Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness Lelatisitswe Sethomo has told Parliament this week that constituents are worried that Parliament and their representatives are not independent enough and therefore, do not speak on their behalf.
Sethomo told the Botswana Democartic Party (BDP) dominated Parliament that it is time the August House becomes independent from the Executive. “Similarly, we want to see our governance institutions standing independently. These are the likes of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Auditor General, amongst others of which time and time again, there have been contentions about their operational and administrative independence.
It is time they report directly to Parliament,” he said. He added that the national constitutional review exercise must put these things to rest. Furthermore, he said Botswana is one of Africa’s continuous democracies and it should not be complacent in growing and strengthening the democracy. He said the country has always been a flag bearer and beacon of democracy and therefore he does not think it now wants to play catch-up to newly established democracies that benchmarked from it.
On the constitutional review, he urged the public to approach the issues soberly, with all the sensitivity and caution it deserves because failure to do so, may break and divide the nation. “I am worried by what I see in our country right now. We cannot afford to go into the review within a polluted atmosphere and therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us as leaders to preach unity. The republican Constitution by its nature has to be unifying than divisive and we need to all accept that nothing lasts forever.
The time is now to relook into our country’s blueprint (the Constitution) in order to chart a new way forward,” he said.
He also said the current Constitution to an extent promotes tribalism in the way it gives more recognition to certain tribes over others. In addition, the Minister said the discrimination is even found in the nomenclature of some of the local authorities which give recognition to certain groupings only. “Why should public vehicles, for example, be branded with tribal names like we see in the case of Land Boards and Councils,” he said.
He said within the process of the review must be education, such that people understand what constitutional review seeks to achieve and the approach it will take. “We should interrogate, for example, our current political system and interrogate whether the direct election of the State President cannot be adopted,” he said. Sethomo stressed that there is a need to also interrogate whether the Special Election of Members of Parliament and nomination of councillors is still relevant and is still serving the public.
The other issue that the Assistant Minister wants Batswana to focus on is the land tenure systems and allocation of such with a way to bringing about more ownership of land rights by the people and in the provision of basic shelter. On developmental issues, he said Infrastructure development in Boteti remains a dream. “This is evident in the bad state of internal roads in Letlhakane, for example. There is a dire need for more schools across the constituency. The current schools have a serious shortage of classrooms hence a call for new schools.
With high population growth, Boteti East urgently needs a new and a bigger hospital in order to accommodate the rising number of people who seek access to health care on a daily basis. “Criminal activities continue to rise due to the nature of this constituency with regards to migration, hence a new and a better-resourced police station cannot reemphasise more so that there are high rates of recorded Gender Bassed Violence cases in the area,” he said.
He further pointed out that Boteti urgently needs a well capacitated and resourced centre or a shelter to offer services and education to empower the abused women and children. In addition, he said government departments need fully-fledged offices with adequate staff in order to service the constituency effectively and efficiently. He added that a modern landfill is urgently required and so is a fire station and sewage reticulation. “We need better quality water not the densely salted water that we currently serve to our people.
Much as we applaud the government for the recent water connectivity from the northern part (Ntimbale and Letsibogo dams) of the country going into the southern part of the country, I humbly request that the same service be extended to the people of Boteti,” he said.
Another matter that worries him is youth unemployment, which still remains a thorny issue that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. He said the country has a youthful population educated and ready to go into the market, "yet we still demand extensive years of work experience thereby denying them an opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the economy and the political ecosystem." “The most brilliant brains are wasted because of their age and the so-called lack of experience.
This needs to change and only then can we talk of empowering young people. In the absence of this we can as well forget about a mindset change,” he said.