Real Alternative Party
Real Alternative Party seeks to issue an abridged response on the 2021 State Of Nation Address, which without doubt offers substantial guidance as regards, ‘economic opportunities’ as one of the initiatives and capabilities that President Eric Keabetswe Masire pledges to develop at the national level to transform the economy. Whilst we appreciate continual improvements by the BDP State on; access to services including; water, roads and ICT infrastructure/ optical fibre networks, export of beef and by-products to international markets, the SONA provides, without much detail, the pledge to enforce economic empowerment initiatives targeting citizens.
On Government`s Response To COVID-19 Crisis:
Masisi`s response to the pandemic failed to be rational enough to offer a moment of opportunity with justiciable economic measures that would be unthinkable in normal times because the hit of COVID-19, not only wiped out in mere weeks more jobs but also produced the anger and fear that loss of jobs produces. At heart, the speech lacks awareness and political will of the need to provide strategic or step-by-step guidance to overcome poverty, mass chronic unemployment, gender violence and the wild spread of substance abuse. Regrettably also, the SONA does not make any provision for an appreciation of the COVID-19 disaster management measures undertaken by Botswana government, despite the pandemic gravity and drastic effect on access to livelihoods, especially for the economically vulnerable groups as well as its cause mortality.
It is a known fact that Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the existing unequal access to socio-economic rights in many jurisdictions across Botswana. The pandemic has deprived certain groups of their access to livelihoods and resulted in deepening social inequality, mostly along the axes of job security, labour market and the local economy. It has entrenched existing patterns of inequality and poverty in the jurisdictions that includes women, children, the youth, people living with disabilities, older members of society, and members of marginalized communities. But in spite of all these, the BDP Government attitude has not changed rather it displays an expression of fear of the associated costs of committing to such investments.
To remind Batswana of the ‘letsema le thata ka mong’national principle, President Masisi does not problematize the role of the government, instead he assumes, claims and recreates the old modus operandi of ‘tua – culpa’ ( the it is your sole individual responsibility attitude to rescue yourself) from the crisis. This rhetoric permeates the jargon of the individual‘s positioning. It gives the BDP government the excuse to justify its failures to adequately provide for its citizens and serves to strongly make sure that the power processes of redistribution remain opaque. It is an attitude that also serves to make the “needy” responsible for their own ‘supposed failure’, and mobilizes them to change their moral character or pathological behaviour, whilst Masisi`s government has provided generous public assistance in form of subsidies and tax exemptions to corporations who have access to financial assets.
On Gender equality:
Regarding gender equality, our humble submission is that politics must display and address inequalities between women who hold different statuses and structural disadvantages brought about by the structural oppressions and power difference of patriarchy and market fundamentalism of BDP politics. It is simply counterproductive to claim to uplift representation of women throughout the economy based on a moral perspective that does not have the same consequence for every woman but serves to significantly strengthen the perception of the existing unequal political and social power relations i.e. the pervasive logic of ‘corporate icons’ that extends the celebration of individualism and professionalization without considering the broader negative effects of the economic order on women. Such a narrative renders the cause of gender equality vulnerable as it focuses on a limited range of empowerment.
It can be misleading if we fail to pay attention to pressing social issues of women i.e.; the situation of women in rural settings and the problems with feminization of poverty i.e. (care of children, domestic work, water and fuel collection, etc.), the double burden of women as single female-headed households and bread winners, their low income, inappropriate, exploitative and vulnerable working conditions. These are the serious gender poverty gaps/issues faced more by unemployed, underemployed and working class women that demand urgent and full attention.
On Combatting Gender based Violence:
While the first lady, Neo Masisi typically provides an important role as a change agent against gender based violence, our stance is that there is need to protect women from massive unemployment and increasing gender inequality as gender violence is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms. Given that GBV is a profound human rights violation with major social and developmental impacts for survivors of violence, there is dire need to introduce children social grant, increase and expedite access to property and land ownership for both women and men so as to balance power dynamics in gender relations.
Stressing the governmental process of delegitimization and depoliticization of basic human needs is not only conservative but demonsrates gender blindness and gender insensitivity by BDP State to downplay the principles of universal social rights such as cash transfers to families, especially women and children.
On Creative Industry:
On creative industry, our position is that without cultural creative crossovers, the current transformation of creative industry in Botswana will fail to lead to an endurable and lovable sector. Our local artists do not need to commercialize the creative industry only, they also need to gain a position with international partners, for internationalization and sales activity of their artistic products on foreign markets. Botswana needs to establish the Creative Industries Development Centre to offer support to creative enterprises and entrepreneurs. Such a Centre should provide services ranging from training, co-marketing activities (to speed up entering the market and reduce the associated risks), workshops, exhibitions, and open studio sales. The Centre should also serve as the Creative Incubator that offers local artists a network of contacts and the chance for entry to foreign markets. The newly established Arts Council has to lead to diverse empowerment projects including; Arts festivals, cinemas, theatre restaurants and bars, educational programs for schools, cross border literature and much more. It must provide capacity building to facilitate learning and the exchange of experience among those involved in the sector i.e. bring local artists together with high profile proactive international arts practitioners.
On People Living With Disability:
It is a positive measure that Botswana has acceded to the Convention on the Rights of People Living with Disabilities (CPRD) and adopted the Revised National Policy on Disability, albeit after a long push by the Botswana Disability Lobbying Agencies. What is now needed is to amend the Botswana constitution to be consistent with the CRPD as well as to include a legal obligation that provides affirmative action and to expressly establish an obligation to take specific measures to achieve or accelerate substantive equality for persons with disabilities. Doing also would also be consistent with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the global commitment to “leaving no-one behind.” We anticipate people with disabilities to receive income support that ensures living in dignity, services that enable them to participate in the labour market and in society, and a work environment adapted to their needs and free of discrimination.
On Social Upliftment:
Real Alternative Party posits that preschool must be universal as it points the kids in the direction of academic success and gives a significant advantage to children across economic status as they enter primary school. Perhaps, just as important is high-quality preschool program as children with a high-quality preschool experience are much more likely to play an active part confidently and joyfully in their future learning journey. The universal preschool must be compulsory and biased to children (from 3 to 6 yrs) from low-income families as they are less likely to attend preschool than kids from middle- and upper-income families. This approach would assist in avoiding abuse by the well-off families. It is in this respect, that RAP calls for universal high-quality preschool than the lower-quality programs currently offered under the BDP State as they do not have a significant impact in life-changing difference on children of low-income families.
On Substance Abuse:
As regards drug abuse, drug trafficking, and related criminal activity, RAP calls for harsh criminal sentences on people who are involved with drug selling or distribution, especially the high-level suppliers or “kingpins” of drugs as these people force drugs on the vulnerable, contributing to addiction, overdose, violent crimes and tragic deaths. Those who sell hard drugs like methamphetamine, codeine, cocaine, methadone, heroin, and other fatal drugs must be punished with death. Botswana also need policies that reduce risk factors and/or increase protective factors related to substance abuse, such as community laws prohibiting alcohol and tobacco advertising in close proximity to schools. Communities also need to be empowered by way of prevention programs such as social skills and refusal skills, building strong family bonds, attachment to school, and active involvement of youth in the civic – community engagement, media campaign to affirm and reinforce the anti-drug attitudes of youth to strengthen their “protective factors,” against vulnerability to drug abuse.
On Corruption during COVID:
Given allegations that the Covid-19 response measures by Government have been characterized by corrupt dealings surrounding the procurement of PPEs and other health equipment that were meant to combat the spread of Covid-19, we expected President Masisi to make some pronouncements on such, more so that he promised to uproot corruption during his campaign for presidency. The president`s silence on the issues of corruption is an indication that the Mindset Change mantra made in the SONA is just a sterile propaganda logic that does not mean to break away from existing frames, but rather serves as PR gimmicks.
On Not Letting a Crisis Go to Waste:
The 2021 SONA address has failed to provide for more inclusive, accessible and agile systems capable of responding to complex situations, reaching the furthest behind first. Its principle of prioritization is very sketchy and wishy – washy for it lacks a robust strategy and interventions aimed at reducing mass chronic unemployment prevalence in Botswana. Contrary to the encouragement by President Masisi that Batswana must use COVID lessons ‘to attain greater heights of productivity going forward’ his government is doing exactly the opposite. The notion that the pandemic ‘has taught us to reprioritize import substitution’ is pulverized as BDP State has chosen not to learn from and make sense of the crisis, as well to be innovative in how to build bridges to a post-pandemic future. In sum, it can be concluded that BDP has as always, failed to pave the way for a better future for all!
The President advised on taking heed of Winston Churchill words to ‘never waste a good crisis’. First, there is no such thing as ‘a good crisis’ because all crisis are disastrous, that is why they are addressed by way of state of emergencies and/or disaster management processes. Hence, it is not only wrong and unwise, but misleading to regard COVID-19 ‘a good crisis’, unless of course if it the pandemic has been lucrative for self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement by the BDP ruling elites. Contrariwise, of course the current coronavirus crisis has generated for a route to change, to attain greater heights of productivity in Botswana. And that can be attained through; active labor market policies, pro-growth economic policies geared toward contributing to exports growth, highest standards in working conditions, and broad social protection that is fair, inclusive and full of opportunity. This is very possible given that Botswana has enormous resources in terms of; pockets of fertile land and big rivers for our food security; enough traditional cattle to meet the national demand of milk production; fish from Okavango and Ngami rivers to start fish enterprises at domestic and regional level; abundance of chicken and beef fats to produce bio-oil/ petrol in excess; ample medicinal plants to put – up pharmacological industries; and enough soils and rock-stones to venture into customized construction products (e.g. roofing and floor tiles). In effect, for Real Alternative Party, a crisis has to prompt for social egalitarianism to ensure that vulnerable groups are the least affected, socially and economically, during a disaster or emergency!
Real Alternative Party