Monday, September 28, 2020

In defence of Jacob Nkate

It is not the practice of the Botswana Democratic Party Youth Wing to respond to each and every single item/article in the media about us, the Botswana Democratic Party or government, especially those articles that carry trivial and venomous attacks on us, lest we lend some credibility to such articles.

The Botswana Democratic Party Youth Wing views other youth movements across the political divide as stakeholders in the democratic processes of this republic, the Botswana Congress Party Youth League included. This explains why we strongly believe that, like gender issues, as championed by women, youth challenges, concerns and problems, concern all young people, irrespective of political affiliation. We are bound by the same challenges hence the need for a focused approach towards a common destiny. We value and respect the views of our fellow young people across the political spectrum.
However, we very much appreciate that by the mere fact that we belong to various political parties, an attribute of our enviable political setup, we are bound to advance and promote the views, policies and agenda of our political movements.

It has of late become very fashionable and interesting to call for the resignation of the Honourable Minister of Education and Skills Development, Mr. Jacob Nkate (MP) who is also the Secretary General of the Botswana Democratic Party.
Those who have so audibly called for the Honuorable Minister’s resignation claim to be so concerned about problems in the education ministry so much that they believe or think that his resignation shall be a panacea to the ministry’s problems. Of course, as the youth of the Botswana Democratic Party, we believe that this is a veiled assault on both the Honourable Minister as a person and the Botswana Democratic Party, especially conveniently so during this time prior to our national general elections. It is just the making of what those who do it view as necessary noise at the right time, and Honourable Nkate happens to be the target of a personal attack on an individual.

In the Sunday Standard of January 11-17 2009, the Botswana Congress Party Youth League called for the resignation of Honourable Nkate on the basis of what they call a crisis at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development and various spurious allegations, innuendos and untested allegations against the minister, some of which are clearly acts of slander and character assassination. It is neither interesting to the public, nor is it in the public interest to make these false assumptions and to put them for public consumption in the media.
We do not think that the current challenges faced by the Ministry of Education have reached levels of proportions that justify the declaration of a crisis at all. We admit that indeed there have been concerns like at all ministries, at the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, especially over the unfortunate incidents of loss of precious young lives of our students on government sponsorships in Malaysia. We commend the Minister’s personal swift response to that problem, which is the nearest to a crisis, but which was not brought about by the minister personally.

We value and treasure every single life and the loss of just one life, is a source of very serious concern.
In line with the Botswana Democratic Party Government’s declared policy of presiding over a people centered government and, in fact in line with our national values of botho as well as one of our vision 2016’s principle creating of a just, caring and compassionate society, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development is shocked and troubled by the loss of life.
A high level intervention was made with the Minister’s visit to get first hand appreciation of the unhealthy state of affairs in Malaysia.

As a transparent and accountable government ministry, all stakeholders were consulted and feed back has been given to all the stakeholders and the nation through all available mediums, including live interviews of the Honourable Minister on national radio. The Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs Ruth Maphorisa, who had been to Malaysia prior to the Minister’s trip on a routine visit to our students abroad, has also given all stakeholders and the nation feedback and the answers the nation on National Television. We have singled out the issue of loss of life of our students as we view it as the most serious in the series of events that necessitated swift response, which was given, with sustainable long-term solutions sought in consultation with all.

The challenges faced by the Minister of Education and Skills Development are not peculiar to this country. This does not mean that government is incapable of facing and finding solutions to these challenges. And those challenges are not new, nor will they disappear with the removal of the current Minister.
We have had in the past, public complaints and the tabling of a motion in parliament, and the subsequent appointment of a Commission of Inquiry.

The allegations of corruption and kick backs and pocketing of money leveled against Honourable Nkate by the BCP Youth League in their letter referred to by this article are, on their face, spurious, malicious and untested. The billions of Pula that they claim are being wasted have been spent on financing a state sponsored loan grant scheme, the direct beneficiaries of which are the youth, not Honourable Nkate’s relatives.
The Botswana Congress Party Youth League started its article by observing what they term victorious delivery of a petition to the Ministry of Education and Skills Development.
We have, over the years, as a democracy, encouraged and promoted accountability and recognized the need for Batswana to demand to know what officers of government in the execution of their duties do and to take them to task when necessary. We promote transparency, hence the freedom to petition every official of the state over decisions of their work.

We, as the Botswana Democratic Party Youth, also have youths in tertiary institutions that were visited by the Botswana Congress Party Youth as they sought to gain political mileage out of it.
Such concerns are part of tertiary Education and we have all experienced them during our tertiary institution days.
The only difference is that then, there was no Botswana Congress Party Youth to politicise such issues.
We petitioned the University of Botswana management on various occasions and even petitioned the President of the Republic of Botswana then, but we never called for the Minister of Education’s resignation, as we knew that it was never a solution to whatever grievances we had.
Some of these are part of the development process of young people in tertiary institutions. SRC’s and students in these institutions briefed us as part of our regular consultation process with them and they held a meeting with us and the Honourable Minister, hence our knowledge of Botswana Congress Party Youth League’s political grandstanding and publicity stunts.
The Botswana Democratic Party Youth Wing does not believe in any way that a case has been made for the Honourable Minister of Education, Rre Jacob Nkate, to resign from his position. We are satisfied with his leadership as the political head of the Ministry of Education and Skills Development in implementing the policies of the Botswana Democratic Party government on education.

*Motsaathebe is the National Chairman of the Botswana Democratic Party Youth Wing and a member of the Botswana Democratic Party Central Committee.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.