The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) last week had misgivings President Mokgweetsi Masisi may have reneged on his election promise of manufacturing electric cars to create employment.
This emerged during a panel discussion to dissect the SONA under the heading “Marking the stake of the workers in the State of the Nation Address.”
The panellists were made up of experts in labour market issues, unionists and politicians.
Presenting the BFTU response, Secretary General (SG) Thusang Butale said under the Economy and Employment pillar they expected the President to also make mention of the production of the electric car.
“The President said absolutely nothing about this much publicized election promise. In fact, the President said nothing about the manufacturing sector, especially what government has been doing to promote the manufacturing sector and what it will be doing to promote the same in the next coming 12 months,” he stated.
He noted that for a country that is seeking to diversify its economy, one would have expected the President to lay down the road map on how his government is going to champion the manufacturing sector.
“It is common cause that the manufacturing sector is one of the key sectors that are labour intensive therefore a source of job creation. We had expected to hear what efforts will be made in using this sector to diversify the economy and create jobs,” said Butale.
The SG said on the electric car itself, President Masisi owes it to the nation to at least update it on what his government’s thoughts are on the envisaged project. He also noted that even if the government is not ready for the project, there is need to say so.
Like many, the federation did not stop short of saying the speech was too long.
“It was long with unnecessary details of which some are already common knowledge that could have been left out and some paragraphs did not add value to the speech.
Representing the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Member of Parliament for Selebi-Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse said the SONA was uninspiring. He said it was more like a project appraisal peppered with unnecessary details.
“It was un-inspiring in a sense that there are no new ideas in terms of how the economy will be revamped with a view to create jobs for young people,” noted Keorapetse.
The Selebi-Phikwe West MP went on to say that beneficiation is just mentioned with no clear set targets.
To the President’s defence and also BDP legislator for Kanye South, Dr Lemogang Kwape made a remark to the panellists that if they felt the speech was too long then why are they questioning the things that were left out.
“The President wanted to give the nation an overview of how the government is doing and how the nation is doing in all its forms, be it workers and be it businesses,” Dr Kwape noted.
He added that in his view the President did a sterling job and therefore did not share the same sentiments with Keorapetse’s that the SONA was uninspiring.
“I was inspired and I will tell you why I was inspired, there are things that were done for the first time in this SONA, the President acknowledged and appreciated Batswana,” he continued.
In response to the electric car, Dr Kwape said that for those that appreciate science will know that there is a lot that goes into research and development.
“There is different stages of development, it is not something that you promise now and deliver the next minute. There will be an update in terms of what we promised as time goes,” he added.
In terms of comments that insinuated that they are not living up to their 2019 manifesto, Dr Kwape noted that the manifesto is delivered within the 5 years that the party is in government and that they are in the early phase of government.
He also reiterated what the Covid-19 pandemic has done to the world economy in his response.