Botswana Forum for Action and Reform (B-FAR) Congratutalory Message to HE MEK Masisi and Call for Determined and Committed Action and Reform.
The Botswana Forum for Action and Reform (B-FAR) cordially congratulates His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi E. K. Masisi for the victory of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the 2019 general elections and his election as the 5th President of the Republic of Botswana. Batswana have expressed their choice and given you the mandate to lead. They did so on the hope and trust you will make Botswana a better country for all to live and prosper.
B-FAR is an independent and non-party organisation established to lobby for, advocate for and in any manner promote and represents the interests of an accelerated and radical structural and socio-economic transformation agenda for Botswana and its refocus towards: citizen engagement and empowerment; inclusive and participatory growth; revolutionary economic diversification; and rapid and sustainable development.
B-FAR was a result of the great concern that we had as Batswana in the period leading to the 2019 election, especially in regard to alarming levels of corruption, growing income inequality, excessive poverty and unemployment, marginalization and exclusion of local private enterprise, disenfranchisement of citizens, poor and degenerating public services, emergence of opportunistic politics and evident threat to and erosion of democracy.
As a pro-citizen and pro-Botswana organization, B-FAR is committed to advocating for and supporting all and any initiatives that are aimed at improving the lives of our people, socially, economically, politically and in all spheres of life. To that end, our purpose is to stand together with all organizations, individuals, policies and programs whose objectives are consistent with our stated purpose. B-FAR embraces any agenda that will ensure that Batswana indeed “advance together towards a more inclusive economy”, so that Batswana, more especially the economically disadvantaged indigenous majority, are not merely spectators to the enjoyment of the vast wealth of their country.
On the same note, B-FAR will unequivocally condemn, discourage, speak against and in many ways confront any organizations, individuals, policies, programs and initiatives whose objectives are counter to the furtherance of the development of Botswana. We shall maintain this position in matters of public policy, politics and socio-economy for a healthier and progressive, geo-politically judicious and unashamedly pro-citizen political, economic and social system in Botswana.
In response to the tone of the BDP manifesto, B-FAR also believes that real economic empowerment must be a combination both of “sustainable and meaningful jobs”, and the ownership of land as a primary resource necessary to enable ownership of the means of production and to allow them to participate in the generation of wealth.
B-FAR also concurs that Government must be inclusive in order to stay true to the very definition of Democracy, which is, a “government of the people by the people and for the people”. An inclusive Government must find practical expression, not only through the voting process but also the intellectual inclusion of the voter-citizen in the understanding of the election system. The voter-citizen must understand how the system works; including the true meaning of representation, the responsibilities and obligations of the representatives as well as the rights of the voter-citizen. B-FAR recognizes that a democracy in which the voter is generally ignorant and manipulable, is a pseudo-democracy which, in actual fact reduces to an oligarchy sustained by demagoguery.
As a Forum we were deeply concerned by tribalistic and divisive undertones emanating from some quarters prior to and following the election. We trust that your government will put these to bed, and also recognize that the concept of inclusive growth completely goes against politics of patronage, nepotism and any form of favouritism. Appointments in key positions must be based solely on merit for the deliverance of excellence.
As an advocate for citizen engagement and participation, B-FAR fully subscribes to the principles of Therisanyo and Botho which we note you, Your Excellency listed among those that undergird and define who we are as a people. B-FAR therefore echoes your words which observe that; “Partnering with our people is not about politics or campaigning. It’s not a nice-to-have to keep our people happy. It’s the Botswana way. True collaboration between Government and our people is about achieving more than we could as individuals.”
B-FAR is gratified to note that you, your Excellency, have assured the nation at your inauguration as the fifth President of the Republic of Botswana, that you have resolved to devote your time and energy to “improve the lives of our citizens who are yearning for the social and economic transformation of our country”, and further emphasised that “Batswana should always remain at the epicentre of our development agenda”. This stated commitment by yourself, has inspired much hope in our people, and therefore it is imperative that you and your Administration deliver on these promises without fail. It is with delight that we note and acknowledge the extensive common ground between what we stand for and what you seek to achieve for Botswana.
Post Election Developments: It is against the foregoing background that B-FAR has been observing post-election developments with great expectation of a new and fresh way of doing government business. Our renewed hope is, in fact, based on your declaration that, “regardless of political affiliation, … our duty is to serve the interests of Botswana and Batswana without fear or favour”. On this basis, we urge Your Excellency to evaluate the effect and impact of party caucuses, televising of parliamentary processes, and shared accountability with the opposition as parliament addresses upcoming issues such as the constitutional reviews and structural reform frameworks as herein alluded to. In particular, we note as follows and accordingly advocate for a change response:
SEMPs. B-FAR notes that as has been tradition following elections, the President of the Republic appoints a prescribed number of individuals to be Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs), and the same was done following the 2019 General Elections. We however, noted with concern that the process was not done consistently with the doctrine of “inclusive government”, whereby all members of the House would have been given “a real voice and meaningful stake” in the election of the SEMPs. It is the considered view of B-FAR, that in spite of it being the legal prerogative of the President to nominate any member of the public to be an SEMP as stipulated by the Constitution, it is best to do so in as transparent and consultative a manner as possible. In this respect, we noted the following concerns;
We note that there were only six nominees for the six available slots, and therefore the significance of voting was not apparent to the public. The process of ratifying the nominees by Parliament was therefore not transparent, in spite of the fact that transparency (as would be enshrined principle of Therisanyo) is a recurring theme in several speeches you have addressed to Batswana.
We also noted that there was legitimate request by some Members of Parliament (MPs), to the effect that the profiles of the nominees be given before voting was done, in order to afford the MPs a basis upon which to cast (or not) their vote for a particular nominee. This was also of interest to the Public at large, and indeed a reasonable and fair request. The expectation was therefore that, in the spirit of inclusive government, such a request would be heeded. The dismissive manner in which the Speaker responded to this seemingly fair request did not bode well for the encouraging message of inclusivity and Therisanyo.
Party Caucusing. As B-FAR, we are aware that caucusing is a long-standing practice at Parliament, and has been practiced by both the ruling party and Opposition alike. Indeed it was as a result of a caucus decision by Opposition MPs that Honourable Pono Moatlhodi withdrew his name from standing for the position of Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
Much as this practice is common across the world, it must be appreciated that it is, by nature, inherently undemocratic. It therefore robs Parliament of the opportunity, and causes the same to obviate the responsibility to fully and properly represent the interests of Batswana, irrespective of party affiliation. Caucusing also generally implies special and exclusive group interests by those who practice it, and will generally put the interests of the Public at second place, after those of the party as an interest group.
The consideration of the “interests of the party” as being of primacy over those of the public, naturally breeds mutual exclusivity among the individual parties represented in Parliament. It also results in a lack of trust among the members of the respective parties, and a weakening of the spirit of team work. The principle of Therisanyo is thereby sacrificed, and ultimately it is the public who suffer from the dysfunctionality that results from this kind of scenario, as ideas (good or bad) are rejected or accepted based on who proposed them, rather than based on their merits or demerits.
B-FAR therefore hopes that going forward, we will witness a transformation of practice that will reflect more and more the kind of inclusive government that Batswana have long wished for, and were hopeful that your Government will usher in when they responded so positively to your message of an inclusive economy.
Televising of Parliamentary Proceedings. B-FAR strongly advocates for the televising of Parliamentary proceedings. That is the only way that the people can get first-hand information about how well, or how badly the people who are representing them are doing on the job. For far too long MPs have had the latitude to put minimal effort in their work, because they could do so without their “employers” realizing it. It is a fact well known to the public that while some MPs would absent themselves without a valid reason, others would develop the habit of turning the House into a place of comedy and jest, while yet others would literally sleep during important debates. All these behaviours have been made easy by the fact that parliamentary proceedings are “hidden” from the Public. We therefore call for the use of the already existing facilities to broadcast the proceedings of Parliament to Batswana.
Review of the Constitution and Policies. Your Excellency, B-FAR welcomes your promise to facilitate the reviewing of the Constitution, and delightfully quotes you words which say, “As a republic, we need a constitution that guarantees equality of opportunity and treatment of all citizens, regardless of creed, tribe, political affiliation and other such orientations. All discriminatory provisions will be removed in favour of more inclusive provisions.”
We trust and hope that such review will also provide for the need for MPs to be accountable to those who have voted for them, and to the Public in general. We propose, therefore, that there be a clause that will empower the voters to recall a non-performing representative, according to a prescribed and transparent procedure.
Oversight Institutions. Strong, legally-instituted and protected oversight institutions are a hallmark of a strong democracy, in which the interests of the public are protected and defended. As a democracy of note in Africa, Botswana has had in place a number of oversight bodies, the most notable of which are; Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), the Ombudsman, Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), and the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA). The teeth of each of these organs can only be grown by a law that renders them independent and autonomous, and answerable to Parliament through an appropriately constituted parliamentary committee.
Empowering these oversight institutions in that way would ensure that they do their work without fear of reprimand and undue interference. B-FAR therefore advocates for a review of the law in order to empower these organs to gain the necessary independence for them to play their role more meaningfully within the economy of Botswana.
We urge Your Excellency to fast track the following policy and structural reform instruments, and ensure their legislation, adoption, enforcement and monitoring:
- National Transformation Strategy
- National Monitoring & Evaluation Framework
- National Employment Policy and Legislation;
- National Financial Inclusion Roadmap;
- Citizen Economic Empowerment Legislation
- National Disability Strategy and Legislation
- National Rehabilitation Policy and Legislation
We also urge Your Excellency to consider the following areas for immediate improvement, as may be presented in the coming State of The Nation Address (SONA) of 2019:
Improved foreign policy in relation to multi-lateralism and regional integration. In particular fast tracking of measures for adoption and participation in the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
We strongly advocate for strengthened bi-lateral socio-economic partnership or collaboration with the Republic of Namibia, starting with key industry and economic sectors such as mining, wildlife, transport and aviation.
We join those who are calling for increased separation of roles between the three arms of government: Executive; Judiciary; and Legislature. Your Excellency, you are one of the proponents of this move as reflected in SONA 2018. We therefore do not believe it should necessarily wait for the constitutional review but should be progressively brought into effect through a determined planned effort.
We recommend a liberal increase of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program from the current budget of P30mil and the Youth Development Fund from the budget of P120mil. In so doing, we also call for added preferential treatment and support mechanisms for citizens living with disabilities.
We request a clear definition of the Community Constituency Development Program, and inclusion of measures for planning, transparency, monitoring and reporting, and call for full-scale accountability and audit of the past Constituency Fund annual P570mil disbursements over the previous funding periods.
We add our voice in support of clear long-term and progressive strategies towards energy and water self-sufficiency, including a deliberate National Solar Strategy and Masterplan and the pursuit of the Botswana-Namibia Water Desalination Program as more sustainable solutions to be pursued.
We call for an aggressive public service reform. Taking the cue from the newly appointed parliament and cabinet, we express our hope for an equally responsive corporate leadership in the public sector. New brooms sweep better, and we believe many current leaders have outlived their productive stay.
It is noteworthy that some of the above areas of improvement have been reported in the previous SONA, especially SONA 2018 which you delivered. We urge a decisive and informative SONA reporting in which previous achievements are stated, targets are shown, deviations explained and future projections justified. We look forward to this level of address in the SONA 2019, which the previous SONA mysteriously lacked.
We also request that you pay attention to the reports from State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that are fed into the SONA to avoid unduly congratulating low-performing SOEs and low performers. A case in point is your previous admiration for the work of BITRI on solar reported in SONA 2018, without realizing that manufacturing and assembly work belong to the private sector and not to research institutions. Instead, BITRI should have been cautioned if not reprimanded for crowding the private solar industry and eroding the employment gains your government has achieved so far.
They are many such similar cases, especially in the Research Science, Technology and Innovation (RSTI) field which is less understood by government, that we implore you to interrogate. B-FAR will constantly bring these cases up and is available to advise government in relation to appropriate RSTI funding and facilitation to move us towards the knowledge-based economy.
Of immediate relevance is the need to increase expenditure on research, raising Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) to levels comparable to emerging economies. However, we advise that this funding should directly target the private sector and not government ‘middleman’ research institutions. Instruments such as the Innovation Fund should be beefed under a Research Council which should be established as a matter of urgency.
As we proceed into the next 5years of the mandated BDP rule, we are eager for meaningful transformation and look forward to a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable development experience that will see Botswana ushered into a High Income status and knowledge-based economy. B-FAR will support any such positive reform measures and will rally behind the long awaited efforts of your government in this regard.
CONGRATULATIONS. FATSHE LENO, LA RONA. PULA! PULA! PULA!!!