Saturday, September 19, 2020

Response to Sunday Standard article “Cabinet shoves debates to backburner in favour of rule by whim”

Dear Editor

In the interest of public understanding, this Office is obliged to challenge statements and insinuations that appeared in the article “Cabinet shoves debates to backburner in favour of rule by whim” (Sunday Standard 18/5/08).

In the said article, a number of potentially damaging allegations and speculations are reported as if they were fact, without seemingly any evidence to support them that rises above the level of gossip on the part of alleged “government insiders”, which are otherwise reported to include “economic experts, including some officials at the Bank of Botswana”.

Even if taken at face value, it would thus appear doubtful that any of the article’s anonymous supposed sources is an actual member of Cabinet.

Yet, such is the questionable basis for the serious allegation that:

“the entrenched culture of debating national policies inside cabinet before they are announced is fast being replaced by a knee-jerk tradition whereby the President and his Deputy reach conclusions with far reaching implications at informal and impromptu meetings between the two of them.”

In response, we wish to here reassure the public that the role of Cabinet at the centre of Government decision-making remains constitutionally protected and sacrosanct.

While in keeping with nearly universal norms of good governance, as well as our own Constitutional tradition, Cabinet deliberations are held in camera, it should, nonetheless, be apparent that various ongoing initiatives by Government can hardly be described as “whimsical announcements”.

They are, in fact, rooted in such prior efforts as the BEAC strategy for economic diversification and sustainable growth, as well as longstanding internal discussions in response to well known public concerns.

Further to the above, Cabinet procedures remain in place to ensure the proper vetting of all major Government policies and programmes.

Judging from its overall content, one can not help but wonder if the article’s allegations with respect to the role of Cabinet are not in fact a red herring being flouted by detractors who otherwise find themselves unable to offer convincing criticism of the actual content of recently announced initiatives.

Finally, we also take note of the specific political criticism contained in the article with respect to whether it was appropriate for H.E. the President to have announced a number of youth oriented initiatives at the recent BDP Youth Wing Congress in Gumare.

Given the fact that, as a mature multi-party democracy, the Government of this country derives its authority from a political process, it is entirely appropriate that its programmes be communicated at political functions as well as in other fora.

Coordinator – BGCIS (Office of the President)

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