In 1995 when the Botswana National Front (BNF) launched its Social Democratic Programme (SDP) , it created a lot of excitement, particularly that it came a year after the party had done so well in the 1994 General Elections.
The good performance by the party worried the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and its handlers. Its legitimacy was battered and shaky. as we registered the highest number of seats ever won by the opposition. As one of the strategies adopted by the BDP to counter the rise in the popularity of the BNF, a national task force was set up to consult the nation and come with national aspirations. It sought to divert people’s attention and create false hope. Make them believe that the ruling party was caring and doing something about the national challenges.
As a result of this exercise, a national vision was born. It was envisaged that by year 2016 we would have achieved a number of set targets. This led to these pillars;
An educated and informed nation, A prosperous productive and innovative nation, a just and caring nation, a safe and secure nation, an open democratic and accountable nation, a moral and tolerant nation, a united and proud nation.
One can imagine the excitement that swept through the nation as a result of this process. The nation was being made to forget about the problems it faced and live with the belief that in 2016, their problems would have been addressed.
Quite a sizeable number of people questioned the BNF decision to instruct its then member and the then Mayor of Gaborone, Rre Botshabelo Bagwasi to withdraw from the Vision 2016 Task Force. We warned the nation against excitement over the Vision. As a party we took a decision not to take part in any of the Vision 2016 activities. Our position has always been and remains, since there has not been any resolution to the contrary, that as long as the BDP is in power, we can not attain any of these noble objectives.
The party is not capable nor does it have the political ability to oversee what will require tempering with the structure of our economy and changing our thought patterns. We argued further that there was no genuine intention on the part of the BDP when it came up with this idea. Vision 2016 was a knee-jerk response to the BNF’s SDP. BDP’s failure to optimally use our natural resources has led to poverty, unemployment and huge economic disparities. The result of these crises manifest themselves in many other forms.
When the economy way doing well in the period between the 1980s and 1990s, the BDP decided to unnecessarily allow our foreign cash reserves, which could have been used to develop our country, to grow to very high levels.
We lost a lot of opportunities because of the sloppiness on the part of the BDP. If the BNF was in power then, a lot would have been achieved. It will go back in history as the country’s lost decade.
We should have used our high income from diamonds to develop infrastructure, push for local processing of raw materials since we had the capital, redefined our development path as a nation etc. Instead our mining sector maintained a pit to port approach.
Our resources were and are still being exported to other countries unprocessed, denying our people employment opportunities. This we raised then and we continue to do so now. The party’s literature and our agitation for local processing of raw materials goes back to before 1970. But the BDP did not care to listen.
As a nation, we should appreciate that good policies must be implemented by people who understand them and are committed to their realisation. No one can argue against the Vision pillars. They are good and can change the lives of our people. The problem is with those that have been mandated to bring them to reality. As long as the BDP is in power we are not going to achieve any of the Vision 2016 goals.
Most of the problems that the nation faced and continues to contend with until today are structural construct. We did not wake up one day and find ourselves faced with these problems. Poor planning and the structure of our economy led to these challenges that we contend with as a result of BDP misrule. Poverty is not hereditary and does not just develop out of nothing. In Botswana it is being bred by the BDP policies.
A year before 2016, the Vision remains a catalogue of good ideas and nothing more. It was nothing more than an exercise in “ideological mystification”, as someone put it.
After many years of calling for free and compulsory education by the BNF, it was accepted partially as a government policy. Education became free but not compulsory. Free education was short-lived as the BDP government abolished free education after the 2009 General Elections. The public education system is in shambles. We have a government that has also become more secretive than ever before. It has ignored calls for an introduction of a Freedom of Information Act. The still born Media Practitioners Act of 2008 is inconsistent with the Vision 2016 ideals.
On daily basis Batswana lose their jobs due to retrenchments as a result of the BDP policies. Even those who are employed have become impoverished. Our government has become highly intolerant and instils fear in its people. Accountability is on the decline. Batswana have become some of the unhappiest people in the world. The Executive has become more and more powerful, while the other institutions have become very weak. Some tribes’ cultures in this country are being subjected to genocide. The Vision project is a real failure. A complete failure.
We are told that the Vision 2016 Secretariat is busy reviewing Vision 2016 and there is talk of another Vision to replace the failed one post 2016. The BDP rule will only deliver nightmares but nothing on the National Vision. As the BNF, we feel vindicated because we are now far off from those objectives than we were when we conceived the Vision. Our position as the BNF still stands, the BDP is beyond reform and can not solve our problems. It is not a vehicle that we can use to deliver the national Vision. We say to Batswana, to enjoy a better life put the Umbrella for Democratic Change in power in 2019.
BNF Information and Publicity Secretary