As resolved by the 2012 Sefhare conference, we will be discussing the draft manifesto for the 2014 general elections. The key issues that we decided to focus on are the economy, labour, education, health, democracy, and housing and land administration. I wish to highlight the key issues that we propose in the manifesto which will be key priority areas for a BCP led government.
Governance and Democracy
Our democracy has stagnated. Countries that were under repressive regimes for many years while Botswana was considered the shining example of democracy have now overtaken Botswana. We have one of the weakest parliaments in the region in terms of independence from the executive and our oversight institutions such as the DCEC and the Ombudsman are controlled by the presidency. The BCP government will subject the constitution of the republic to a major review by the citizens. After 47 years of independence, we are mature enough as a nation to reflect over the type of constitution we need and graduate from a constitution crafted by the colonial masters.
Most nations that inherited constitutions from their colonial masters at independence have long discarded those constitutions for more relevant ones that are aligned to modern day challenges.The BCP government will formulate laws that allow for a transparent and accountable government. We will introduce a law on Disclosure of Assets and Liabilities by the political leadership as well as by all those who hold senior positions in government and government owned entities. This should make it easier for those charged with investigating corruption to detect cases of corruption in the higher echelons of our society easier.
The BCP will amend the electoral laws to introduce direct election of the president, party funding, state the date of the elections in the constitution and empowering the IEC to deal with issues of constituency and ward delimitation. We will introduce a policy on decentralisation and create a stronger local government system with mayors and council chairpersons who are directly elected to office by the electorate for five years.
The Economy and Labour
The economy remains over-reliant on diamonds, making it highly vulnerable to external shocks. The key problem that we face as a nation is that of unemployment, particularly by the youth. Our economy remains foreign dominated with all major infrastructural projects being undertaken by foreign owned companies. Wages in Botswana are low and many hard working people are unable to afford the basic necessities of life. Once in government, the BCP will pursue a different economic strategy based on creating opportunities for all citizens, transforming the economic base by placing citizen involvement at the centre of our plan and promoting employment creation. We will introduce legislation on citizen economic empowerment. Our economic strategy will be based on engagement of all the key players in wealth. Government will liaise closely with both the business sector as well as organised labour. Trade unions will be given the space to organise effectively so as to participate in the process of building a productive and efficient labour force that can drive our economy to higher levels.
The BCP will pursue processing and beneficiation as an economic strategy for job creation. Our government will prioritise the export of semi-finished as well as finished goods to the international markets as well as for local consumption. In our view, the export of raw materials amounts to exporting jobs which disempowers Batswana.Our government will introduce a living wage as opposed to the current minimum wage. The living wage will allow all working people to earn a wage that is aligned to the cost of living and therefore allow all working people to lead a dignified life. We will also support family responsibilities at the workplace. Maternity leave will be compulsory and so will paternity leave for fathers who wish to take time off to bond with their newly born children and allow the fathers to participate in the upbringing of their children. The BCP government will prioritise the provision of roads, electricity, and telecommunications in rural areas that demonstrate high potential for agricultural production. Comprehensive insurance cover will be promoted for the crop and livestock sectors.
Many Batswana continue to die from avoidable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, tuberculosis and HIV and AIDS. Botswana has a high prevalence rate of maternal and child mortality. Our health facilities are understaffed and do not have adequate basic equipment and drugs to operate efficiently.
Strangely, government destroys drugs worth millions on an annual basis on the grounds that they expired before reaching the health facilities. In the 2011/2012 financial year government destroyed drugs worth P116 million which had expired before reaching health facilities. The BCP government will focus on addressing the issues that affect our professional health care providers. No health care system can provide quality care when the nurses and doctors that look after the patients are demoralised and aggrieved. The fact that most Batswana doctors graduating from various medical schools would prefer to work abroad and not in Botswana demonstrates that the conditions of service are problematic. Measures will be put in place to ensure that all health facilities are sufficiently staffed with qualified personnel. The current situation where a number of facilities remain understaffed while graduates of health institutions remain unemployed will not be tolerated.
For Botswana to become a prosperous and successful nation, our education system will have to compare with the best in the world. As the global village becomes smaller, graduates from our educational institutions from all levels, will need to compare favourably with the more advanced economies that we have to compete with. The current reality is that the quality of our education has been consistently deteriorating at primary, secondary and tertiary level. We have registered the worst results for junior certificate for the class of 2012. All public senior secondary schools attained a pass rate of less than 50 percent in the last results released. We cannot claim that there is any basis for assuming that by 2016 we will be an educated and informed nation. Batswana have an option of electing the BDP in 2014 and watching the high failure rates subject their children to becoming Ipelegeng participants or voting for a BCP government that will deliver a better education through the following interventions;
Introducing pre-primary education; Providing free and compulsory education; Introducing mother tongue instruction for early primary education; Transforming Colleges of Education to offer teacher training at a degree level; Resolving issues relating to conditions of service for the teachers and declassifying them as essential service providers.
Land and Housing
Accessing land for most Batswana is problematic. Citizens are subjected to waiting periods that go up to 20 years for an undeveloped plot or SHHA house. This can only be as a result of failed land policies given that Botswana is over 580,000 square kms in surface area with a population of 2.1 million. Smaller countries with populations much bigger than ours are able to provide land and housing for their people. Those who are allocated land do not have the means to develop such land and are forced to sell their plots to those with resources. The BCP government will carry out a comprehensive land audit to determine who holds what land and how they acquired it Harmonise the rights of those who hold land irrespective of the form of tenure.
Impose a tax on all undeveloped land
Embarking on an accelerated land servicing and allocation program to do away with waiting lists in both urban and rural areas Introducing new housing schemes targeting the first time home owners and the low income groups who are not catered for by the currently available schemes We are committed to the pledges that we make to Batswana. We have demonstrated in the past that as an opposition party, we have been able to deliver on some of the pledges we had made to the electorates from the opposition benches. The ruling party on the other hand has a long list of unfulfilled promises even though they are in charge of government machinery. Where they have formulated policies that they had promised the electorate, they have failed to implement the same policies and blame civil servants for their failure. Batswana appreciate now, more than ever that there is need for change of political leadership. The 2012 AfroBarometer survey showed that the BCP ranked second to the BDP in terms of which party Batswana would vote for had elections been held in 2012. There has been enough time since 2012 to persuade more Batswana about the readiness of the BCP to govern. We have what it takes to win the next elections if we remain focused.
* Saleshando is BCP President. This are excerpts of the speech he presented at the recent BCP National Congress.