Wednesday, October 21, 2020

If Botswana was a gadget, the rightful thing to do was to press the “reset to factory settings” button

On Thursday Botswana watched as two legislatures of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) engaged in a bitter exchange of words as a result of the ongoing court case relating to the National Petroleum Fund monies.

The spat between the two ÔÇô Sadique Kebonang – who is also the minister of Energy and Moyo Guma – who was at some point a junior minister at Finance is just a tip of the iceberg of how unfortunate we are as Botswana when it comes to leadership, precisely in the past decade.

It is tempting to conclude that, over the past decade things have got worse, not better, precisely because courageous, skilful and imaginative leaders have been in short supply at the government enclave. We have been getting nothing but men and women who are self centred and have totally forgot about nation building.

The legacy of the outgoing administration can be summarised in two words, incompetent and impotent. If that is not the case, what else can explain the economic woes that we find ourselves in?

The failure of the current government’s development strategy to deliver on its promises, as evidenced by high unemployment rate and level of poverty amongst the natives should push us to look back at what used to work for us and what could work for us going forward.

In all his speeches, the finance minister Kenneth Matambo somewhat seems to be enjoying his old time song, “Government has no money” What he fails to accept is that it is not shortage of money that holds back our economy, but rather shortage of good imaginative ideas and the character to purse them.

For our economy to grow at a higher rate than it is now, we need imaginative servants of the people in the form of cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament ÔÇô both back benchers and opposition MPs.

As it stands, Botswana remains one of the few countries in the world where the government wealth is so immensely higher than that of citizens and companies put together. This is partially because of the failure to ensure that the money was accumulated from minerals over the years ended in the hands of the people. Our people remain landless, jobless and business less. Even the form of business that they used to do – Cooperative Societies has since died of. Just to share a few official statistics on the Co-Ops, there are currently 270 registered Co-operative Societies throughout the Country. Out of these, a total of 175 (65%) are operational, 23 (8%) are dormant, 43 (16%) are start-ups, while 29 (11%) are under liquidation.

 

On Wednesday, when presenting his ministry budget, the Minister responsible for Investment, Trade and Industry – Vincent Seretse dedicated a few minutes to talk about Cooperative Societies. We applaud the government’s efforts to resuscitate Co-Operative Societies.

There is no doubt that the social and economic benefits of co-operatives can have far reaching impact, but they need support from the development community including the legislatures to reach their full potential.

From where we stand, the questions of whether cooperatives can facilitate development in Botswana are largely understood in terms of their capability to yield employment opportunities and reduce poverty as a result. The business model also expands to creation of wealth for the large populace that has so far been left behind.

We all are away that Co-operatives used to be one of the engines for economic growth for the rural and urban communities of Botswana through ownership of businesses. It is unfortunate that, poor management has seen some of them closing shop but some were closed largely because of the government failure to protect its own people. It is quite evident that with the arrival of big businesses, more especially big South African retailers and lately a few other local giants in the country, most of the Co-Operatives failed to adapt to the new environment. There was no survival strategy from both the Co-Operatives and the government.

The recent developments relating to alleged corruption at the government enclave, and the lack of imaginative leadership means ordinary Batswana on the streets should not just hope for mere chance to change the economic story of this country. Like the national anthem rightfully state, it is time that men and women of this country summon the courage to change their present situation themselves.

Just like Maun West MP Kgosi Tawana Moremi rightfully said on Wednesday when debating the Investment ministry budget, without strong, imaginative and inspiring leadership, our people will continue eating crumb of bread whilst foreigners repatriate all the money they sucked from us.

Whether we like it or not, the overall status of our economy point to the failures of the current government to push buttons of “wealth creation” for the indigenous people hard. We are now left with nothing but a wish that Botswana was a gadget, in that case we would easily press the “reset to factory” button and rebuild this country again. The #Bottomline is that given the current status of our economy we certainly need new brooms at key institutions including some posts within the executive arm of the government.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Khama’s flying cries land in court

Former President Lt. Ian Khama, who steadfastly displays naked disdain for the government of the day, has taken aim at the Director...