President Mokgweetsi Masisi will deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) since he ascended to the High office of President of the Republic.
The BCP advises Batswana to manage their expectations because nothing innovative, pioneering and fundamentally different will be presented.
This is mainly because Masisi is and has been part of the BDP system that has failed to deal with serious problems besieging the country. This President is deceptive, too excited, populist and impulsive and therefore not the right man for the job.
Prominent features of Botswana’s economy have been, are, and will always be under the BDP.
Widespread abject poverty, unemployment and underemployment at unprecedented scale, economic disempowerment with the means of production such as capital and land in the hands of foreigners and naturalised citizens, and inadequate and lack of access to services.
Education and health outcomes will remain in the doldrums under the BDP despite spending more money per capita in these sectors.
The BCP expects President Masisi to deceptively tell the nation that the fundamentals of the economy are strong under him as they were under Ian Khama.
He will for sure understate the problems this country faces. He won’t admit that unemployment is at around less than 20% mainly because Ipelegeng participants are included in the list of those productively and remuneratively employed and that the discouraged job seekers are not counted.
The President is not going to tell us the number of jobs the economy lost as a result of liquidations and related closures of companies or number of job losses through privatisation in the form of contracting out, outsourcing and the sale of government entities in the recent past few years.
There is unlikely to be admission of job losses in massive scales and more disheartening the President will not account for those who lost their jobs in terms of what happened to them.
The President can’t tell us the number of people currently employed as a result of ESP which he recently praised.
As a party, we don’t expect Masisi to admit that Education is in a crisis; learners are still taught under trees and some in dilapidated classrooms, schools lack furniture, books, stationery, equipment and machinery as well as teaching materials.
He won’t admit that teachers are unmotivated by poor working conditions. The President in our view, is unlikely to state and give figures of how foreigners and naturalised Batswana benefit more than real Batswana in the tourism sector and how Batswana remain on the fringes, getting only crumbs and or are exploited mainly in the North West region.
What will be more depressing about the speech is that it will be business as usual with no fundamental changes in approach to how things should be done.
There is likely to be no new ideas on how jobs are going to be created and worse there will be no commitment to the number of jobs to be created with clear timelines. Masisi will not announce any percentage target of poverty reduction. He won’t commit to timelines on allocation of land and nor reduction nor elimination of backlog of land applications.
The youth, especially will remain landless under this president. After the speech, no one will be sure how many native Batswana-owned businesses will be listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange or how many black Batswana multimillionaires the economy will create
There is not going to be any commitment to getting the economy into the hands of indigenous Batswana. The President won’t say how many startups he plans to have created by our young people in a year or whatever timelines.
Research and development are unlikely to be a priority under this President. We won’t make clear promises of significant increases of funds for this important aspect of the economy.
Masisi is unlikely to say with certainty what he has brought back home from the many international trips he has undertaken. For instance, the number and value of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) he has brought, the number and value of trade deals he has sealed, and the number of jobs likely to be created as a result of his trips.
Besides bragging that “ke mongwe wa batho ba ba ne ba tshegatshega le MmaMosadinyana”, there’s is little to show of his globe-trotting.
The nation shouldn’t expect earth-shattering announcement on democratisation commitment by this President. There’s not going to be any commitment to make Parliament and the Judicature more independent, nor attempts to amplify the integrity of the institutions and have more public confidence in them. Oversight institutions such as the IEC, Ombudsman, DCEC, Auditor General and others, which should support democracy will remain extensions of the executive with no real power, independence and resources.
This President won’t change that. Yes, the media will be enticed in all sorts of ways, some in the media will be co-opted, but draconian and other media unfriendly laws will remain.
Advertising by government in private media will be skewed in favour of some in a divide and rule kind of way.
There is unlikely to be announcements of public funding of parties, live coverage of parliament proceedings, electoral amendments such as electoral system improvements and there’ll be no comprehensive constitutional review for purposes of democratisation.
Corruption, economic crimes like fiscal and revenue crimes, mismanagement and unethical governance, especially in parastatals will continue because Masisi won’t announce a paradigm shift in the fight against corruption.
DCEC and DPP won’t change under this President. Non-accountability and secrecy will most likely continue to thrive. Those who have plundered and are his close associates are likely to go unpunished.
The President is unlikely to announce law reforms on corruption and a codified anti-corruption policy. Of course there will be some rhetoric in some paragraphs of his speech on corruption.
So this President won’t make any attempts to project himself as the champion of democratisation. He won’t try to consolidate the democracy of this polity.
The President will brag about his recent changes which are only cosmetic, but cannot improve people’s lives in any big way.
His aim through this speech will be to try hard to convince Batswana that he is different from former President Khama, but the truth is the duo are birds of the same plume, the BDP, and they flock together in terms of their business-as-usual approach to public policy.
Our advice is that Batswana should focus on the alternative that is the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), the only hope for this country.
*Dithapelo Keorapetse is UDC Selebi-Phikwe West legislator