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Is Masisi delivering on his inaugural speech promises? (Part I)

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH

As is custom, when the fifth President of the Republic of Botswana, His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, took over office on 1st April 2018 he gave his inaugural speech.

Today, almost a year since he gave the speech, which admittedly brought a lot of hope to our people, the question is whether or not he has delivered on the commitments and promises he made during the speech. In this series, we examine this question. But, before doing that it is only fair that we remind our readers of the commitments and promises that H.E Dr. Masisi made during his inaugural speech. Therefore, this week we merely state those commitments and promises without commenting on delivery or lack thereof in respect of such.

H.E Dr. Masisi premised his speech on the undertaking that, in carrying out his duties, the touchstone shall remain the oath he had just made to uphold the Constitution, the rule of law, and maintenance of national unity, peace and prosperity. During his inaugural speech, H.E Dr. Masisi made a commitment to promote respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law, and the spirit of consultation or therisanyo and Botho; and the attainment of an inclusive society that ensures the material and social wellbeing of all our citizens.

He also undertook to build a Botswana in which sustained development is underpinned by economic diversification, promising to eradicate poverty and social exclusion in order to build a society that provides opportunity and dignity for all. He further promised to build a modern Botswana that is not only open but is also able to openly compete with the rest of the world while maintaining Botswana’s founding principles of Democracy, Self-Reliance, Development, Unity and Botho.

He made a firm commitment to address the problem of unemployment, especially amongst the youth who constitute about 60% of the population, something which he rightly said will address such ills as poverty, crime, HIV and AIDS and alcohol and drug abuse. H.E Dr. Masisi commited to prioritise stimulation of accelerated economic growth through scaling up access to technical and vocational education and training opportunities; promoting digitisation across both the public and private sectors and devising smarter ways of tackling our poor education attainment at every level to make it more competitive.

He undertook to stimulate accelerated economic growth by ensuring that Development Financing Institutions become more proactive and responsive so as to better serve the requirements of their current and prospective clientele as well as helping government to achieve the goals of citizen economic empowerment initiatives. H.E Dr. Masisi vowed that his government will compel accountants and tax advisors to pay their first professional allegiance in the discharge of their duties to the nation by ensuring that their clients pay, in full, taxes that are legitimately due.

His commitment to stimulate accelerated economic growth by continuing with measures to ensure the Ease of Doing Business for foreign and domestic investors alike was unwavering. The same applies to his commitment to promote the Economic Diversification Drive (EDD), an important strategy which he said is aimed at giving Batswana an opportunity to set up industries to empower themselves and, in turn, to create the much-needed employment.

Acknowledging its invaluable role in economic growth, he undertook to give potency to Botswana’s economic diversification aspirations by prioritizing the implementation of Cluster Development across various sectors, particularly the prioritized sectors of diamond beneficiation, tourism, beef, mining and financial services. H.E Dr. Masisi made an undertaking that government will also expedite the implementation of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which, he said, will contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of this country.

He made a solemn commitment that his government will particularly intensify its efforts to revitalise the economy of the SPEDU region to effectively respond to the closure and liquidation of the BCL mine. H.E Dr. Masisi made a commitment to strengthen, consolidate and intensify the partnership between government and the private sector which, he rightly said, would propel this country to greater heights in terms of economic stimulation, job creation and sustainable economic growth. 

He stated that Botswana will intensify her efforts to unlock market and business opportunities for our industries presented in global trade through such agreements as the SADC Free Trade Area, Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area, AGOA, SADC/EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement, and the bilateral agreements Botswana has with other countries and development partners.

He buttressed this undertaking by promising that Botswana will step up through a combined use of her bilateral and multilateral relations, immigration, investment policies and technocratic applications. It was H.E Dr. Masisi’s pledge that government will also continue to invest in infrastructural development projects across various sectors including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), water, energy, transport and road networks, to create an enabling environment for commerce and industry, as well as to stimulate the economy.

He stated that in line with Vision 2036, which he said is aligned to the 2030 United Nations Agenda on Sustainable Development and Africa’s Agenda 2063, investment in research, science, technology and innovation will be prioritised to enable Botswana’s transformation into a knowledge-based economy. In that regard, he undertook to ensure that the transformation of education and training, through the Human Resource Development Strategy of 2009, receives all the necessary support in order to ensure that education meets the needs of industry.

H.E Dr. Masisi assured Batswana that as part of the reforms proposed by the Education Sector Strategic Plan 2015-2020, his government will introduce pre-primary education as well as expanding such school facilities as classrooms, teachers’ quarters and building new primary and secondary schools throughout the country to respond to the growing population of our towns, villages and settlements.

He promised that his government will continue to focus and intensify the maintenance of the existing school facilities to ensure an enabling environment for effective delivery of the education, learning and training programmes. He said his government will not hesitate to intervene, where necessary, to cause the inclusion of new primary and secondary schools in the current NDP11 as per the dictates of Botswana’s population dynamics. This, he said, will all be done to to improve the quality of our education system as well as ensuring universal access to pre-primary, primary and secondary education.

H.E Dr. Masisi said for this to happen, his government will also continue intensifying and sharpening teacher training, re-training and retooling to build their capacity to adapt to the ever-changing education environment, especially in the areas of ICT. He assured Batswana that through such programmes as Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD) and the Livestock Management and Infrastructure Development (LIMID), his government will continue to strive for and intensify the commercialisation of the agricultural sector.

This, he said, is cardinal if agriculture is to contribute to economic growth, diversification and the achievement of food security at household and national levels. He said his government will, in order to boost agricultural output, start an aggressive programme of land use intensification while protecting the inalienable rights of land holders starting April this year.

With regard to the tourism sector which he said has potential to significantly contribute to the growth and diversification of Botswana’s economy, he promised that his government will continue to monitor adherence to the Tourism Regulations of 1996 to accommodate the reservation of some license category for citizens which will subsequently increase their participation in tourism.

H.E Dr. Masisi undertook that his government will, additionally, rejuvenate the capacity of citizens to participate more meaningfully in the tourism sector, stating that steps will be taken to ensure that game farming, as an enterprise, is promoted so that it becomes attractive and profitable. He reaffirmed that government will continue the HIV and AIDS interventions by combining treatment, care and support, stating that a rejuvenated attention on the major determinants of our national health practices including the manner of response to HIV and AIDS will be given.

He promised that, in line with the National Spatial Plan 2036, government will accelerate the function of spatial planning and access to land in order to give meaning to the aspirations of Batswana, especially the youth, stating that government will continue giving priority to the Youth when allocating land for agriculture and business purposes.

H.E Dr. Masisi affirmed that Botswana will continue upholding the principles of the rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and separation of powers between the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature. Identifying a neutral, apolitical and professional public service as one of the elements that Botswana prides herself with, he promised to uphold them and urged all Batswana to be vigilant in order to maintain the peace and security that this country has enjoyed for more than five decades.

He promised to be steadfast in the fight against corruption, stating that that is imperative if we are to safeguard the hopes and dreams of all Batswana for current and future generations. He, therefore, undertook to continue strengthening oversight institutions, and exacting the full might of the law to ensure that the fight against corruption in all its forms and manifestations is won.

He made a commitment that though Botswana is a small country, in terms of population, he will ensure that she continues to play an important role in the promotion of such global issues as respect for human rights, democracy, good governance, the rule of law, as well as the maintenance of international peace and security.

H.E Dr. Masisi made a commitment to ensure that the conduct of Botswana’s foreign relations contributes to national development and the improvement of the living standards of our people, promising that, under his leadership, our relations with other countries will be enhanced for the benefit of Botswana and her economy.

He stated that Botswana will continue contributing to regional efforts aimed at consolidating democracy, peace and security in the SADC region and beyond, stating that he will do his utmost to continually grow confidence in and of governance through a combination of new legislation, ethical codes and demonstrable and efficacious behaviours. He promised to table, before Parliament, specific legislation on declaration of assets and liabilities soon.
Ndulamo Anthony Morima

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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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