With just one festive season and one Easter Holiday left between the Vice President and the highest office in the land, Mokgweetsi Masisi has made his presence felt at home and internationally. Mmegi Staffers take a look at the possible changes that might have to be effected in April 2018
The incoming President should reshuffle Cabinet and remove Eric Molale on April 1, or latest April 2, 2018. This is the man who has never had good relations with civil servants and trade unions during his time as permanent secretary to the President (PSP) and as Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. His presence in the Cabinet will be interpreted as a continuation of bad relations between the government and trade unions or workers. Masisi’s efforts to build good relations with civil servants will bear fruit and he might get a fair share of their votes in 2019.
Secondly, he should redeploy Carter Morupisi, or get rid of him, or send him to Kgalagadi District Council, Ngamiland or Okavango where he will have no access to the corridors, let alone doors of power. Masisi should also reverse the recent decision to have the PSP as a member of the JSC that has stirred controversy in the legal profession.
Repeal and reverse certain laws and policies
The incoming President may have to repeal a number of laws that were passed in the last 10 years. The Trade Disputes Act (TDA) of 2012 may be the number one stop in order for him to build good relations with civil servants, whose views on their welfare carry a lot of weight in shaping the political atmosphere. This law was formulated at the height of emotions at the Government Enclave as a result of the 2011 mother-of-all-strikes that seriously dented the image of the government.
Assurance of independence of judiciary
Serious investors put their money where they are assured that it is safe and the courts are not biased towards any individual or organisation particularly the government. It is not enough to boast that Botswana is a peaceful country that has enjoyed political stability if there is a perception that the courts, or the judiciary is controlled from the Office of the President.
He may have to push for retirement of some judges, increase the bench or make a statement to declare his belief in an independent judiciary. Having an impartial judiciary is one of the cornerstones of any democracy and it helps or prevents the government from making irrational decisions.
Abolish Presidential Housing Appeal
This is one of the most uncomfortable initiatives ever. Whilst it is good to provide shelter for all, this mandate could have been properly legislated and incorporated into our laws and create an Authority not attributable to an individual but to the government. Good examples include the destitute programme, orphan programme, old age scheme, and war veterans scheme. The aforementioned were government initiatives to recognise the plight of the groups. The records of the needy are already in government offices across the country. All that needs to be done is to formalise the initiative, create a fund where the private sector and individuals can deposit money for the construction of houses for the needy.
Shelter is a human right, equally important as education, water, and health amongst others. There have been instances where the beneficiaries of this scheme were paraded on national television to show that they got the shelter through this appeal.
Unlike private companies, government does not need to show the public that it has ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ activities. All it needs is to create a conducive environment through laws and policies that can advance the growth of the private sector and create jobs, as well as those that recognise the basic needs of its people.
Fill all vacant positions in the civil service
There are thousands of vacancies in government offices throughout the country, something that gives an impression that there is reluctance to create sustainable employment. The government should consider
Open dialogue with the public
The incoming President should immediately open dialogue with the public, academics, private sector, and the media on why the economy is struggling to create jobs and what needs to be fixed. The private sector has long been complaining about government policies that make it difficult for it to grow. This ranges from strict immigration regulations and vetting processes that make it impossible for expatriates to enter the country and set up businesses or bring scarce skills, to indiscriminate deportations that cause panic and uncertainty amongst investors. Willingness to engage in dialogue, coming from the highest office in the country will engender a spirit of engagement and ownership by citizens.
Rebuild the education system
A lot of damage was caused over the years and one of the priorities for the incoming President is to get views and engage experts on what needs to be done to fix the education system. As an educationist, Masisi should be worried by the state of our education’s low quality from primary school to tertiary institutions. When Professor Sheila Tlou assumed the position of Minister of Health, she did a lot to improve the health system in the country, although her stay in politics was shortlived. Former president, Festus Mogae focused more on economic issues since he was an expert in the field. With a proper education system in place, Masisi will not have to worry about building more prisons to reduce the congestion in the facilities.
Build a good relationship with the press
The private press is not only an alternative source of information for the citizenry, it is also an important tool that investors consider when they want to invest in a country. The international community measures the credibility of any government through its attitude towards the press and how such government handles criticism. The incoming president should demand a communication strategy from each ministry, which strategy should detail how it will respond to press inquiries; timeframe for such responses and a schedule for press briefings throughout the year. This will reduce incidents of unbalanced coverage of the government and endless rebuttals from the government. A good government Public Relations Department would do well for Masisi.
Botswana’s visibility on the international stage
As much as it is the duty of permanent secretaries to account to other government institutions on behalf of their ministries, it is the duty of the President to represent his/her country on the international stage. The President can better articulate his/her country’s needs to his/her counterparts in the global village and convince them to influence their companies to set up in Botswana. This country is competing with neighbours such as Zambia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe for investors and they have big populations compared to us. As host of the SADC headquarters, and geographically located in the centre of the region, Botswana has potential to be centre for many services for the region, but that can only be possible if the country has good relations with other countries.
Preach hard work
Botswana has for many years been ranked among the lowest when it comes to work ethics and the evidence is visible in many service centres like banks, stores, garages, filling stations, government facilities and others. Customers spend a lot of time in queues waiting for service, whilst their servants are in the least bothered, as they are either busy chatting with a colleague about last nights escapades, or just in no hurry to deliver efficient service.