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The BNF - opportunities and challenges Part 2

Staff Writer
The change that this country so desperately needs can only be delivered if the youth of this country deploy their intellect, their marauding energies and creativity as well as their numbers in voting for change. The country's future is in the hands of our youth. And the transformative choices for the future are yours to make now observes DUMA BOKO

One of the most intransigent challenges the party has faced has been the development of its Headquarters, Kopano House. It has now become a theme song sung throughout the years that this project must be pursued and finalised. Some individuals within the party have even not just over simplified the challenges associated with the project but also sought to insult the leadership accusing it of not doing anything at all in regard to the development of Kopano House. The gullible may be misled by these wild accusations. The truth is, however, that the project of the development of Kopano House has been pursued vigorously over the last several months through the office of the President. A task team of professionals was established and a lot of work has been done both in terms of the design of Kopano House and negotiating the many challenges attendant upon a project of this nature.

Drawings have been prepared at great cost which the party, unfortunately is in no position to pay. The progress of the project has largely relied on the goodwill and personal sacrifices of those who have worked with the President on the project. They have expended their own limited resources to finance most of the work to get the drawings and pre-construction requirement stages carried out.Discussions with potential partners and funders for the project have proceeded in fits and starts as the constraints of funding to cover some of the basic expenditure to carry out the project have persisted and money has been hard to come by. Our situation was hampered even more by the fact that the Ministry of Lands, also issued a notice that they intend to repossess the plot on which Kopano House is to be built as the plot was allocated in 1985 but has not been developed to date. Once again the President has expended his personal resources, assisted by the task team, to respond to these threats of repossession and an answer is awaited from the relevant Ministry. What this does is to put added pressure that if and when the Ministry responds and grants us some reprieve, development on the project must start immediately.We are also engaged in very sensitive and delicate talks with potential tenants of Kopano House in order to enable the party to obtain the necessary funding from financial institutions. Letters of intent to rent have been secured from a big retail outlet and one other potential tenant. We have submitted our drawings and designs to them so they can satisfy themselves regarding their own specifications.

Our hope is that if all the challenges are overcome construction should commence before the end of this year. The challenge the party faces at this elective Congress is that it must elect into office a leadership that will ensure the success and fruition of these endeavours. Business people are very sensitive and prefer continuity in who they deal with regarding their business. It is important to maintain this continuity and stability in order to keep the confidence of our business partners. Any mistakes in these regards will  set the party back by many decades.

The local political scene
Our people continue to experience crushing poverty. Income inequalities are deepening. The just distribution of the income and wealth of the country continues to be a pipe dream. People's private dwellings have become small corners of hell when we consider the dehumanising conditions under which they live. The fraudulent mismanagement of the country's resources continues unabated under the present government.Many of our people hold land parcels which present a huge potential value to them if utilised properly. The potential value locked up in land can be revealed and transformed into active capital. The renowned economist Hernando De Soto deals with this potential most instructively in his book, "The Mystery of Capital". He enlightens us on how to unlock this potential. He argues for a transition from land as merely a physical object into land as a legally constructed and secured representative universe to disengage the resource from its burdensome material constraints and release its economic value. 

The oppressive and outmoded patterns of regarding landed property in Botswana have submerged our people in sub human levels of existence despite the fact that they hold land parcels whose economic value is enormous. Take the example of a place just outside the Seretse Kgama Airport in Gaborone. Many ordinary Batswana have sizeable pieces of land in this area called Kgaphamadi. It is not a secret that the Airport expansion will affect these people and make it virtually impossible for them to conduct their small farming operations. All the Land Board must do is to grant these people change of use and enable them to carve out residential and commercial parcels and sell to willing citizen buyers at reasonable amounts. The replication of this model across the country would yield significant returns both to the individual landholders and to the government as it may levy a small tax on each transaction. The government may also purchase for free allocation to eligible applicants under the aegis of the various Land Boards. This would require a more creative and flexible approach to land tenure and may require the enactment of appropriate enabling legislation. It calls for a little seriousness on the part of Government and some sense and creativity on the part of the legislature.

The Umbrella would implement such an approach to address both issues of the endemic poverty that brutalises our people and render land free to be acquired without causing hardship on the citizens.These are but just some of the ways in which the Umbrella offers a repertoire of policies and interventions which are spectacularly superior to anything the current Government or indeed any other political party offers to the people of this country.It is not possible in a report of this nature to chronicle all the creative and well thought out policy positions that the Umbrella brings to the political scene. Our campaign will take all these programmes to the people. I have no doubt that our campaign will light up our country and lift up the dark and dreary cloud of sadness that presently envelopes it. The present government has shown complete contempt for the rule of law in its proper sense. It is in every respect a tyrannical government.One can do no more than echo the sentiments of Quentin Skinner when he observed that,"If you live under any form of government that allows for the exercise of prerogative or discretionary powers outside the law, you will already be living as a slave...The very fact that your ruler possesses such arbitrary powers means that the continued enjoyment of your civil liberties remains at all times dependent on his goodwill. But this is to say that you remain subject or liable to having your rights of action curtailed or withdrawn at any time"We need only remind ourselves that the present regime has deported many foreign nationals under the draconian Immigration Act which grants the most abusive powers to the President. His sing along appointees in the judiciary have pronounced that he is not subject to any judicial review in the exercise of these unreasonable powers.

Foreign nationals have had their work and residence permits revoked without being afforded any right of audience. Many have been deported on the flimsiest and most absurd of grounds ranging from having allegedly uttered profanities against the President, through having speculated regarding the sexual orientation of certain high ranking members of the Government, to simply assisting marginalised communities claim their constitutional rights.This regime is made of spineless cowards who are afraid of shades and shadows. That is why they expend astronomical amounts of our tax Pula funding their Directorate of Intelligence Services, DIS. This worthless spy network has become a financial black hole that threatens to swallow up the entire country. It gobbles up huge amounts in unjustifiable endevours. But this spy machinery must understand that the welling anger and resentment among our people from its brutality and unchecked arrogance will erupt in the not too distance future if they do not change course. When this discontent explodes, DIS will be as helpless as it was when its chief architect was almost mowed and savaged by a leopard or whatever wild cat he was messing with. Many people are waking up from the slumber of tenderpreneurship. They are beginning to ask difficult questions as they seek to hold this corrupt government to account. All the corrupt tender awards of today and the yesteryears will come under public scrutiny soon and those who perpetrated the corruption will answer even in their old age or from their death beds I can promise them that. The experiences of Hosni Mubarak and other corrupt dictators must remain an abiding lesson to all dictators that as Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice". All dictators present and future will pay for all their misdeeds. They will pay with their lives. I would like to wag a finger of warning at our President and his cohorts.

Energy poverty and dependency
After almost five decades of independence from Britain, diamond rich Botswana has failed to address the pressing problem of energy poverty. The country still depends on electricity sourced from outside. Data has always been readily available that shows the

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energy needs of the country as well as trends in the establishment of new businesses. The mines and other projects were always going to come on stream at some point of time, requiring increased electricity generation. That the country has now had to put up with the ridiculous power cuts and load shedding that have been applied is testimony to the embarrassing lack of vision on the part of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. The country has huge amounts of coal and even more plentiful levels of irradiation for the generation of more than enough solar energy. The problem in Botswana has been a failure of leadership. No efforts are being pursued to harness the sun and generate solar energy if only to service those currently not on the national power grid and who have no hope of ever going on the grid.

There are many facilities across the world to fund the development of green energy in the developing world which our country sadly lacks the kind of robust and active leadership to take advantage of. The monopolistic and predatory tendencies of this government cemented in the laws that have created a single monopoly in the Botswana Power Corporation have contributed in no small measure to the current crisis. The legislative environment is also completely unhelpful as it is hostile to the proper creation of Independent Power Producers and their capacitation to augment the clearly woefully inadequate efforts of Government to provide electricity to Botswana. The monopoly of the BPC is stifling private business initiative in the energy sector. Under the present regime hundreds of thousands of Batswana will remain off the electricity grid and their children and successive generations of family members will suffer the same privations. Water has also become an extremely scarce resource. Our party has clear policies and concrete action plans for addressing these issues and has, from its establishment, canvassed these policies. The failure of the BDP cannot be attributed to lack of guidance from us as the opposition. It can simply be attributed to power fatigue. The BDP as an organisation has served as best it could. It cannot do any better and must be assisted and relieved of power.

Education and the youth
Young people in Botswana face unprecedented challenges. They have to contend with a severe shortage of jobs and opportunities. They live in perpetual dependency on struggling parents and relatives or fall prey to the many social ills arising from their peculiar vulnerabilities. We must also note young women's disproportionate vulnerability within the broader HIV-AIDS situation. Many of our young people are victims of Government policies that create an unsustainable dependency. The few who are "fortunate" are condemned to the prospects of lifelong low-paid employment that guarantees them far lower living standards than their parents faced. Botswana offers no comfort from the tragedies of youth unemployment. Our country compounds the problem of youth unemployment by retaining and continually recycling retired and expired former public employees and blocking any prospects and opportunities for young people to join the ranks of employment or to ascend therein. Our young people have little or no access to meaningful investable resources and support. Our youth are condemned to bitter reflection and sorrow which they drown out in alcohol and hard drugs. Of course such "quick-fixes" fail to address the fountain source of the problem and place our country in a far greater range of danger.

Our country is crying out for an education system that can unlock and fulfill the genius and passion of our young generation. We, in the Botswana National Front, have always advocated for the education of our young generation not as instruments of national power and manipulation. We want them educated and educated properly because we prize them as the future of our country. Our party has a vision of how marvelous life can be for our youth if they can realise their full capacities as human beings. Our party has always advocated an approach to education that engrafts production and application in the very process of skilling our youth. Our approach appreciates that reciting and memorising are far less relevant to students in this day and age. Our young people must be trained and permitted to exercise creative problem solving and critical thinking. We must acknowledge the omnipresence and influence of technology in today's world and our young generation's unfolding future. If they are to play any meaningful part in this unfolding future they must be intimately acquainted with technology. The computer must be a permanent feature of the classroom and learning.  The transition from a product oriented economy into a knowledge or service oriented one has already occurred and our country must move with the times. We advocate, in our policies, and this is a message we will reinforce as we move toward 2014, an education system that inculcates creative thinking, analytical evaluation and imagination in order to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The kind of education we strive for will require the upskilling of our teachers and the professionalisation of teaching and training. As we will demonstrate in our march to 2014, ours is a spectacularly more robust and empowering offering that seeks to mould a generation that can change our world, eradicate poverty and attain prosperity for themselves and their communities. Our kind of education and other interventions in the lives of our young generation will focus on fully empowering the youth, unlocking their potential for change and building the future. We will equip our youth to operate on an outlook not of entitlement but of being worthy and deserving. We are confident that the proper education and empowerment of our youth will extend to the whole of our population a well being hitherto reserved for the fortunate ruling elite and their hangers on. The task for young people and the Youth League of the Botswana National Front, is to school themselves thoroughly in the politics, policies and ethos of our organisation in order to galvanise the youth of this country around the core requirements for regime change on Botswana. The young people of this country are, fortunately, not beholden to the current government. They are a great deal more sophisticated than the rural masses who form the default vote bank of this corrupt government. They are not hostages of some romanticised past. The change that this country so desperately needs can only be delivered if the youth of this country deploy their intellect, their marauding energies and creativity as well as their numbers in voting for change. The country's future is in the hands of our youth. And the transformative choices for the future are yours to make NOW!

Labour and the trade unions
The government has embarked on a campaign and policy of demonising the labour movement and launching an onslaught against the trade unions. The public sector workers strike that took place a few years ago was a stunning indication of what unity of purpose and the resilience of labour expressed through the trade union movement can do.Our Trade Unions must deploy their power and potency to bargain for and demand real change in their lives. They must advocate for a proper democratisation of labour relations in this country.The vagaries of history attest to the fact that the success of the trade union movement will not come from litigation. One of the lessons that I hope the Unions have appreciated from their court cases is that the outcome of cases that seek to broaden the democratic space and secure fundamental rights has never been about either the quality, equality or even superiority of arms or legal representation. It is about the fact that the BDP has packed the court with the most conservative judges who seem to act under dictation from the Executive. Some of these judges have no known intellectual or jurisprudential pedigree. Some of them have a well documented history of obeisance to the Executive that verges on sycophancy. In fact some have been spanner boys of the Executive. They remain its outposts.This must tell us that success in securing the rights of workers in this country can only come from their joining forces with those of us who champion their cause and have always been their dependable allies and Comrades.We call upon and encourage the labour movement to mobilise its membership and work toward regime change in 2014. We in the Umbrella invite the labour movement in its entirety, unionised and yet un-unionised, to join forces with us to effect the much needed change in this country.  We invite you to embrace and internalise what the ancients described in the words "Esse est co esse", (to be is to be with). For the trade union to be what it properly ought to be it must be with us on the right side of history. This is important to internalise and realise that the Umbrella carries and manifests the reality of unity from diversity. We have succeeded in fashioning a unitive interpretation of what would, to the simple minded, be divisive realities. We are a concrete testimony of the wisdom stated in the maxim "e pluribus unum", (Out of many, the One). We are one! We are the One!

*DUMA BOKO is BNF and UDC President. He delivered this speech at last month's BNF National Congress held in Ghanzi.



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