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BDP’s rule must end in 2019!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

Having been in power for an uninterrupted period of about fifty years now, it is continuously becoming clear that it will be in Batswana’s best interests for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s reign to come to an end during the 2019 general elections.

If a ruling party can fail to properly plan for a country’s long term Vision, it surely cannot be trusted with continued stay in power. During the 2015 Budget Speech the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Honourable Kenneth Matambo, said “a Presidential Task Team is expected to be appointed in March 2015 to lead the development of the next National Vision, and is anticipated to conclude its work by December 2015”.

It is now common knowledge that the Presidential Task Team on the Development of the New Long Term Vision for Botswana, Vision 2036, was only launched on 19th October 2015, about seven months late. It is also common knowledge that the Presidential Task Team is expected to conclude the draft vision document by May 2016, about five months later than expected.

Consequently, Botswana has cumulatively lost about one year in its Vision planning process. This, under the watch of a political party that has about fifty years experience in governance. Not only that. This, under the watch of President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, a leader who, on assuming the presidency, slated ‘Delivery’ as one of his so-called 5Ds.

Which ruling political party lags one year behind schedule in developing a national Vision? Which ruling party makes such a lapse in leading the nation in the development of a plan which will determine the nation’s future for the next twenty years? Who can believe that President Khama really believes in ‘Delivery’ when he failed to deliver on such a crucial milestone?

What about our youths? Will they win the relay race they are in when we hand them the button about one year late? How can they catch up with their competitors from other countries who get their button on time? What about our future generations? Won’t they forever suffer this one year deficit? Will we bequeath unto them an inheritance or a curse?

It is because of this lackadaisical handling of Batswana’s lives by the ruling BDP that Batswana are today suffering from the hardships faced by citizens of such failed states as Zimbabwe. Water shortages have become so severe that villages can go for more than two weeks without water. In an unprecedented development, the capital city, Gaborone, recently went without water for about four days.

Especially in villages, power outages are a daily routine. Nobody ever thought that a commercial area such as Gaborone International Commerce Park can go without electricity for more than a week. Yet it has happened and the problem continues unabated. If this is not a crisis then nothing is.

How can we talk about job creation when the very companies that are supposed to create those jobs lose hundreds of thousands of Pula because of water and power outages? How can such companies contribute to economic growth? How can foreign companies invest in Botswana when the cost of doing business is so high because companies, especially in the manufacturing sector, now have to spend hundreds of thousands of Pula in buying electrical generators and water?

When visionaries like the late Dr. Kenneth Koma, then leader of the Botswana National Front (BNF), spoke about the need for government to build dams, establish the infrastructure for irrigation and invest in enhancing our power generation capacity by investing in power stations and renewable energy, many in the BDP dismissed him as a dangerous Communist who could overthrow the government. He was put under the constant surveillance of the Special Branch arm of the then Botswana Police Force.   

When Dr. Koma and such luminaries as Dr. Patrick Van Ransburg spoke about the need to promote Education with Production and Vocational Education and Training they were labelled as Communists. For years, government neglected Brigades Training Centers simply because they ‘were an initiative by Communists’. It is only recently that it took them over.

If government had taken heed of the call to introduce Education with Production from elementary levels of schooling such government initiatives as back yard gardening, LIMID and ISPAAD would not be failing because many Batswana would be having the requisite skills to implement them productively.

If Batswana had been trained in Education with Production, government would not be spending so much money in poverty eradication and social welfare programmes because many Batswana would have the skills to produce what they require for a decent livelihood at both subsistence and commercial levels.

Today, perhaps just to attract votes, the BDP includes such ‘Communist’ plans in its manifestos, but has, for many years, failed to implement them. Not even President Khama, who was brought into the BDP from the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), to improve the BDP’s chances of staying in power through delivery, has made a difference. On the contrary, President Khama has led to the BDP’s down fall.

Despite the ‘Khama magic’ and President Khama’s initiatives, many Batswana did not vote for the BDP in the 2014 general elections. While its seats in the National Assembly fell from 45 in 2009 to 37 in 2014, its popular vote declined from 53.26% in 2009 to 46.7% in 2014. BDP’s rule must indeed end in 2019.

It is in this regard that Batswana have to secure their future by not returning the BDP to power in the 2019 general elections. The earlier the BDP is removed from power through the ballot the better. The longer the BDP stays in power the more our beloved Botswana will be pushed to the verge of collapse. Unfortunately, that may be a point of no return as has happened to many countries.

Many countries have become failed states because their citizens stood by and allowed one political party and/or one person in the form of the state President to destroy their future. Often, they were blinded by the desire to retain the ruling party simply because it gained them independence. In some instances, the ruling party succeeded in instilling fear in the minds of the voters by making them believe that voting for an Opposition party will bring instability to the country due to the Opposition party’s lack of experience in governance.

The BDP has relished from both. Needless to say such is mere propaganda because the BDP itself had no governance experience when it attained state power. This was worsened by the fact that, at the time, Botswana had very few educated people, yet it managed to establish institutions of government and governed the country reasonably well until the mid-90s when it lost direction.

Today, our institutions of government are well established; we have many educated people capable of running a government; we have many oversight institutions for the protection of our democracy and Botswana is a member of many international organizations. The claim by the BDP that if the Opposition attains state power there will be chaos and instability is, therefore, unfounded.

What Batswana need to do as early as now is to start scrutinizing the Opposition and demanding accountability from it in order to prepare it for governance. Batswana also need to participate in the leadership elections of Opposition party leaders to ensure that only people capable of running the country should the Opposition win elections are elected party leaders.

The BDP’s time is indeed up! One does not need to be a member of an Opposition party to realize this. On the contrary, even members of the BDP, including members of the Central Committee, Members of Parliament (MPs) and cabinet ministers, admit this off the record. No wonder today the BDP is suffering recurrent defections, a plague which in the past mainly tormented the Opposition.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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