Friday, December 3, 2021

Masisi speech at UNESCO was defective

President Mokgweetsi has every reason to worry about the quality of his top civil servant.

This much was apparent from the speech that the president delivered in France before the UNESCO General council.

UNESCO General Council is a very important grouping of the United Nations.

UNESCO is about science, it is about education especially for children, it is about culture.

This means that language, especially mother tongue is especially important to UNESCO.

UNESCO is about media freedom, freedom of expression and also about indigenous people.

UNESCO is about preservation of such heritage sites like the Okavango Delta.

Botswana  is at the crossroads on all these issues.

Managing the Okavango is not an easy feat.

That should have been amply reflected in the speech.

Given the president’s stated priority to fight Covid-19, the speech should have sought to highlight how Botswana’s efforts against Covid-19 were geared towards ensuring schools remained open as indeed that was so often the case, much to annoyance of education trade unions.

The fact that Botswana’s public policy is at the coalface of many issues that make up the mandate for UNESCO should have been seized upon by the officials.

And the UNESCO top guard would have been fascinated to hear from a Head of state what we are doing on that frontier.

Given just what UNESCO stands for, the speech was way off the mark.

Botswana Government has already made it known that it will introduce mother tongue in school  syllabus next year.

That is a big deal.

For UNESCO that is an even bigger deal.

It is not clear how a speech by a Head of State could miss such a key issue to such an appropriately qualified gathering.

Had this been mentioned in the speech, Botswana was going to receive immense kudos from UNESCO.

That would even attract possible financing from the United Nations on the matter going forward.

UNESCO also stands for freedom of the media.

Community Radio stations are a big deal on the cultural aspects of the UNESCO mandate.

President Masisi could have made a bold pronouncement on his government stance on community radio stations.

We do not want to blame the president personally for these fatal omissions.

Rather we blame his managers, including Senior Private secretary, and the Press Secretary.

There is no how such a team can convincingly say they did not know much about what UNESCO stands for or that they left Gaborone not having read the speech that the Head of state was going to deliver before an international audience of such key diplomats.

The president’s speech did not reflect an understanding of what UNESCO stands for.

This is not the president’s fault.

His private office is to blame.

This includes primarily the Chief of Staff, but also the permanent Secretary to the President.

Other than that, Botswana’s Ambassadors to the United Nations and to Geneva should have played a key role in the President’s speech by way of liasing with UNESCO to establish exactly what the significance of a UNESCO General Council is and what kind of issues are often raised at such a gathering.

Putting together the speech was the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. The accounting officer in that ministry should be held responsible for the mix-up.

The President has been worried about some of the senior officers in the public service who continue to have a divided loyalty.

It is not a secret that he believes that some officers are out to sabotage him as they take sides with his predecessor, Ian Khama.

But he has now appointed his own top staff.

He should as a result be worried by the quality of his appointments.

Loyalty alone is not enough.

If delivery is to happen, key appointments in governments should be of people with quality.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper