Monday, January 17, 2022

State of the Nation address: Business as usual

President Ian Khama’s State of the Nation address (SONA) has received thumbs down from opposition parties. The Botswana Congress Party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change both share the view that the address offers nothing new.

“There is absolutely nothing new, this is the president and the government that is clearly out of ideas on how to alleviate unemployment especially among the young people. He has talked about the EDD but he is not providing figures to say how the EDD has reduced unemployment.”

These were the opening views from BCP MP for Selibe Phikwe West Ditlhapelo Keorapetse when asked to react to the SONA. Keorapetse said the president has made a commitment to create jobs but the commitment is suspect in the sense that it is not attaching any figures to say when he ascended to the office of president in 2008, there was this level of unemployment and he had reduced it to a level. “What does creating jobs mean where there are no figures?

Moreover there are no new ideas that he has said about creating jobs for young people, he has talked about mineral beneficiation but still he has not attached any figure. It is going to be difficult to hold him accountable to the commitments he is making simply because there are no numbers. I do not think young people out there should have high expectations deriving from the President’s speech in respect of the commitments he just made,” he said. Selibe Phikwe West legislator expected the President to address the legitimacy of his government since his party for the first time since 1966, has less than 50 percent of popular vote.

“The BDP has won these elections for the first time since 1966 with less than 50 percent of the popular vote. That should have shaken the government, it should have said something about the legitimacy of his government, and it should have said something about the confidence Batswana have on his government. He should have reassured Batswana that he will introspect as President to see what we have done wrong,” he said. Keorapetse is also of the view that if the government legitimacy is portioned by less than 50 percent of the popular vote, as it has happened with the ruling BDP, he expected Khama to say he will improve.

“For instance he could have acknowledged that our democracy has either regressed or stagnated and assure his commitments on democratic consolidation. This is the president who is not committed to democratic consolidation even though this democracy has regressed. What is he doing about it?” concluded Keorapetse. UDC vice president also MP for Gaborone Bonnington South Ndaba Gaolatlhe said in terms of what the ruling BDP intends to do going forward, as a government, it is fair to say it’s business as usual. “They are pursuing things that they believe in, through mechanisms that they believe are the way to do it.

We have differences. We think that the country can do better than it is doing right now,” Ndaba’s opening views on the SONA. On the governance side Ndaba said they felt that it was necessary to reform the way the entire government is structured. He said the legislature is not empowered to pursue its mandate to the extent that it should. “If you look at legislatures around the world; these legislatures have capacity to draft bills for members of Parliament. Most of the time the political class would have ideas about what the country needs to go forward, they have ideas about what type of policies are needed but drafting those ideas into bills, into laws requires expertise that requires lawyers who actually do the drafting of the bill. If you look at the Botswana legislature there is only one person drafting bills for 57 Members of Parliament,” he said.

Gaolatlhe said in a proper democracy you would need at least one counsel drafting bills for each Member of Parliament. “Legislature must be perceived as a wing of the government not as a department of the government. We do not even as a legislature have an office that forecast the economy to say for example, if you use 40 billion instead of 60 billion these will be the effects on unemployment or inflation. There is an extreme and immense lack of capacity in our legislature,” he said.

Ndaba diverged with the president when he said there are those who preach to the world that Botswana is safe. “That is where we differ as well. We feel that our people leave in fear. This is a fact. It is not something that has been manufactured by several politicians. When people tell you that they fear for their lives it simply means that they live in fear. When people are killed and no one is responsible for the killing of these people it means people live in fear. That’s one point of departure that we have with the current government,” he said.

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