RESPONSE TO THE SONA (2019)
HONOURABLE YANDANI BOKO ( MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT MAHALAPYE EAST)
“you may encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it”
These words by Maya Angelou, describe not just UDC but the esteemed president of the Movement Cde Duma Gideon Boko, Mminathoko. I express my sincere appreciation for Advocate Duma Boko, the son of the soil, a beacon of hope for the masses of our people. His message of hope made it possible for me to be a member of this house.
This man Mr Speaker saw it all in the past few years. However, despite the adversities he remained cool in hell fire. He remained focused. I admire him. May I warn now that we will never allow what happened to him and those that he worked with to repeat itself in the next general elections.
Mr Speaker, father of the house the VP, leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando fellow legislators I greet you.
Mr Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank the almighty God for taking me this far. It is by his unfailing grace that I see myself standing in this august house this afternoon. Throughout my campaign in the just ended general elections Mr speaker I took heed of the words in Isaiah 26 : 4 ‘trust in the Lord forever for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. I experienced the power of God.
I stand here this afternoon as a young and ambitious Motswana, I am told I am the youngest MP in this august house. Even as that humbles me, it also inspires me, it tells me that anything is possible, I stand here as both a representative and an inspiration for the aspirations of the a new dawn in Botswana .
Mr Speaker it would be remiss of me not to pour out my love to the people of Mahalapye East who made this possible, the young and the old. They supported me throughout this campaign. I take my hat off for my campaign team for the sterling job it did. I shall forever remain indebted to them. I thank my friends, my family and all those who saw it fit to hold my hand in this journey.
Mr Speaker, how can I forget to mention my campaign manager, the former mayor of Gaborone, Mr Harry Mothei who who gave me guidance and wisdom. I pray that our Lord continue to bless him.
Mr Speaker, I take this moment to thank my mother for raising a fearless and ambitious person in me. I thank her for allowing my team to use her house as the base for the campaign. I thank her for the door to door she did on my behalf. “My mother is my root, my foundation. She planted the seed that I base my life on, and that is the belief that the ability to achieve starts in your mind.” —Michael Jordan.
Indeed behind every successful man there is a woman, I take this opportunity to acknowledge the role played by my wife Nokhaya Refilwe Boko. She has been a pillar of strength in this journey. She interceded on my behalf. She gave me warmth and comfort. She used her resources for a greater course. Indeed she is a blessing to me. She travelled the width and breath of my constituency with me in the searing heat without complaining.
We may have failed to take government but there is no one in this house who would deny that UDC showed itself to be a government in waiting. We grudgingly accept that as things stand the BDP is in power, they are the government. Mister Speaker while we reserve our views on the just ended elections, indeed as everyone knows we have resolved to challenge some results in some constituencies, we cannot ignore the stark reality that government has to function even as it functions under the BDP government. Our challenge of election results in some constituencies must not be seen as a way destabilising government or the country, rather it must be viewed for what it is and that is part and parcel of our much vaunt democracy
Mr Speaker it would most amiss for UDC to allow irregularities and other questionable practices that threaten the credibility of our elections to go unchallenged. It would be wrong to accept the common narrative that elections in Botswana are free and fair. Well they are certainly free but by any stretch of imagination they are not fair.
Mr Speaker I do not wish to spend time talking about this very sombre issue of what may well amount to an attack on our democracy. His Excellency the President of the republic of Botswana Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi has delivered a not so excellent state of the nation address. It is critical that I respond to the rather vague pronouncements he made. I needed to point out first that as things stand we have a less than credible parliament because of the many irregularities that took place in our elections. We leave it to the courts to save our democracy.
Mr Speaker I wish to share with you an ever so profound saying by a man called Alvin Tattler, a saying that is often shared by one of the greatest minds of his generation in Botswana Rre Ndaba Gaolathe, a man, the guru as our esteemed president Cde Duma Boko used to refer to him and I quote “The illiterate of the twenty first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” end quote.
Let us pause and digest this saying. Allow yourself to understand that when he became president, his Excellency being a former educator was much accepted by the education sector in Botswana. Teachers, the base of everything that makes a nation, believed that this president would at the very least be alive of their challenges. There was high expectation that this here President will move to fix basic problem in our education system. Mr Speaker at the most primary of our challenges in education is the absolutely abhorrable working conditions of our teachers. The confidence the goodwill has been wasted by His Excellency Mokgweetsi Masisi. Our President has basked in the glory of the good will. He has failed to make one meaningful adjustment to our education system. While we appreciate that teachers are no longer considered essential services, it would be wrong to look at this issue as a success for the president. For a person who talks ad nauseum about the4th industrial revolution, a person who exalts a random, uniformed and otherwise careless idea of an electric car. Our Educator President is clueless on what it takes to jump into the 4th industrial revolution. Botswana is ill prepaid for the 4IR. It has no 4IR STRATERGY. Its human resource development systems are failing.
Our educator president is uneducated on the reality that as things stand around 50% of learning is taking place outside the class room. Mister speaker this figure is expected to rise up to 70 per cent in the next decade. This underlines the importance of conferencing as an avenue not only of education but revenue for the country. Mr Speaker our educator president intimated in one of his many speeches (beautiful speeches I might add, the Gentleman is quite an orator-but I digress he intimated that there was going to a substantial budget for training and conferencing in Botswana. It was a brilliant idea even if it was rather ad hoc-otherwise unexpected. It is the right thought. Surprisingly though in his state of the nation address his Excellency did not mention this initiative not even once. As my esteemed leader of opposition Honourable Dumelang Saleshando said, the State of the nation address was a concoction of departmental and ministerial reports. Totally lacking not only in substance but empathy & understanding of the challenges that we face as a country, and he was right.
Mister Speaker we MUST overhaul our education system not express sentiment. We must as a matter of urgency seek to reform the education system. We speak to these issues as UDC it is however very painful to see how a president fail to show how the education sector is going to be funded to the extent that it can play its rightful role and contribute to the economy.
Mister speaker, I like President Masisi, I have never had a private moment with him, I don’t need to have had it and I cannot deny that he is a regular Joe, an otherwise likeable man BUT we are not in a popularity contest and trust me he would win that hands down, we are in the business of government and we have a nice but otherwise disaffected president who just coasts through life either on the back of his family’s name or the fact that – as I accepted , he is popular. We MUST demand more from this president and his government. I obsess about a Botswana that has 21st century compliant citizenry. To create a 21st century compliant nation we need to fix the education sector/ while we may discuss the various adjustment to the curriculum, it is important that we realise that central to any reform is better treatment of teachers. Our teachers work and live under horrendous conditions. The state of teacher accommodation is of grave concern. At this day and age we should be avoiding at all costs a set up where teachers still share accommodation. His Excellency the President discussed in rather vague terms the idea of leasing schools to unions. While this may well be something worth looking into, I say it amounts to one of the many pipe dreams by our government. This government is unwilling yo commit to improving the state of teacher housing. Is it not more practical not to mention urgent to partner with unions and various other private interests to provide teacher housing. Mister speaker taking care of our teachers is the only way we can guarantee that a good base for our education system. While we, as well applaud the president’s token engagement with unions, we must not lose sight of the very stark reality that not much has been done by our government to alleviate the position of teachers.
Mister speaker again I will not dwell too much on this particular issue as I know during the course of the 12th sitting of parliament we as the UDC shall agitate for meaningful reform of the education sector.
Mister speaker we must accept that we it is not enough to merely ensure that Botswana have access to health care. After half a century of independence, we should be concerned far more with the quality of health and not just access to health. We know the various health services in the country continue to suffer from drug shortage among other things. This is brought about not only by a very weak distribution system but also by general disaffection on the part of government. Mister speaker we continue as a country to have very low cancer detection. Our silence on this deadly disease is but a small part of the problem. The bigger problem is we appear to lack the capacity to detect cancer early on. Indeed, in the absence of scanners, only the well to do are able to get tested and get proper intervention for cancer. The not so well to who form a large part of our population-thanks to the 53 years of mismanagement by this government are in no position to have cancer detected early and duly treated. This should be a source of shame to us as a nation. We call upon government and my fellow legislators to respond to the cancer scourge as a matter of urgency.
Mister speaker we continue to see unemployment soar in Botswana yet there appears to be no commitment from government to deal with this very dire problem. It is our sincere hope that the BDP government would borrow a leaf from the promises that we as the UDC had in our manifesto. The ruling party, bereft of ideas as we all know it is, must not be shy about implementing some of our ideas that seek to deal with unemployment. While it would have been ideal to be in power so we deal as a matter of urgency unemployment, I believe that government should not be too proud to use our ideas to end unemployment and by extension poverty. The BDP must not look to save face while our people suffer. We know all too well that many a times in this august house BDP MPs have intimated that they do not want to share the limelight with the opposition. These utterances are most unfortunate Mister Speaker. It is important that we put the needs of Batswana far ahead of egotistic and petty partisan politics. I therefore implore government to actively engage all forces that seek to end unemployment.
Mister speaker we need greater accountability on the issue of land. After spending millions on an ill-advised program called LAPCAS, the government is yet to show us a return on investment in so far as LAPCAS is concern. It is important to note that LAPCAS was used as a foil to avoid talking about the land audit or reform of land administration. Batswana continue to struggle to secure land Mister Speaker. Even as we speak we know that countrywide there are long very long waiting lists. People go through the most productive years of their lives awaiting land. There is correlation between being landless and poverty. Where Batswana should be given and as a right not privilege, we continue to see inaction on the part of government to solve the land problem. The state of the nation ignores this inconvenient reality. We are all too aware that the rich and privileged continue to exploit this sad situation by buying land on the cheap from poor desperate Batswana.. Mister Speaker we must expedite land distribution in Botswana we must capacitate land boards so they can speed up land allocation
Mister speaker even as we hear vague sentiments on fighting corruption in Botswana, we are all too aware that the rich get away with questionable practices/ our corruption watchdog ; the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime the DCEC is fond of sharing stories of corruption convictions. People who have been bribed for amounts in the region of 2000 pula. Is it not interesting though that we are yet to see this DCEC share stories of white collar crime involving big monies and the rich. Mister speaker it is important to note that I am by no means trying to condone corruption involving small money. I condemn corruption in any shape or form but we cannot deny that DCEC appears incapable or at the very least unwilling to deal with the so called Big fish. A sorry excuse of a law was recently enacted by the 11th parliament. The declaration of assets law is nothing short of a sick joke in its form. Mister speaker either by design or outright ignorance, the declaration of assets bill in its current form falls far too short of international standards. The whole idea of a declaration of assets is not that you mister speaker and the president know our economic activity as legislators and indeed as senior civil servants. The idea is that the public be able to find out for themselves what assets and liabilities their leaders have. In the absence of that the law is useless. Mister speaker as things stand we can safely conclude that we lack the mechanism to deal with white collar among the country’s leadership. We must accept Mister Speaker that a declaration of assets act is central to curbing white collar crime. Coupled with other instruments like the freedom of information law, a declaration of assets law would go a long way in curtailing excesses by those in power. Mister Speaker we must be willing as leaders to be scrutinised by those we claim to lead. Re fitlhela batho ba ba re tlhopileng eng ne bakaulengwe?
Mister speaker as a practising attorney I would have failed if I don’t deal with the challenges faced by the other arm of government, the judiciary. Mr speaker the prestige that comes with the position of being a magistrate comes with some restrictions. They handle high profile cases especially those on E1 scale and above which exposes them to security challenges. As such they require tight security which currently is not being offered as the only guards they are afforded are from private companies. Most of the times they are not trained and in most cases are not screened such that at some instances ex convicts or even accused persons are hired to guard magistrates.
As for accommodation, the decision by the government to award the globular housing allowance ignored the fact that magistrates constitute the foundation of the judiciary and it is essential that in order to exercise their responsibilities as judicial officers they should be afforded accommodation which reflects their role in the society in an appropriate and safe environment. Currently where there are no institution houses, Magistrates are allocated pool houses which do not befit the status of a judicial officer, for example houses do not have boundary walls, they are in locations which are not safe and this in essence exposes them to danger. In some cases they rent for themselves and in this instance they may be exposed to danger or compromised as this might end up renting litigants houses.
MR Speaker there is shortage of staff especially in court reports. There is a crisis in the judiciary regarding this cadre which is essential in the dispensation of justice. They record court proceedings and where the court does not have a court reporter trial cannot proceed and this affect the dispensation of justice.
Even appeals are delayed because it takes forever for the court reporters to type proceedings for appeal due their shortage. In some instances you will see one court reporter manning 2 – 3 courts. This is sickening. Mr speaker as someone who was trained in law you will remember that no appeal can be heard without the record.
Mr Speaker there is an urgent need to build more high court and employ more judges as some judges are sitting in magistrate courts. We need this as a matter of urgency because currently he judges carry a heavy load as cases are registered in high numbers every day. We need the judiciary to dispose of matter in a short period of time not where cases can take 3 years to be completed.
- Mahalapye Challenges: Mr Speaker, we still have schools in Mahalapye east which do not have electricity. In the past few days I visited Dovedale Primary school, a school which was opened in the 70’s if I am not mistaken and I was shocked to learn that they operate without electricity. Further Mr Speaker, the school are not well equipped, the teachers do not have basics such as stationery and the furniture is in bad state.
- Mr Speaker the less said about our roads the better. The road that joins Makwate village to neighbouring south Africa is an eye sore. We wonder when it will be tarred.
Mr Speaker SONA represents the current state of affairs economically, socially politically and even spiritually. We have a broken village, high crime rate, drug abuse among others. It is a village that is not doing well. There are no rehabilitation facility save for Mahalapye prison. There is no youth center and no counselling facility. It is a painfull situation Mr Speaker.
Mr Speaker, the health facilities for some villages in Mahalapye East are ill equipped. You can go into the clinic and be told that there is no paracetamol. In some instances the nurses wont be available to assist the sick. Mr Speaker it remains for me to once again thank this honourable house for its attention. Further to promise the nation that I will not be a sing along in this house, that I will do what is in the best interest of our people.