President Festus Mogae slipped into biblical prose from Paul to Timothy as he bid Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) activists farewell at the party national congress last week a few months before he vacates the State House.
In a memorable bit, he quoted Paul’s famous line “Just like Paul’s letter to Timothy in the Bible where he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness,”
The quote provides a clue to what Mogae sees when he looks back at his career as president ÔÇô a leader who leaves office with no regrets. Mogae said that as he looks forward to his retirement as President of both the BDP and the Republic of Botswana in nine months’ time, he does so with a sense of immense satisfaction over what he had achieved.
“I find myself in an enviable and nostalgic disposition as I recall the friendship, the inspiration and camaraderie I have shared with many throughout our motherland as well as in the region and beyond,” he said with pride.
Mogae said that he is further comforted by the belief that he led a good party with assistance of good men and women who are now positioned to take it to greater heights. In the BDP, the President said, they have always operated as a team. He pointed out that they did not embrace any personality cults as other parties do.
“In the BDP, the institution is more important than the individual,” he stressed, adding that the BDP represents competence, experience and unwavering commitment to develop Botswana for the benefit of all Batswana, and that no amount of malicious propaganda will deflect it from this noble goal.
Over the years, Mogae said, the BDP focused aggressively in reducing the poor in society. Poverty had dropped from 60 percent in 1985/86 to 28 percent in 2002/2003, he said, and added that this was a clear indication of his government’s success in its poverty eradication efforts.
The president announced that this year alone, his government allocated P395 million to drought relief projects.
“This will provide part time employment for some 180 000 Batswana, the majority of whom would have depended on agriculture had the rains been good,” he said.
On education, Mogae stated that education had been heavily subsidized or totally free for all Batswana from primary to secondary education. He pointed out that the expansion of the University of Botswana, the planned Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), and the Medical School and Training Hospital are recent examples of projects in education aimed at further empowering Batswana and providing employment and higher caliber job creation.
“Health care is also virtually free in Botswana. Even expensive medications such as ARVs are availed free of charge,” said the President, adding that the BDP government is cognizant of the relationship between an individual’s health and their overall ability to command an acceptable living standard.
Touching on financial assistance initiatives, Mogae said the BDP government found it necessary to provide subsidies and preferential access to credit to Batswana, adding that they hoped that this would facilitate the establishment of a vibrant entrepreneurial class.
On youth issues, the President stated that statistics showed that youth make up 60 percent of Botswana’s population making them a priority constituency for the BDP government. Last year and this year, he said, a number of developments made this year a watershed year for the youth.
He emphasized that the new Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the proposed new BIUST and the CEDA Young Farmers Fund all have the potential to create empowerment opportunities for Botswana Youth.
“This also includes the increment of the out-of-school grant 10 fold, from P3 million to P30 million in addition to the multi-billion development projects from the private sector,” he added.
Mogae urged the democrats to remain united and cohesive so that they can continue to be the dominant political force in Botswana.
“Let me reiterate one more time that ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. This adage remains true now in our party as it has always been.”
Reminding the democrats about the 2009 election, Mogae emphasized that they channel all their energies towards making sure that the BDP not only wins those election but does so convincingly
He expressed gratitude to his party followers for the support they gave him during his tenure as party leader; he urged them to extend similar support to his successor, Vice President Ian Khama.
“As I look forward to my retirement, I do so in the conviction that I did my best. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way; and, like Tony Blair, I did what I thought was right.”
The 32nd BDP National Congress was held at Molepolole under the theme ‘Unity and hard work: Towards 2009 and beyond.’