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State Of The Nation Address: My Simplified And Honest Perspective!

Bernard Busani

 

I think almost everyone now knows why we should have an annual state of the nation address by the first citizen. This is to essentially tell the nation what his government has achieved in terms of the development priorities he has promised the nation. 

 

Top of the agenda for our president should be what he personally promised the nation at the last election. He personally gave each person a person card; a red card as he called, a red card that had five priority areas. I still carry mine.  If he has forgotten about this red card, we shall continue to remind him about it as it matters to us and the nation.

 

His red card which ominously means that if he fails to deliver on the promises defined in the card, he and his government will be red carded and removed from power in 2019 or earlier. Let us remind our first citizen what the card contained and this should have been included in the state of the nation address.

 

In the next five years, the BDP promises to—

  1. Make job creation priority number 1: divert significant resources to fighting unemployment particularly among our youth
  2. Take Batswana out of poverty: strengthen and increase the scope of our poverty eradication program and social safety net though programs such as LIMID, ISPAAD, the Economic Diversification Drive, Presidential Housing Appeal and Youth Empowerment Scheme:
  3. Increase Education Funding; improve quality and performance by building more classrooms and improving teacher’s welfare.
  4. Eliminate mother to child HIV transmission: provide highly active antiretroviral therapy to all HIV positive pregnant women and dramatically reduce maternal death by increasing the quality of rural healthcare.
  5.  Fight corruption in all its manifestation:  a zero tolerance  approach to corruption

 

At the bottom of the card which card was duly signed by his Excellency, the president, Dr Ian Khama, the card closes by saying, ‘keep this card and see that we keep our promises’ I HAVE KEPT MINE, I WANT TO SEE THE RESULTS.

 

These promises are very clear and can easily be turned into measurable objectives and goals for the president and His government. Achieving these promises would go a long way in addressing the challenges bedeviling this nation. ALL Batswana demand feedback through the sate of the nation address on these five priority areas.

 

These five priority areas contain all the major challenges facing the country and its citizens; we expect the president to address these comprehensively in his state of the nation address each year giving specific deliverables.

 

Other peripheral issues like the world global economic outlook, broad supporting programs and other niceties can be included as appendices for academics and international interests. The nation wants to hear about the bread and butter issues which the president promised as he traversed daily through out the country, by the way unfairly being financed by public funds during the 2014 election campaigns. He owes the nation and the above must be addressed comprehensively. This is what i mean by comprehensive feedback to the nation.

 

  1. JOB CREATION

The president must report how many jobs have been created since he took office or since the last election.  He must state how many jobs have been lost during the same period; further explaining where and why these jobs where lost.

 

He must further explain what programs are in place to create what jobs, numbers of such jobs and specifically what his government is doing to ensure that jobs are protected and continually enhanced. Still on job creation he should explain comprehensively the short to long term impact of the programs such as Economic Stimulus Program (ESP) now a swear word to many.

 

By the way, ESP if intelligently structured and not used for political posturing and expediency could create short term as well as long term jobs. ASK ME HOW? Even ipelegeng if intelligently and properly structured could create long term and high quality jobs. ASK ME HOW?

 

  1. TAKE BATSWANA OUT OF POVERTY

 

What a promise!  Who wants to live in poverty? First of all the president and his government must have identified the number of people living in poverty, then using the programs he highlighted in this card indicate how many people would be removed from poverty by these programs and how many have actually been removed from that list.

 

He must further state how he would then ensure that people stay out of the poverty list?  Some kind of a sustainability index to measure quality of such programs may be devised to track the success of each of these programs.

 

  1. INCREASE EDUCATION FUNDING
  2.  

This one would have been very easy to measure. You increase quality and performance by building more schools and improving teacher’s welfare. The teachers must have been smiling as well as the parents and students when they heard this promise.

 

But how many new schools have been built and how has this reduced the teacher student ratio? What programs have been introduced to improve the teacher’s welfare?  I see a deteriorating student teacher’s ratio and worsening teacher’s welfare occasioned by tense relations with the government due to long working hours and refusing to pay due overtime How did the president intend to increase teacher’s welfare without even looking at their pay structure  and ensuring that it is commensurate with their responsibilities and their position in society.

 

Our teachers are earning starving salaries and deserve more.  The government has recently taken away the teacher’s right to strike; wrongly and dangerously misinterpreting the definition of essential service. Using their definition all jobs are essential jobs and therefore no worker should be given the right to strike. This has gone real too far Mr. President. 

 

  1. ELIMINATE MOTHER TO CHILD TRANSMISSION OF HIV

 

I am not sure whether the President has introduced anything new to fight HIV and AIDS, particularly new intervention on the mother to child crosses transmission as promised. The interventions in place from my understanding are those from the Mogae presidency.

 

We now hear of increased new infection on the young people, which means that our objective of zero new HIV infections has dismally failed.  The way the male circumcision has been sold as an HIV transmission reduction strategy was wrong and now a total failure leading rather to young people believing that if this would reduce possible infection by 60%, to a young person even an old inadequately informed person it may mean that one can take a risk of unprotected sex and escape infection. We now sadly see an increase in new infection on the youth and perhaps others.

 

I believe it is because we failed to take a deep breath to analyse the implications both positive and negative of this intervention before we implemented it. Surely before we borrow interventions any intervention for that matter from others we have to adapt to our own circumstances taking into account our own understanding of the immediate world around us.

 

Male circumcision should have been sold as a health issue and nothing else; a practice that has long existed even before the birth of Christ. Taking religion out of it circumcision was simply a hygiene/health issue, nothing else.

 

  1. FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN ALL ITS MANIFESTATION

 

What new interventions have been introduced to fight corruption? I am not away of any. What is clear to most of us is that the level of corruption and perceived corruption is growing in leaps and bounds. Even the long talked about declaration of assets by our legislature has failed to materialise, only flaming the suspicion fires that corruption is indeed widespread in high places; hence declaration of assets legislation would open a Pandora box in which hidden corrupt and heinous activities are placed in secrecy.

 

CONCLUSION

 

It is no wonder why the president does not address these five priority areas he promised Batswana in 2014, the failure is  phenomenal and very embarrassing to say the least. Batswana should however continue to remind him of these five promises and demand delivery.

 

If the president was a student being tested on the five promises he made to Batswana, he would obtained zero marks for each one of these; a total failure and discontinue verdict would be the outcome. He will be red carded and removed from power

 

In summary he has failed to create jobs, instead he has lost over 30 000 to 40 000 direct and indirect jobs in a very short period.  As a result he has increase the number of people joining the poverty trap and thereby instead of taking Batswana out of poverty he has instead condemned them to the horrors of poverty.

 

On education, the quality of education continues to deteriorate with no notable new schools being built; with the number of sponsored students having dropped by close to 20 % and the University of Botswana being threatened with possible closure. In so far as HIV/Aids is concerned we see an increase instead of reduction of new infections. 

 

Well how about fighting corruption? I have not seen any intervention or any statistic that shows me that we have achieved anything in this area. The president gets straight zeros and must therefore be red carded and discontinued.

 

Listening to the president state of the nation address and comparing it with the response from the leader of opposition in parliament, it is clear that this country has a viable and suitable alternative right now, 2019 is just too far. The commander in chief has failed the nation and continues to lead our country toward economic and social ruin.

 

The closure of BCL, especially how it happened; the pronounced eminent sale of Morupule B, must be the last straws even for the diehard BDP stalwarts. However only those BDP stalwarts with a modicum of conscience and self respect will agree with this assessment and will therefore start taking corrective action before too long.

Bernard Busani

E mail address: bernard.busani@gmail.com      Tell: 71751440

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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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