COMMENTARY: The Opposition must go beyond merely reacting to the BDP

SHARE   |   Monday, 16 November 2015   |   By Staff Writer

The time has come and gone. The State of the Nation (SONA) has been presented and the President Ian Khama has left parliament. What is left is for the members of parliament to talk to themselves as if they are addressing the president. The ministers will be trying their best to answer on behalf of the president and it will be very clear that they are just coming across issues being tabled and questioned just like any other lad in parliament. It is normally the case; the state president walks into parliament after inspecting the well-dressed soldiers and presents his state of the nation address.

When he is done he walks out and everyone has no choice but to get back to normality. The ministers can only pretend they were consulted, but as we all know by now that they will be as empty as everyone else occupying space in the public gallery and outside watching the state of the nation address from the big screens. Very few of members of parliament normally understand what is being said. It is easier to tell when they are given the opportunity to debate the state of the nation address.
Those who pretend to be more attentive and more concentrating than others will then have the opportunity to try and shine in front of their colleagues. They will attempt to debate issues as if their debate can bring any change but alas, such voices shall not change anything. They will be trying hard to be relevant and trying their very best to showcase their limited understanding of what was just presented. The truth is that they are merely reacting to what has been said and are not offering anything new. The reality is that if they had anything different, they had the past twelve months to present such either to the parliament or to the office of cabinet ministers responsible for such concerns.

Waiting to react and respond to the state of the nation address does not present anyone as necessarily clever or bright. It simply presents one for who exactly they are, mere responders to issues raised. Quite often it sounds more like entertainment. It often sounds more like what is expected to be said and done, to merely respond and present what has not been covered. This happens to be the major role the opposition has given itself. Quite often these responses are far away from the manifestos and policies of their parties. These reactions are normally personal views of those given an opportunity to respond.

It all starts with the leader of the opposition who then moves swiftly to present issues very far away from what exactly his party stands for but rather what he feels are issues that will give him more limelight than the rest. Then it all goes to members of the opposition in parliament to also have their share of the unpalatable cake, labeling the state of the nation address as rhetoric, full of corrupt tendencies, old broom, and the ruling party as suffering from poverty of ideas. Nothing is ever acknowledged as making sense.
The ideas of the opposition parties are unknown in the national assembly. What is known is how the opposition members of parliament are skilled in merely reacting to what is being presented in parliament. The ruling party has been smart enough to even propose reforms to it. It is a natural political expectation that the opposition should propose reforms but not in Botswana. Here we have seen the same ruling party proposing economic reforms in the name of Economic Stimulus Package and the opposition party merely reacting to such proposals. Actually such reactions from the opposition members of parliament have sold and marketed the Economic Stimulus Package more than the ruling party has done.
In all these responses, there is no alternative plan being sold to the nation except a desire to present the best jokes and ridicule. There is not even making reference to opposition policies and manifestos for purposes of relevance. The cheerleaders also do not question relevance to policies and manifestos, they simply celebrate the sugar coating and the rhetoric used yet at the same time blaming the state of the nation address to be nothing but empty promises. This has been going on for quite a long time and must come to an end. It is high time that the opposition presents an alternative state of the nation address that does not necessarily respond to the ruling party’s state of the nation address. The opposition has 12 months to do this and yet only wait for last minute to prepare some form of a reaction only a day after presentation of the state of the nation address. Surely the opposition can do better than this if it has good intentions about this country. Otherwise it shall remain a grouping of pessimists.
The opposition parties will once again this week as they have already began through their spokespersons and leaders of the opposition embark on a journey of rhetoric and empty talk. On the other hand the state president will have left parliament buildings and giving his cabinet ministers of what happens next. What will not help this time around is that cabinet will be more interested and concentrating on the Economic Stimulus Programme that has become a dominant factor in political discussions. The nation will also be observing the roll out in awe and amazement. It is a new thing and obviously exciting.
The Economic Stimulus Programme will surely impress the middle class upwards including opinion leaders and that will take the limelight from the opposition. This was not going to be the case had the opposition not been a lot that simply reacts to statements and situations as is the case. What the opposition is doing right now is reacting to the ruling party’s initiative of the Economic Stimulus Programme and the state of the nation address. Very soon or to be precise, in the next three months, February 2016, the ruling party will present through the Minister of Finance and Development Planning a budget speech and the opposition shall also immediately, as is the norm react the following day with a speech that was written overnight.

It is a game of not necessarily presenting anything tangible but rather a game of waiting to hear what the next party says and opt to ridicule it even if it makes sense. This has become their trade mark. Interestingly, it is the same opposition which has been for years complaining that the country’s foreign reserves should be utilised to create employment. The government is doing exactly that and instead of celebrating this move the opposition has gone to a point of shouting foul and complaining that foreign reserves should not be used. The opposition has rather found some obscure explanation that the ruling party wants to deplete financial resources prior to 2019 because the ruling party knows that it is going to lose elections.

Interestingly, those who have been agreeing with the opposition that foreign reserves should be used to create employment are also now agreeing with the opposition that the foreign reserves should not be used. This is confusion of the highest order amongst the opposition block. The opposition block must rise to the occasion and not only react to what the ruling party is saying but propose meaningful reforms that they will implement. The opposition should not only propose these reforms but should sell and market them to the electorates so that the hope they are building of a better country after the Botswana Democratic Party is apportioned plans, commitments and practicality.  If the opposition is not able to do these then it defeats logic to say it is ready to take over in 2019.