parliament have not been acted on by government.
That said, he said there is need for a new strategy that would enable parliament to debate and come up with more motions.
He took serious exception at the statement Mogae had made to the effect that differences should not be allowed to hold the nation at ransom.
He said such differences were BDP and should never reach the floor of parliament, especially under the guise of a State of the Nation Address.
“What does this mean? What is the President trying to say? Should we be making these things to be part of the State of the Nation Address? This is not the State of party factions; it should remain a State of the Nation Address.”
On the contentious issue of the Central Kalahari Game reserve and the relocation of Basarwa, Saleshando said this is one area where government had been the most “incoherent.”
He accused the government of reneging in some of the promises they had made in some of their Wildlife Management Reports.
“Now when we keep making statements like we are trying to educate Basarwa, is that really the issue? I do not think so because even in Old Xade there was a primary school, in New Xade there is a primary school. You could have educated them within the CKGR. After all, the CKGR is such a massive piece of land, 52 000 kilometre square m2.”