Dear Reader, Compliments of the new season. We meet again in the New Year, which brings the promise and hope of fresh starts. In Botswana our eyes are set on the change of guard at the highest office in the land ÔÇô the Presidency. Anything is possible but as it stands, the incumbent Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to take over as the new President of this country during the first quarter of this New Year. The transition has rekindled or should regenerate hope amongst those who have been hopeless, landless and jobless.
As we collectively gear up for change of guard on 1st April 2018, the jobless are setting their eyes on the new President to create jobs of them or better off avail funds for them to start their own businesses.
Whilst Masisi is possibly preparing to draft his maiden presidential speech, the landless thousands of Batswana are only looking forward to hear what he will say regarding speeding up of process of land allocation by land authorities across the country. They are hopeful that under President Masisi, the “normalised” process of waiting for 20 years or more for a piece of residential plot would be a thing of the past.
The two big issues of joblessness and landlessness which contribute heavily to the wide gap between the rich and the poor in this country need fresh thinking and new leadership. The issues require exceptional leadership, a sense of ingenuity and dexterity, which is what the new President Masisi should bring to the table.
In one of his farewell Kgotla meeting, the outgoing President, Ian Khama made remarks to the effect that when Masisi takeover “go tla nna Monate”, loosely translated “We are going to have some sort of fun”. We need to caution both Khama and Masisi that “fun” won’t just happen. Life in Botswana would not radically change just because one man has stepped down and another has ascended. There is need to implement radical policy changes for Batswana to feel that indeed they are enjoying the social and economic benefits of being natives of this country.
The real test of Masisi’s leadership will obviously lie in how he walks the tightrope between populism and pragmatism, and his ability to adequately share his vision with his cabinet and most importantly the natives of this country.
This includes his thoughts on contentious issues such as the big elephant in the room at the moment ÔÇô corruption. As he takes over as the new President, Masisi should stand out and be able to let the institutions (DCEC, DPP and courts of law) that have been set up to put through trial all those “powerful” individuals who have been identified as corrupt.
To bring new hope, the new President’s aim should be to put Batswana first. His number one priority should be wealth creation for the natives. As we have said before in this space, a culture of impunity continues to erode the economic-political gains that our country has made over the years. On a continuous basis, this new culture of impunity in our country is not only weakening our institutions but also destabilising economic growth.
One ought to mention also that this culture of impunity and lack of accountability has not always been with us. As such it is our hope that as one of his key priorities, the new President Masisi, will be able to source vital information needed to prosecute, if need be, those who have been looting. At bare minimum, the new President should tell the looters to bring back to Caesar, what belongs to Caesar.
The fact of the matter is that if he cannot tackle the looters, as a new President, Masisi will not be able to win against the country’s toughest issues – unemployment, lack of housing and low wages (or poverty in one word).
Actually, unemployment, or lack of job creation have become perhaps the most high profile and contentious issue of our time ÔÇô Mainly so due to retrenchments, restructuring of parastatals and companies as well as failure to create new jobs. Official data do show that job creation in the formal sector has been quite low in the last decade, below both economic growth and labour force growth. Annual formal sector employment growth has averaged 2.3 percent over the last decade, lower than the annual growth rate of total employment, which is approximately 3.6 percent.
The lack of decent housing continued to be one of the key problems that the people of this country faced throughout the past decades. We have said it so many times in this space, and we shall continue saying it that the high property prices in this country especially housing are part of the reason why a large number of our people remain impoverished. If there is anything that the new President should be more concerned about, and swiftly act on, it is the housing of our people, most of whom are struggling to get a small piece of land in their own country.
The last but not least issue we wish to draw the attention of the new President to relate to low wages that our people earn at both government enclave and private companies. Income Inequality in this country has not been reduced since forever ÔÇö in fact, the figures for top earners, mostly foreigners are often underestimated. A new President who wants to bring new hope to his people would certainly do something regarding this disparity. As he draft his maiden Presidential speech, Masisi should bear in mind that the wage gap is exorbitant and young people in this country are justifiably frustrated with their prospects.
We all know how we reached this point, but one thing we also know is that we want to raise the standard of living of Batswana at the very bottom of the nation’s wage structure. The solution lies on revising their wages, atleast that is what we think. Masisi will share his thoughts in three months time.
The #Bottomline for the new President on this New Year is that he needs to find ways of transferring economic wealth to the owners of this country ÔÇô Batswana. We need to have the government on one side providing credible economic leadership and the business on the other end making formal pledge to create sustainable jobs that will enrich our people. That is the only way the people of this country would truly say. “go monate”.