RESPONSE TO THE STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR GABORONE SOUTH, ASSISTANT MINISTER OF PRESIDENTIAL AFFAIRS, GOVERNANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION HON. DUMEZWENI M. MTHIMKHULU
The Honourable Speaker Mr. Phandu T. C Skelemani
Leader of the House, Your Honour the Vice President Mr. Slumber Tsogwane
Honourable Members of the 12th Parliament of the Republic of Botswana,
I extend pleasant greetings and well wishes for your tenure of Parliament.
Mr Speaker, after the long dry spell of recent we are thankful for the rains we have received over the past several days.
As we thank providence for the continuing downpours, we extend our sincerest compassion to the people of Mahalapye and Molepolole who have been adversely affected by storms. We remain confident that our Disaster Management Teams will respond timeously to rescue the affected and in aid to restore normalcy in those areas.
Allow me foremost to thank the people of Gaborone South for electing me from among able competition to represent them in this august house. I am emboldened by the confidence expressed in me and assure them of my utmost effort in advocating for their welfare. I thank also the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for presenting me the opportunity and platform to represent my people. I am most humbled by the recognition by the President in selection of his cabinet.
Honourable Speaker the BDP under the stewardship of Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi has emerged victorious from one of the most affectedly contested election in the history of our country. The BDP in its manifesto presented the most audacious proposals for transformative development and the confidence of our voters on these proposals presents an onerous assignment on the elected members to deliver. In acknowledgement of the assignment at hand, I am reminded of the words of one of Africa’s renowned sons in Dr. Kwame Nkrumah when he said: “The task ahead is great indeed, and heavy is the responsibility; and yet it is a noble and glorious challenge – which calls for the courage to dream, the courage to believe, the courage to dare, the courage to do, the courage to envision, the courage to fight, the courage to work, the courage to achieve…”. I am committed to serve.
Mr Speaker, it cannot be denied that corruption has reared its ugly head in some of our public offices. The President must be commended for his commitment to uproot corruption and malfeasance.
Regrettably, the quest to cleanse government enclave crevices of the vices of malfeasance has not been received kindly in some quarters. Some have seen viewed this commitment as an assault on their rank and faucets of wealth. They have in turn resorted to a malicious campaign to tarnish the credibility of this government in the international community as the number of locals who agreeable to that narrative dwindles by the day. We call on the law enforcement agencies not to be deterred in their work. They must not be demoralised by the chorus of naysayers who judge the work of crime fighters by the number of convictions made. Combating white collar crime is by nature a complex undertaking as it often implicates very high offices of authority and influence. The measure of white collar crime busting can thus not be limited to failure to secure convictions but rather in ensuring that where there is reasonable suspicion of graft, the perpetrators are brought before the courts. It remains entirely up to the courts of law, independent of executive interference, to make conclusions of the cases brought before them.
We have noted with contemptuous disregard the heedless petitions on the results of the past recent elections by the opposition camp. A call has been made from across the aisle by none other than the Honourable Leader of the Opposition in this house, Hon. Dumelang Saleshando, that those who query the elections results, ludicrous as the claims may be, must be given chance for their day in court. While one naturally associates with this appeal, it is amiss that the party that calls for amity should also be seen to propagate toxic disinformation about the outcome and causing needless anxiety within the populace. Mr Speaker the integrity of our election and indeed our democracy is under siege. The Leader of the UDC, Mr. Duma Boko, and his coalition of the defeated have taken to persistent use of propaganda as a tool to undermine our democratic credentials and sovereignty. They have toured world media houses with allegations that the 2019 elections were rigged because, in their laughable imagination, they could not have lost. They need to be reminded how they lost the elections.
From its inception the UDC portrayed a superficial unity that glossed over the fact that each of their contracting parties in the formation had its own separate agenda. Each leader of the separate parties obsessed with power and secretly harboured desire for the highest seat. The UDC dismally failed to shrug off the euphoria of the gains made in 2014 and instead of campaigning and reinforcing their Parties, they worked against each other. Their internal squabbling that saw Pilane and Boko gang up to eject Ndaba Gaolatlhe form the UDC and ultimately Boko scheming to boot out Sidney Pilane from the UDC alienated many, including the public service workers, who had been drawn to the UDC coalition with hope that the UDC was a project assembled for the collective advocacy of citizen welfare and not one man’s quest for the limelight.
The self- centered campaign of the UDC alienated its own members particularly those of the BCP decent as it appeared more and more that their Party leader was relegated to the sidelines. Mr Speaker, I venture to speak on the reported issue of one Owe Mmolawa, an administration officer in the office of the former MP Duma Boko. I make this averment with the utmost respect and trepidation for the Hon. Dumelang Saleshando and his family. I wish not to imply any misconduct or lay charge on anyone other this here averment, but I hold that, in the midst of the allegations, Mr Boko should have acted to reprimand Mmolawa. His complicit silence and/or acknowledgement of the allegations further entrenched angst and distrust by members of the BCP against Boko Duma, and by extension the coalition he leads.
Because of an inherent deficiency in its leadership echelons the UDC floundered into an election like a cast of crabs in a basket, without strategy nor realistic hope. A total disregard of such organizational structures as the Party Central Committee and over reliance on a cabal of the leader’s hangers-on could only produce pseudo- rhetorical messages as tasteless as boiled beef. This lack of structural coherence is what evidently led to the UDC’s dismal poll performance. The leader of the UDC routinely ignored meetings of his Party, the BNF, Central Committee meetings and, with the aid of a brood ill-mannered youngsters self-dubbed the FearFokol perpetuated a rude and vile campaign against anyone who sounded caution of the consequences to him.
The UDC’s association with Former President Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, a man they had over the years caricatured as the incarnation of evil, was the final nail to the coffin. How they expected the voting masses to suddenly forget all the grime they’d been fed and fall in love with General Khama escaped ordinary thinking. The belligerent tone and disrespect of our founding fathers by Mr. Boko alienated him and his party from many votes. How could one, even with the faintest knowledge of the make-up of Gaborone Bonnington North Constituency, expect the multitudes of public service workers’ resident in Block 7, Block 6 and Block 8 to elect him when he persistently denigrated them and regarded them as undeserving of his attention?
Boko’s lack of leadership credentials is further exposed by the demise of the BNF under his leadership. The local scribe and opinion leader Mr. Spencer Mogapi appropriately observes in the weekly Sunday Standard that; “All the decline in the BNF’s standing can very easily be attributed to the leader, a unilateralist showman with a penchant for self- promotion and naked ambition”.
If it harbors any hope for reawakening or meaningful participation in our politics, the UDC should face up with its demons and recuse Mr. Boko from anything leadership. His shortfalls in that regard are extraordinary and embarrassing. Let us be reminded Honourable Speaker, that this is a man whom the courts of law have pronounced that he obtained membership of the BNF he purports to lead by dubious means.
NO ONE IS LEFT BEHIND
Mr Speaker, the President in his address of the State of the Nation implored us to ensure that we achieve our development objectives whose aim is to improve the welfare of Batswana and to ensure that “No One is Left Behind’, consistent with the 2030 Agenda. Being representative of the most marginalized constituency in the city, I could not have been more elated for such consideration. The people of Old Naledi beg not to be left behind. They ask the question why Old Naledi is the only precinct of the city not provisioned with broadband internet, to which I am equally dumbfounded.
The mid – term review of the National Development Plan 11 presents opportunity for us to incorporate the transformation agenda championed by Dr. Mokgweetsi E. K Masisi. We commend government for the continual improvement of the SHHA Turnkey and Home Improvement programmes and call for quicker processing of applications and response to queries.
Mr. Speaker the advent of new technologies that infuse innovative capabilities for machines and human beings is upon us. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) presents entirely new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even our human bodies by such techniques as genome editing, machine intelligence, and cryptographic methods such as the blockchain and Big Data Analysis. A Canadian – American writer named William Gibson aptly observes thus “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed”.
The people of Gaborone South want within.
The pallet furniture manufacturers along the roadsides in Old Naledi could benefit immensely from concerted efforts of investors, consumers, regulators and citizens who adopt and employ these technologies in daily life. We call on government to facilitate participation of the innovative brick moulders at the Gaborone Dam front in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Mr Speaker the acrimonious relations of the past between government and its workers should never be allowed to surface again. Government must work hard to maintain cordial relations with its workforce to ensure productivity in deliverance of its mandate. I am happy that my Ministry and the public sector trade unions have recently recommitted to working together towards the resuscitation of the Public Sector Bargaining Council (PSBC). The PSBC is a de rigueur platform for the existence of harmonious relations between the employer party and the workers’ movement.
Mr. Speaker, ours is a nation of workers and protection of workers’ rights should reign supreme in our agenda. The Court of Appeal ruling that employers ought only to give workers one month’s notice for expulsion is regressive and permits employers to terminate employment without cause. The Act should be amended to protect workers and safeguard security of employment.
Another recent judgement by the same Court of Appeal pointed specifically to diminish workers benefits by controverting the Employment Act in rescinding the obligation on employers who have not contributed pensions for employees to pay severance benefits. Mr. Speaker the 12th Parliament must hasten to craft laws that will not only revise these injustices but seek to protect the worker as a critical stakeholder in fostering economic success.
The Trade Disputes Act should also be reviewed to incorporate provisions that will discourage employers from termination of employment. It should impose prohibitive sanctions on employers who unnecessarily inconsiderately terminate employees.
SPORTS, ARTS, CULTURE AND RECREATION
Mr Speaker, Gaborone South has produced some of the country’s most celebrated icons, past and current, across sports, arts and entertainment fraternities. For emphasis, I venture here to pay respect to Gaborone South greats like Willie Paymaster Dennison, Phenyo Mongala, Bigboy Lefelakgotle, Diphetogo Selolwane, Duncan Kgopolelo, Tsotso Ngele, Seabelo Modibe.
Mr Speaker, the dance troupe Mafitlhakgosi needs no introduction for their craft speaks volumes. What demands introduction to most however is the deplorable conditions of facilities where they rehearse the skills that thrill audiences weekly. The lack of sports and recreational facilities in my constituency is a near catastrophic sabotage of talent development. I enlist myself to the raging appeal for the establishment of a National Arts Council and at an opportune juncture, I will present comprehensive proposals for a national arts theatre to be built in Old Naledi. In the meantime, however, one is predisposed to the idea of unchaining the gates of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) facilities domicile in our Constituency for use by the various arts and sporting codes. Shared use of the well-built facilities will not only go far in development of sports and culture but will also save the facilities dilapidation due to underutilisation. It is the cliché, win – win situation.
Mr. Speaker, the persuasion of education must not be aimed to produce the best English speaking students but rather to graduate market ready leaners who will impact communities and with innovations and solutions. For this reason, government must be commended for its realization that the time is nigh for the introduction of Outcome Based Education (OBE) Programmes at secondary schools. The advent of OBEs will allow students to pursue subjects of their interest and capabilities.
Government continues to implement some critical reform programmes under the Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) aimed at enhancing access and quality education in line with the local and global demands.
Mister Speaker, we welcome the development of the National Health Rehabilitation Policy in order to fully address rehabilitation needs of people with complex neurological conditions and traumas. We are hopeful that the specialized rehabilitation center will be accessible to the mostly affected people of Gaborone South.
Mr. Speaker I am disenchanted by the manner in which members of the policing force continue to trample on the civic liberties of the people of Gaborone South. Perhaps out of client profiling or plain impertinence, residents in my constituency are routinely harassed, searched and incarcerated without cause. Overzealous officers confiscate alcohol from homesteads without slight indication of violation of any law or disruption of peace and order. The operation of the police to arrest and investigate later is a deprivation of the freedoms engendered in the Constitution of the Republic. Perhaps the time has come for this House to revise the Criminal Procedures and Evidence Act with a view to protecting citizen rights to private property. To curb against abuse, Police officers must first obtain search warrants from court to instigate a search on one’s private property.
HOUSING AND RENT CONTROL
Mr Speaker housing provision in my constituency remains a devastating affair that may only be resolved by revamping government policy and legislation towards housing to ensure inclusivity. The BHC Act should be amended to ensue not only the provision of affordable housing for citizens but to also improve supply of housing and protection of tenants. Another option is to free up markets by tendering of serviced and demarcated land parcels to developers who will compete on basis of cost of construction and not the cost of land provision.
Mr. Speaker rentals in my constituency and indeed the greater Gaborone area is running amok as landlords impose rampant increments without consideration of the tenants’ welfare and/ or commodity prices. These exorbitant rentals have often resulted young people who relocate to the city hoping to find employment engaging in crime and other bad practices as prostitution so as to keep up with the exorbitant rentals even for the most deplorable conditions of habitat. This may not be left unchecked. We have to urgently revise the Rent Control Act reign curb skyrocketing rentals and protect our mostly young working force and safeguard their right to decent shelter. The Rent Control Tribunal in its current form does not adequately address the problems faced by tenants. It needs, as a matter of urgency to be reconstituted, resourced and capacitated to fully discharge its mandate. The scope of its mandate has to be broadened to cover all properties and not just a select classification of properties.
HARMONISATION OF LEGISLATION
Mr. Speaker quite a number of legislative pieces remain incongruent with the main legislative framework and indeed with development patterns and global trends. While work has been done to apprise our laws, there remains some outdated and appalling laws that may only be uprooted by a complete overhaul of the legislative centerpiece. One stands today in total support of a comprehensive review of the Constitution of the Republic as proposed by His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi E. K Masisi. The review of our Constitution will ignite conversation around some of the most contentious chapters of our laws. Electoral reforms should make priority of the reforms. The proliferation of foreign interests in our elections, or outcomes thereto, may not be left unchecked. Over the past years we have witnessed increased heightened propensity to litigation which calls on us, legislators and compatriots, to close gaps and ensure congruence of the entire legal framework.
Honourable Speaker the 12th Parliament is immensely blessed to have a learned man of your esteemed stature in the speakership. You will agree with me however on the impending difficulties to your work when the laws that you should enforce are themselves incompatible and/or outdated. I plead with Honourable members of the 12th Parliament to dedicate effort towards the harmonization of the laws that govern this republic and indeed this very House.
Mr. Speaker, Botswana lags behind in promoting its domestic tourism product. Effort must be made to harness profits from this sector. The Gaborone Dam in our constituency provides opportunity for development of economic activity for the benefit of our communities. Government agencies and regulating authorities must relax laws that prohibit the conduct of commercial ventures at the dam. They must, in fact, proactively participate in promoting such innovative economic ventures.