Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Secretary General Ndaba Gaolathe says the economic problems besieging the country will not go away until government think-tanks make proper diagnosis of the economic crisis.
In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Post this week, Gaolathe charged that what government offers as a solution to the problems facing the country certainly indicates the extent to which much is being misunderstood about the country’s economy.
“We are clearly making wrong diagnosis of what the country needs,” he said.
The Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) recently announced a new initiative called Target 20 000 Up skilling programme. The initiative will see youth who failed Junior Certificate (JC) and Botswana General Certificate for Secondary Education (BGCSE) being enrolled for tertiary programmes through bridging courses.
The Gaborone Bonnington South legislator pointed out that the Target 20 000 Up Skilling is a prime example that government does not know what the country needs. “There are no clear objectives of what the programme intends to achieve,” he said. “Education should form a cog of economy’s transformation and should have put emphasis on certain key elements like; technical skills and managerial skills.”
Gaolathe contends that the new initiative by MoESD is target based and not driven by potency to transform the economy. What the government wants to achieve is to increase the quantity so that they make the case, he contends.
“It serves no purpose because it does not build the right skills that we need,” he said. “It does not increase the base of artisans, engineers, and doctors− simply it has no clear objective.”
Gaolathe, who is also the President of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) noted that the government would rather have used the millions which are going to be spent on the Target 20 000 initiative to send unemployed youth abroad. He said, the youth would then be trained through attachment so that they earn the skills that the country needs. Gaolathe mentioned countries like India, which has a blossoming diamonds industry as prime area, which Botswana can use for skills transfer.
Gaolathe, who spent his early career as a think tank at Botswana Institute for Development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA) further suggests that government should first do away with bottle-necks that hinder opportunities for economic prosperity.
He wants government to do away with monopolies in key sectors such as the beef industry and power production. Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) remains the only abattoir in the country allowed to export beef to foreign markets. Gaolathe wants government to end BMC monopoly and bring other players on board and establish a regulator. “You will then have broad based participation, which means more demand for cattle and more jobs,” he said.
With the country besieged by unprecedented power crisis, Gaoathe opines that it is a self created crisis. He mention government‘s inability to bring on board independent power producers and create a regulator as well. “We failed to invest on energy despite having independent power producers ready as far as 2009,” he said. “We are also lost jobs in the process.”
Gaolathe asserted that when it comes to parastatals, government gets a lot of fundamentals wrong. “Government uses iron fist as haphazard strategy on managing quasi-government institutions,” he observed. Parastatals need autonomy with clear mandates not interference.”
There are reports that the ruling party in its bid to retain power is contemplating increasing the number of constituencies from the current 57 to 120, more than double the number. Gaoathe says it’s a futile exercise and does not address the inefficiencies of parliament. “If you compare the number of MPs in Botswana to other jurisdictions such as United States based on the population-representation ratio, we already have more legislators and councillors,” he said.
Gaolathe said the biggest challenge facing parliament today is lack of independence from Office of the President. He wants parliament to consider having the budget office manned by economic experts who will do finance estimates for MPs. “Parliament should be able to have capacity to make their own assessment independent from those of the executive,” he said.
This, according to Gaolathe should be coupled by the establishment of an office manned by lawyers responsible for drafting the bills for MPs. “If we can augment expert support base, parliament can be more effective,” he said.
Gaolathe also identified public procurement as one area where the country can use as a lever for broader based participation. “We are based more on price forgetting factors such as potential and consortia,” he said.
“The system [procurement] is bad at identifying potential and has resulted in the breeding of tenderpreneurs for the politically connected,” he charged.
The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.
WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?
Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.
Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed. This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.
In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’ The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.
Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama).
Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.