President Mokgweetsi Masisi delivered the Second State of the Nation (SONA) against the backdrop of the Covid 19 pandemic this week.
In his address to the First Meeting of the Third Session of the Twelfth Parliament, Masisi touched on issues of social upliftment, governance, peace and security, and sustainable development among others.
The Voice Reporter, DANIEL CHIDA engages leaders from different organisations for a cross-section of opinions on Masisi’s address.
Thusang Butale – Secretary General of Botswana Federation of Trade Unions
BFTU is surprised that, in the climate change portion, the SONA did not refer to the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland.
It is a historic conference which has made watershed policy guidelines that would shape the world.
Notwithstanding the commitment to bio-mass technologies, we also wish Botswana government could state its position on how it navigates the trends towards a fossil-free world.
We are disappointed that the SONA did not observe that there is a rising trend of organised and violent crime targeting businesses and households, including a spate of unprecedented robberies.
We ascribe this to the prolonged impact of Covid-19 in a highly unequal society.
What was needed was for the government, through the Police and other security organs, to assure the nation that they have an effective response strategy and that they understand the dynamics of such heightened violent crime.
Masisi made a commitment towards a review of the national constitution in his inaugural speech in October 2019 and in the 2019 SONA in November 2019, six months before the State of Public Emergency.
BFTU wishes to register disappointment that to date, nothing concrete has happened save for further commitment made recently.
As labour our interest is, first in advocating for recognition of trade unions rights in amendments to the Bill of Rights and in promoting third generation human rights, which give effect to social protection floors.
On the regional and international front, we are concerned that the SONA strongly condemned developments in Sudan and Ethiopia, but hardly a statement on Eswatini, where hundreds of innocent pro-democracy activists are being murdered and maimed.
We are calling on Botswana to follow South Africa in showing concern about political developments and violations of human rights in Eswatini.
On a positive note, the 2021 SONA made strong emphasis in certain subjects, such as the creatives industry.
However, in a quest to limit themes, it omitted many aspects of development and convoluted others under unrelated themes.
Phenyo Butale – Secretary General of Alliance for Progressives
SONA is supposed to give us a picture of exactly what is going on in the country at that particular moment but it is disappointing to say SONA failed to address the socio economic challenges that we are facing.
Things are manifesting, security challenge, money heist, armed robberies because of economic hardship are some of the issues we had thought the President will give enough time on how government will respond.
There is disconnect in his address as there is no goal, Masisi does not have a clear blue print on which direction he is taking the country.
What he presented as SONA is compilation of presentations by Ministries which do not even speak to each other.
There are no targets and timelines and we have argued that this lack of targets and timelines denies the country the chance to hold government accountable.
There was also no hope in his address despite the fact that many companies collapsed.
Unemployment and inflation has never been this high and we had expected the President to speak on how he was going to steer the ship out.
He repeated the same things he said over and over on fighting corruption without explaining how he is going to fight it.
His address was another piece of rhetoric tokenism and far less commitment from government.
Louis Sibanda- Botswana Patriotic Front Representative
The 2021 SONA was detached from reality. It was a self praise poem whose substance was at tangent with reality.
key issues in Botswana relate to the dampened economic energy.
The inflation rate is hovering around 8 percent which is the highest we have had in 18 years.
Our purchasing power this year alone, was eroded by 8 percent thanks to the increased levies and charges for government services.
The unemployed and the poor feel it the most, and they will continue, brother fighting brother for a grain of over cooked rice.
Unemployment rate officially at 23 percent, which is a conservative statistic but, it is at its highest since 2003.
Over 70 percent of the unemployed are the youth. We have to deal with delayed adulthood because of delayed employment.
Most of these youth, some above 30 years old are still living with their parents who themselves are barely surviving.
My expectation was to know how many people lost their jobs, how many jobs were created in the previous year and going forward, what measures have been put in place to create jobs, particularly for the youth in the coming year.
Crime has taken a turn for the worst. We shop in fear and this somehow does not concern the government.
Government must come up with clear crime prevention strategies that can boost business confidence.
Batswana want to be involved in their economy. Government must relook at the economy with a view of re-engineering the economy to close the gap between those who have and those who don’t.
It is important for government to ensure that the economy is trusted into the hands of Batswana ba sekei.
On the Agriculture side, government appears to be beating its chest hard for the good rains, without explaining how the rains have helped improve our food security.
Government has been reviewing Ispaad since 2019 and further promised to fence farms and coordinate dry land farming.
It appears each year the revised Ispaad is postponed to the following year.
As it stands, Ispaad used to cover 5 ha, the current state, which the president wants to beat his chest for, Ispaad covers only 4 ha and has been made difficult to access.
Government has a tendency of operating without a plan. No target in sight.
As a result even when they achieve nothing, we cannot hold government accountable because they had no target in place.
On the health side, we have lost many of our loved ones to Covid-19.
While we must appreciate that, it now appears government is being responsive by procuring vaccination, we must also tell the truth, that it is a good effort but a little too late.
Many lives lost could have been saved if the government had used the Covid crisis as an opportunity to improve our health care as it was said to be in the beginning.
As it stands, hospitals have not been improved, ICU beds are in short supply and we lost our loved ones due to shortage of oxygen.
When the State of Public Emergency started, government was talking about expediting procurement of ICU beds, procuring an additional 5000 beds.
We still have 35 beds in government hospitals and around P4 billion used to procure nothingness. There is no Covid dividend.
Our Government Investment Account( Foreign Reserves) as at July 2021, stood just above 4 Billion from 31 billion in April 2018, yet we have very little to point at as a residual of our expenditure. The state of our nation is a sorry one.
Goitsemodimo Ditsele- Sexual Reproductive Health Rights Africa Trust
At SRHR we commend the President for his passion and vision to push the unfinished agenda of gender Equality.
It is really quite impressive to realise that our leadership is finally giving trust to women and acknowledging that we are capable.
One may take it lightly and see it as another person being promoted into a higher office but to me as an aspiring young leader and a young woman this is changing the lens on how I perceived leadership and it is also encouraging me to realise that indeed it is possible to become a female president or an ambassador of the nation.
The current appoints of females in leadership position I believe our president is sending quite a clear message to say it is about time we push for gender parity.
For the first time in the history of Botswana we see women holding top positions which we all knew had been held by men since the beginning.
Masisi highlighted that young people are being provided with funding as a start up capital for their businesses.
However we need to know how many of the funded projects are owned by young women, hence we need more data in this area to be able to measure the progress.