. President Masisi address Cabinet
As you are all aware, last week I returned from my three week official engagements that took me to Switzerland, France and Sweden where I articulated the development agenda of Botswana at the World Health Assembly in Geneva and used the Davos platform to share views and experiences on the economic and social transformation we are pursuing vigorously as a nation.
In Stockholm, our conservation model and co-existence with nature, particularly its wildlife, became paramount in the plenary discussions on the 3rd June 2022, that also served as the 50th Commemoration of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. On the 2nd of June 2022, I also spoke at the Stockholm Trio for Sustainable Actions – a new initiative from Karolinska Institutet, the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Stockholm University, towards sustainable societal development.
You would be privy to the near geographical coincidence on the 11th November 1970, when our Founding President H.E Sir Seretse Khama, gave an emotional address at a seminar arranged by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the Scandinavian Institute of African Studies in Uppsala, some 50 kilometers from where we were in Stockholm.
If history serves your memory well, you will recall that in 1963, two years before self-government, and three years before Independence, the distinguished British Africanist, Lord Hailey, took a distinctly gloomy view of Botswana’s future. After describing the traditional political structure, he wrote:- “It will … require a considerable measure of readjustment to create out of the existing Legislature of the Territory, a body complying with the standards necessary to any form of responsible Government”.
In response at Uppsala, the Founding President Sir Seretse Khama made an impassioned deposition against the gloomy impression painted by Lord Hailey and expounded the basis for Botswana’s development paradigm anchored on the four national principles at the time.
He went on to outline the development strategy that would give primacy to rural development, while keenly aware that harsh climatic conditions continued to lay siege upon our rudimentary agricultural economic activity. These climatic phenomena persist even today. In a non-classical way, the promise for Botswana lay in the extractive industry with its prospects of enabling us to transform our dreams one day, as mineral deposits were exploited in the interests of the nation as a whole.
We have now gone a step further by placing emphasis on value addition and diversification of the economy.
This posture is not incompatible with what we hold so dear today as a nation, especially the philosophy that traces its origins to the BDP as the ruling party and is anchored on the collective traditions, values, and wisdom of our peoples in the various communities of Botswana.
Whereas the institutional framework of the current NDP11 might be slightly different from the first transitional National Development Plan, the fundamental principles, however, remain the same. We believe in the bottom-up approach to development planning, and hold that decisions which affect the lives of the people, must or ought to, firstly, gain their consent through a strategically guided consultation process that defines the issues, problems and challenges of development, as well as the solutions to tackle them.
Secondly, the deployment of the knowledge and skills of the technocrats who shepherd the modern institutions of decision-making in public policy and planning to meet the needs of the people, must be continually flexible and enriched to adapt and benefit from the reforms better suited to the increasing complexities of fostering sustainable economic growth and development.
Such a deployment of competent personnel to drive the state machinery should, of necessity, promote and enhance good governance, peace and security as the outcomes of a responsive, resilient, effective and efficient, people-centric government.
Therefore, in recognition of the imperative for adaptability of our key institutions, the most recent undertaking was the reorganization of the Government portfolios where, for example, the apex Ministry for State President, was charged with the mandate of the organisation and coordination of the Government Business and also separated from the Office of the President.
The objective of delineating this role clarity, was to bring about efficiency and effectiveness in the coordination of all Government policies, services, projects and programmes as well as other functions pertaining to the running of the machinery of Government. Consequently, the ensuing establishment of the National Planning Commission (NPC) will be responsible for national development planning and prioritisation of policies and projects.
Your Honour the Vice President and Honourable Ministers, that is why I have the distinct pleasure to address you this morning, with the earnest hope of bringing into sharp perspective, the expectations of those who elected us into office:
• Those from whom we derive our mandate to govern and champion the aspirations of our fellow citizens;
• Those on whose behalf, we have an onerous task of steering the “PushaBW Merchant Ship” to the safe harbor of dreams realised and dreams fulfilled as was the wish of the Founding Father when he spoke in Sweden, that one day! It will be.
• Our True North is thus the balanced equation of promises made equal to a transformed nation by the year 2036.
You would recall that since Manong 2019, we launched right into the deep. We bound ourselves to the strategic thrusts and initiatives to drive the National Transformation Agenda.
We sought in more ways than before, to reinvent ourselves. At that First Cabinet Retreat in Manong, we established the course, and with the navigational contours that would, in other instances, have given reason to beset us, we challenged ourselves enough to have faith in the development path that Botswana should follow in order to accomplish the electoral pledges we made. For all the good reasons, this justified the reward of returning the BDP government to power, in October 2019.
Furthermore, at the State House Retreat in May last year, another deep dive yielded the Reset and Reclaim Agenda. In essence, when the direction of the challenges that assailed our nation in the first half of this Administration became unmistakable, the Reset Agenda became our guiding compass.
What emerged were the set of Five Priorities, I need not repeat here but for emphasis, we expressed the desire to rethink our approaches, starting with the Mindset that needed to change in order to inject momentum in our development trajectory.
We elected not to be encumbered by the treacherous doldrums of COVID-19. Our Reset Agenda was instructive of how we were determined that the fate of this nation would not be decided by the encumbrances of the pandemic. We instead, affixed to our bow, and unleashed a correct aim and regimen of approaches and measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
We delivered the force and effect of 61% of a fully vaccinated population and are tracking towards attaining the World Health Organization (WHO) target of 70% coverage (fully vaccinated) of the entire population by July 2022.
No one would ever challenge the view that, in the eyes of some, the prospects of Botswana to transform herself, from the squalor conditions that midwifed our independence, looked bleak. However, we refuse to be equally yoked to the simple narrative of the Lord Hailey’s, that the transformation that we have set for ourselves as the Republic is a lofty and idealistic ambition. To Former President Masire, we were deemed either “VERY BRAVE OR VERY FOOLISH”.
We believe that we have set ourselves the goals that are equal to our ambitions and should be bold in our resolve to transform this great country to an Upper Income status.
That is why for our Annual Performance Plans (APRs) for NDP12 and NDP 13, we have determined to focus on high-value, high impact flag-ship policies, projects, products, programmes and initiatives, and associated enabling laws, to transform the lives of our people.
For us to achieve these, we need to make “Stop, Start, and Improve” hard choices and actions to move the GDP annual growth rate from 4.3% to 5.7% over the remaining planning periods.
We believe that in this country, men and women have come to expect that ours is a true beacon that marks the true boundary of hope that is uncompromising. In this Republic, we denounce the idle narrative that has held our people back, as a disinterested and unqualified mass in both the industry of their hands and the zeal of their mental faculties and attitudes that influence their work ethic.
Indeed, we are not lazy! That is not the story of the Batswana DNA that is celebrated in Letsema, Metshelo, Dikgafela, Letsholo and Masotla of our traditional societies. For in most things, about building a modern society in Botswana, the traditional systems and values have always triumphed over even the worst pessimistic ideologies. It is not impossible to qualitatively improve our productivity and innovativeness through collaborative partnerships and entrepreneurship.
That is how this country was founded. That is how the foundations that set this country apart, and sustained it to this day, became our national principles of Democracy, Development, Self-Reliance and Unity, and with the latest Botho, are all weaved together into the fibre of our being as a nation to help in building together the staircase towards that Vision 2036.
27. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, as I highlighted at the Forbes Under 30 Africa Summit, “We have also embarked upon digitization as the epicenter of our national development agenda and young people are being empowered through several initiatives which will go a long way in ensuring that they contribute meaningfully to the economy development of this country”. The new Ministry of Entrepreneurship should be a dynamite for unleashing the socio-economic transformations that we desire.
Therefore, let us undertake not just a cursory survey of where we stand vis-a-vis where we should be. Let us draw a line in the sand that extolls us, revokes the pessimistic spirit, and replaces it with the vanguard of political leadership joined at the heap with the resoluteness and excellence of Accounting Officers.
Finally, as political leaders, we are the mainstay and captains of the Ministries, Departments (MDA’s) and Agencies that we lead. If the Reset Agenda should be met with the success it deserves, we have to lead from the front as political leaders. There is no doubt in my mind, that we are all aware of the full implications of failure to deliver the transformation of Botswana. With this in our minds, let us journey towards 2024.