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Politically speaking SONA, what’s in it for Batswana?

Politically speaking SONA, what's in it for Batswana?
PHENYO BUTALE

BCP’s Pheko, AP’S Butale and BDP’S Mochothi speak out

Botswana, just like the rest of the world recently emerged from devastating COVID-19 pandemic which decimated many economies and hiked the cost of living.

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) earlier this week, President Mokgweetsi Masisi noted that his government is very much aware and alive to the fact that the pandemic aggravated poverty and unemployment, especially among the youth and noted that these issues were being addressed through programmes and projects such as alignment of government machinery, establishment of national planning commission, introduction of economic inclusion bill and import restrictions on some fresh farm produce, among others.

Following the President’s address,Voice journalist, FRANCINAH BAAITSE spoke to different politicians regarding whether SONA holds any hope for the nation.

Phenyo Butale- Secretary General-Alliance for Progressives (AP)

We are disappointed because as we expected the speech is nothing but a disjointing compilation of presentations done by different government departments and does not have a thread running through it and a message or theme demonstrating what the government’s focus is going to be which could have shown that indeed the government has an understanding of the current state of affairs in the country.

It is clear that government and the president himself are devoid of ideas in terms of how to address challenges that we are facing as a nation.

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The least President Masisi could have done was to make SONA current and relevant to current challenges.

It doesn’t appear the president understands that we are facing soul sapping and debilitating and ever rising unemployment that is spiralling out of control.

From his speech it didn’t sound like there is a problem and if you remember, I presented a motion when I was in parliament that we should declare unemployment a national crisis and come up with immediate measures to curb the situation, but for the president, it is business as usual, he doesn’t even seem to dedicate time to think about solutions to these problems.

Another thing is that you would have thought he would address the stand off between farmers and tractor owners because of high prices of fuel and the low subsidies that government gives to farmers.

A president who addresses the nation during ploughing season would not only say a re yeng go lema (Lets go and plough)but also address issues surrounding farming and agriculture.

Issues of food security is topical, not only here but on the international stage and you cannot just gloss over that issues as the president did.

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The SONA was stale, not relevant, didn’t address the current challenges and I think it was extremely depressing and it was at best a self congratulatory message by the president.

The usual flaw on SONA was that it would seem the president has refused the advice and invitation to provide reports on achievements thus far with regard to what was promised before instead of bringing new promises once again.

The last the nation was promised the electric car and now it’s a satellite. It is a continuous effort to pacify the nation and give them false hope when in fact nothing is being done. We need measurable targets.

Politically speaking SONA, what's in it for Batswana?

MPHO PHEKO

Mpho Pheko- Publicity Secretary BCP

I find it unfortunate that president Masisi’s SONA seemed detached of Batswana, corruption, with poor educational outcomes, failing health system, inflation, high cost of living and high youth unemployment and underemployment.

I wish to focus my attention on youth unemployment and underemployment, which should be a huge concern given its short-term and long-term impacts on both the youth and our economy.

As a mother, sister and researcher, I am aware of many long-term scarring effects of youth unemployment which president and his advisors should also be familiar with.

The president should have shown that he cares about skills erosion, diminished career development opportunities, increased risk of mental diagnosis and ultimately lowered earning and pensions, which collectively are grooming a generation of economically marginalised youth in Botswana.

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If rre Masisi and his government cared instead of making announcements regarding some satellite, he should have presented solutions to corruption, outlined what he intends to do with poor educational outcomes and failed health system as well as inflation and high cost of living and high youth unemployment.

He should have presented robust solutions detailing how his government recognises youth unemployment and underemployment as a crisis and outlined how his government intends to facilitate pro-employment growth, improvements in education and training systems and targeted youth employment and youth entrepreneurial actions.

The president needs to see youth as a special category of human resource that could either drive economic growth or slow down economic growth in this country depending on interventions availed, and forget about electric cars and satellites.

COLLEN MOCHOTLHI

Collen Mochotlhi-BDP’s national youth committee chairperson

The SONA is strong. The president delivered an inspiring SONA that re-instilled hope and re-assured commitment of government towards serving the nation.

The drive towards being a high income status country by 2036 will be championed by young people and contributing sub economies will be the knowledge based economy such as ICT, financial and professional services.

The value chain and industrialisation strategies will create more jobs in the agriculture and mining sectors as young people will be hired in the production and processing stages.

Creative arts sector which has huge potential to surpass diamonds as the highest GDP contributor is a youth dominated sector and it’s being boosted by BTV’s new strategy of being a hub of production by establishing three channels and localising content by 80 percent, which will be a stepping stone and a big boost for youth in creative arts.

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The decision by local government to upgrade 10 sub councils into full councils means more jobs for every new district council and we believe that youth will be given a priority in staffing of new councils. Establishment of 40 new police stations will create more new jobs for youth.

The mindset initiative is a game changer for the youth as it will breed high level entrepreneurs who will be players of our high income economy in 2030.

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