Dear Mr. President
I would like to extend my warm regards on your inauguration as President of the Republic of Botswana. I heard that it rained in Botswana again on the day of your inauguration. O motho a ratwa ke pula. I, for one, do not know the significance thereof but like many I am tempted to believe that it is a good omen. On that basis it is my hope that your presidency would lead my beloved country to prosperity and curve a better future for posterity, kana ke raa bokamoso jwa ga Atsile le bana ba gagwe. Our hopes and dreams rest on your shoulders.
Mr. President, unfortunately owing to time differences I was unable to watch your inauguration live like many nor have I had the honour to watch it on the internet (I will look for the recording online later). I mention this because, notwithstanding the foregoing, I managed to read your speech. Having not watched you deliver the speech I am afraid tonality may be lost in the process. Be that as it may, I wish to congratulate you on a well written speech.
Having passed my congratulatory message, allow me to share my two Thebe on the speech. I believe you would agree with me that a leader is as good as the critique that is accorded to him or her. Consider this my little contribution. I will dwell on a few areas that I feel you should have addressed or having addressed them I felt there was a lot lacking in your take on the same. I do so cognisant of the fact that this was a speech but also with the view that it should nonetheless provide a concise synthesis of your policy positions. This is to enable the nation as a whole to know how and on what to gauge your performance in office.
In the introductory part of your speech you made a telling declaration which I think is worthy of noting considering the political strife that you have found yourself which left many on the edge. With reference to our democracy and its founding tenets you declare that “Our duty was only to preserve the work of our founders.” I could not agree with you more but still it is my view that more could have been said. While it is our duty to protect our inheritance, we look to you to enhance and enrich our democracy. There are relics of the past that are, today, out dated and in need of being reform or getting rid of. Our work is, therefore, to reform and strengthen our democracy. Your leadership is thus needed in this regard and I hope and pray you rise to the challenge.
Recalling your inaugural speech, you reiterate three focal areas for administration being Job creation, improving service delivery and improving governance structures (this speaks to my point in the above paragraph in a way). You continued to rehash the rhetoric that have come to define the government led by your party for the past decade. One would notice that you make rather lofty and ambitious plans to leverage on ICT to make the country competitive in the 4IR economy. One would recall your ambitions to build an electric car. There is nothing wrong with ambition provided it is anchored in reality. I would say your challenge to the nation has been accepted.
However, there is a need for a clear policy articulation in moving our country into the 4IR economy. As it stands the country is lacking in internet connectivity infrastructure. While projects have been touted to address the same we are yet to notice any changes that would enable Botswana to be competitive in that sector. Mr President, one can’t even stream a short video without either being rendered broke by high fees or being frustrated by chameleon internet speed. It would have been great to hear a clear commitment on infrastructure development and human capital development.
I now wish to address the use of Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) to drive our developmental agenda. There is no doubt that PPPs can be beneficial in bring about developments to the country. The main question is “how do we go about it?” I can appreciate that PPPs can ease the fiscal burden on the government allowing it to use public funds on other vital public necessities. However, if we don’t know the how and the long-term ramifications of the same we may be doomed. I challenge your government to not only educate the nation on policy guidelines on PPPs but to fund research on the long-term cost implications on the ordinary citizens. Conventional neoliberal economic theory will always argue PPPs are the angel while they have the potential of being debt traps for government especially in situations where government is compelled to subsidise the citizens. Economic prudence and a departure from orthodoxy is therefore advised in this regard.
Mr. President, I share your concern on the level of service delivery in our country. We can, as a nation, do better. It is time we hit the reset button on our work culture. Merit should govern our approach to service delivery than creating an artificial meritocratic aristocracy which is where we are or are currently headed. Allow me to raise my concern with the ‘recycled inefficiency’ that has come to characterise our government and government owned enterprises. Anchored on the artificial meritocratic aristocracy, we have witnessed inefficient managers being moved from one entity to another. Most of these people go on to fail at their new assignments. Even though they may be terminated they would later resurface at another entity. I am not going to mention names but we have seen this phenomenon too many times. I implore you to bring this to an end. Politically, it may be inexpedient but if you put the interests of the country this would be a no-brainer.
Mr. President, my most notable displeasure lies in your cursory or honorary mention of gender-based violence. I am afraid that was totally inadequate. GBV has become an epidemic which must be given high priority. Too many of my sisters are walking corpses if I may be crude. Too many lives have been lost due to this epidemic. One would have expected not only a harsh condemnation but a pronouncement of a combative policy to deal with GBV. We not only need specialised training for law enforcement in dealing with and investigating GBV. The same training is necessary for community leaders especially Magosi who often deal with these matters first hand.
Lastly, as you did during the Presidential debates, your reference to a Constitutional review belies your professed commitment thereto. Mr. President it is not enough to say we will review the constitution. You need to outline which areas of the constitution you consider necessary of being reviewed and strengthened or gotten rid of. I only know of your displeasure with having to draw your cabinet from parliament. In that sense I agree with you. That being said you need to come out clear with areas you consider necessary for review. We need to know what your government’s consultations would be predicated upon.
In closing Mr. President, a lot can be said about your speech. It is my hope that when you get to deliver your SONA these issues would receive more attention. Further, that the budget of the year 2020/21 will reflect the lofty ambitions you have put forward. You need to come out state your target goals in terms of each of your deliverables to enable us to gauge your performance cognisant of underlying structural issues that may ensue. Good luck in your next five years of your Presidency.