It is a very humbling experience to read that Botswana is counted amongst the very few countries that have responded remarkably well to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is indeed deeply pleasant to every citizen and resident of Botswana to witness a nation in subdued peace and a nation learning to live in real hope at this challenging time of a world held hostage by a ravenous but invisible enemy.
Botswana Forum for Action and Reform (B-FAR) wishes to express its sincere gratitude to everyone in relation to the response to COVID-19; to the leadership under the direct command of our President Mokgweetsi Masisi; to the Ministry of Health and Wellness as it champions a plan of resistance like has never been seen before; to the COVID-19 Response Team in all its formations; to the frontline workers, our men and women who literally went to war in our defence; and to the law-abiding citizens and residents of Botswana who outdid themselves in the obedience of COVID-19 precautionary rules and regulations.
There is a lot that can be said but we note the high level of compliance to the lockdown, the daily sights of strict adherence to precautionary rules, the unexpected emergence of innovation that erupted within our research institutions as they developed creative response measures, the awakening of the self-reliance spirit amongst Batswana as they dressed everyone up in home-made masks almost overnight at the end of the first lockdown, and the continued business of government in attendance of pressing national needs alongside and whilst maintaining eyes on the ball with regard to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 outbreak has unleashed a monumental threat to both human life and livelihoods and the world has grappled with a delicate balancing act where flattening the virus’ medical curve, steepens its economic curve.
Any loss of life is one too many, but the country’s COVID-19 mortality rate in the face of an imminent health crisis speaks volumes of the efficacy and adherence to the containment measures put in place.
Beyond the spread of the disease, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc to the global economy and caused the largest global recession in history. Botswana has not been spared the economic meltdown and we commend government’s efforts to minimise the social and economic fallout with a recovery plan aligned to international best practise of ‘Build, Back Better’.
B-FAR is also thankful for the recent release of the revised Reservation Policy and wish to thank the leadership for the new CEDA Guidelines and the repeated commitment by Government to table the Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) Law in the
Already evidence on the ground reflects renewed enthusiasm and optimism about the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan which seeks to address the low citizen participation in the economic development of the country, spur private enterprise that diversifies the economy away from diamond mining and contribute towards the country’s transformation to a digital economy with job creation opportunities.
We applaud government for these interventions and the renewed hope for citizen enterprise development and economic empowerment in the drive to, build back better, a more inclusive and resilient economy.
In commending the progressive economic recovery plan, we remain optimistic that government will take a bold leap towards the definition of the ‘indigenous citizen’ and to incorporate special provisions within the CEE programme for the indigenous citizen.
As we navigate this era that is unprecedented in living memory and look ahead to post-pandemic living with the virus and its ever present dangers, we should never forget that this ‘new normal’ can also be pivotal to our lives if we recognise that a dark cloud can have a silver lining.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to chart new beginnings and create a better life for all. It offers us the chance to redefine and reinvent ourselves in a way that is unashamedly pro-citizen. Botswana needs a better life for its citizens; an improved sense of national and self-pride; a deeper sense of unity, collective accountability and shared destiny; heightened self-reliance; complete inclusivity and participatory growth fostered and championed by a government that truly and jealously cares for the citizen and prioritises the citizen. We urge Batswana to make the best of this opportunity without looking back.
In conclusion, we cannot overlook the many efforts by Batswana citizens to mobilise positive group action. A number of economic measures have recently been proposed, from circulating the pula amongst indigenous communities to the establishment of a domestic bank. This is the spirit by which great nations are built and we encourage such thoughts and plans unreservedly and caution against mere talk and lack of action.
Continue to observe COVID-19 precautions to the letter and stay safe.
Fatshe leno, la rona!
*B-FAR is an independent and non-party organisation established to lobby and advocate for an accelerated and radical structural and socio-economic transformation agenda for Botswana. Its focus areas include citizen engagement and empowerment, inclusive and participatory growth, innovative economic diversification, as well as rapid and sustainable development