All eyes will be on President Ian Khama when he gives his last State of the Nation address, six months before he steps down as the fourth president of Botswana. His address comes at a time the country is facing a myriad of challenges ranging from corruption, insecurity, incompletion of mega government projects, high employment rate among the graduates and disgruntled public service workers. When he assumed office almost nine years ago, President Khama set out his roadmap which was based on the 4Ds being Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline before adding Delivery later. On the 1st of April 2008, Khama stated that areas that needed special emphasis were employment creation and poverty eradication, programmes for the youth, health, housing and the fight against crime.He is now expected to reflect on these, demonstrating what he has achieved since he assumed presidency. He gave Batswana hope when he promised a better Botswana, leading some political pundits to argue that he was going to be greatest President this country has ever had.He allayed fears that he was not a dictator as he boldly stated that he joined the military to protect democracy and will not change his position as the leader of the nation – assuring citizens that there was no need to press panic buttons because the country is in good hands.With regard to democracy and his promise that he won’t seek a third term amid calls by some politicians from his ruling party calling for that, Khama has so far stood his ground and declined to extend his term.Former Member of Parliament for Nata/Gweta Oliphant Mfa once suggested that President Khama’s term be extended.Another thing that engrained Khama into the hearts of most Batswana was when he announced in his inaugural speech that government was going to introduce a contributory insurance scheme for the agricultural sector to make it easy for farmers to access loans. Nine years later, it is yet to be implemented or formulated as a policy.One area that President Khama is expected to glorify and point out as one of his achievements is the introduction of Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) which was introduced in 2008 after he assumed office. Its aim was to stimulate food production in the country using modern agricultural technologies.Before the inception of ISPAAD in 2008/09, total crop production recorded was 55 000 tonnes. Total production reached 396 000 tonnes in 2013/14.
Khama promised to restore dignity on Batswana, especially those without shelter and came up with Presidential Housing Appeal. This is one area where he will spent most part of his speech glorifying himself for this rare humane feat among most leaders. Though is very difficult to measure dignity, most Batswana don’t have jobs and this has robbed them their dignity.
This is one area where President Khama has failed as most of the projects he initiated aimed at helping Batswana failed. He started the Poverty Eradication which cost millions of Pula with no results coming forth.In 2015 Ministry of Education and Skills Development came up with Target 2000 which was aimed at up-skilling and up-scaling the unemployed the youth. The project failed to reach its target and its beneficiaries were not paid their allowances and enrolled on unaccredited courses. He came up with Hubs which he said will help to make Botswana centre of excellence and almost all the hubs are in non-existent. He announced in 2008 that government was in the process of outsourcing some portions of its hospitals to specialists after realising that the country was experiencing shortages of skilled personnel to optimise the quality of service of the excellent health facilities the government have built. Khama said the Scottish Livingston Hospital in Molepolole would have a portion outsourced to the University of Bonn, Germany, to set up a Cardiac Centre of Excellence. Instead a partnership was formed with specialists from Mauritius.
As part of instilling discipline on Batswana, President Khama came up with draconian directives by imposing alcohol levy and reducing operating hours for bars. This led to the increase in the abuse of illicit drugs especially mandrax, cocaine and ecstasy. The alcohol levy came with devastating effects as demand for alcohol is elastic and most of its imbibers started abusing it. This industry has also collapsed with KBL having been forced to close most of depots across the country and therefore throwing employees on the streets as jobs ended. At some point the brewer contemplated moving operations to South Africa altogether.
To his credit physical development could be seen especially in urban areas. The Gaborone Central Business District (CBD) has given the city an appealing skyline and availed new businesses and jobs.Another project that he is expected to mention is the construction and completion of interchangeable road in Francistown which has given the second city some facelift and the on-going construction of the Gaborone- Boatle road.
He promised that government would to allow ex-convicts to use prison facilities for training and raising seed capital for self-employment as a way of promoting rehabilitation. This has not been actualised. There have been concern that national sports players were not well remunerated when doing national duty and his State of the Nation Address in 2008 President assured the nation that government was going to pay allowances of players in the Premier League as well as first division north and south. Players continue to complain of unpaid allowances. It was clear that Khama wanted to restore dignity on most Batswana especially those residing in cities and towns emphasise being on the youth as he stated that government will establish a new instalment purchase scheme administered by Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) to provide affordable housing for all. The project only started recently and the houses are still under construction and only in Gaborone.
Before he assumed office even after President Khama has never shied away from showing his abhorrence of the local private media. He labelled it “shallow, boring … never contributing anything”, unpatriotic and partisan.The other D – discipline – including having to bring media to order. In 2013 at the High Level Consultative Council, President Khama announced that the government would start using public funds to sponsor defamation lawsuits against the media by Cabinet ministers and senior public officers. Khama’s administration came up with another tactic to muzzle the media through advertising moratorium. This has led some publications closing shop while others are retrenching and stopping some of their editions.In the run-up to the 2014 election, Sunday Standard editor Outsa Mokone was slapped with a sedition charge, causing a diplomatic row with the United States government and forcing journalist Edgar Tsimane to flee to South Africa, saying that he feared for his life. The effect of this has been that democracy and accountability has been compromised as a weak press cannot hold leaders accountable.
Corruption continued to thrive under the nose of President Khama who has vowed to uproot it. Some of the cases involving high ranking government officials have been swept under the carpet. One of the cases involves the Director of Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Isaac Kgosi whose file is gathering dust at Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP). During the SONA President Khama is going to quote international rating organisations stating that Botswana is one of the best in fighting corruption.
Independence of the judiciary
Khama’s administration was characterised by its interference on the judiciary, especially the appointment of judges and magistrates. According to the latest Economic Freedom Index Botswana’s score has been declining since 2010. In that year, it was 7.27 and three years later, had dropped to 6.46.Khama disregarded a recommendation by the Judicial Services Commission to appoint judges and magistrates for reasons that he has not made public.
Killing governance in parastatals
State-owned companies used to be run by board of directors in order to bring governance and avoid interference by politicians. The duty of the board was to appoint top management of the parastatals. This has eroded as ministers have been given sweeping powers to appoint heads of state-owned companies, thus killing governance.The case in point is at Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) where the minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama confirmed a number of executive decisions he made at the organisation.