Sunday, September 21, 2008

Remarks by H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe, MP, at the Official Opening of the Central District Council Chamber in Serowe

source: Republic of Botswana (20/9/08): TAUTONA TIMES no 28 of 2008
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President "Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"

B1) 19/9/08: Remarks by H.H. the Vice President, Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe, MP, at the Official Opening of the Central District Council Chamber in Serowe:

[Salutations]...Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I am delighted to be with you today to officially open this beautiful Central District Council Chamber. I am informed that the idea to have a modern chamber with the requisite facilities and enough capacity to cater for increased number of Councillors started in 1986 under the then Chairperson, Mr. G. C. Dijeng.

2. Those who are natives of Serowe like me will recall that the old Council Chamber, which is located at the Main Kgotla, was built in 1960 as the then Tribal Council Chamber. Our Dikgosi used to convene meetings in the Chamber to discuss important matters of the development of this village.

3. But that was then. Today, with the increase in the number of Councillors; high frequency of Council meetings; and other related administrative and operational exigencies, the building of this modern and well equipped Chamber could not have been accomplished at the right time.

4. And we all know that the Central District is the largest of all the Districts in Botswana; it stretches from Dibete all the way to Makalamabedi; it has six Sub-Districts and it is the most populated. This can only mean that the needs, interests and the challenges facing the Central District Council may be as vast and diverse as the District itself, necessitating modern institutions and facilities that are appropriately responsive to the rigours of the Council's work. It is therefore proper for us to commend Mr. G. C. Dijeng, the then Chairman of the Central District Council, and his administration for their foresight to build this Chamber.

5. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in philosophy they say "There is no success without a successor". I say so, because without the effective and efficient leadership of your Council Chairman, Mr Raditanka and his staff, the implementation of this edifice would have remained a distant dream. And let me say this: leadership plays a critical part in the management of public affairs.

6. Mr Chairman or Tanks as you are popularly known, we commend you for your visionary leadership.

7. Director of Ceremonies, the Government of Botswana attaches enormous importance to Local Authorities in this country as a cornerstone of our democratic system of governance and delivery of services as well as other public goods such as health, education and infrastructure. That is why the Government did not find it difficult to fund the construction of this Chamber to the tune of Seventeen Million Five Hundred and Forty Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty Two Pula and Twenty Nine Thebe (P17 540 332.29). This magnitude of investment is reflective of Government's commitment to support and empower Local Authorities and to create an atmosphere and indeed environment that is conducive to efficient service delivery.

8. I am informed that this Chamber has a sitting capacity of one hundred and seventy eight (178) Councillors, a public gallery with a capacity of fifty (50) people, a lounge, press room, conference room, library and four (4) offices. Undoubtedly, this is a modern facility and I urge Councillors to put it to good use in their service to the community of Central District and beyond.

9. Director of Ceremonies, unlike the Fifth Century Athens City State when most people were excluded from decision making simply because they were women, slaves or underage males, today democracy has a different meaning altogether.

10. The fate of any leadership is quite often determined by how much they respond to people's needs and expectations. This means that as politicians we now represent constituents who are increasingly becoming more conscious of their rights and more articulate and diverse in their demands and interests. It is therefore important that leadership at the local level, Councillors in particular, should be able to articulate people's needs, interests and aspirations and ensure that Local Authorities in this country are responsive and accountable to communities.

11. As elected local representatives, Councillors provide a very crucial link between the government and the communities. As a result of this direct contact with the people, Councils have to recognize that they provide a range of services over which they (Councils) have statutory responsibilities. These responsibilities include among others:

* Provision of primary education infrastructure
* Provision of primary health care services
* Provision of social welfare services
* Construction and maintenance of roads and streetlights
* Water supply to rural villages
* Establish, maintain and control markets, cemeteries and burial grounds, recreational grounds, parks and public places.

12. This list is not exhaustive. These responsibilities have over the years grown in scope and complexity. That is a calling to the Councils to ensure that sufficient and quality human resources commensurate with their mandate and responsibilities are in place.

13. The Government cannot succeed in effectively discharging its mandate without Councils that are committed to the implementation of Government programmes and policies.

14. We should not entertain a situation whereby every year millions of Pula are returned to central revenue simply because Local Authorities have failed to spend the money allocated to them. Such failure amounts to abdication of responsibility and contravention of the social contract which inevitably impinges on the welfare of the communities that we are supposed to be serving.

15. It is no longer enough to provide education infrastructure. Councillors should utilize this Chamber to find innovative ways in which they could augment Government efforts in the provision of quality education.

16. It is no longer enough just to provide health infrastructure such as hospitals and clinics, our people want quality health care. As Councils you should support Government efforts in exploring ways of improving health services at the local level.

17. Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, as a Government we are fully aware of our responsibility to develop this country and deliver services to our people. But, perhaps most fundamentally, we are also conscious of the fact that the resources at our disposal are by no means infinite. That is why in recent years the Government has embarked in a cost-sharing, cost-saving and cost-recovery exercise to ensure that whatever we do is sustainable in the long term.

18. I therefore challenge Councillors to ensure that, as you deliberate in this magnificent Chamber, you must also explore various alternatives for cost sharing and cost saving which are important in ensuring sustainability of service provision and in assisting in the mobilisation of adequate resources for continued development, repair and maintenance of its property.

19. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the Second Presidential Commission on Local Government structure in Botswana, which was appointed in January 2001, was tasked to among other things:

* Review the effectiveness of the structure, roles and responsibilities of Local Government institutions at all levels in Botswana;
* Look at the effectiveness of the structure and organisation of central government departments at local level with a view to promoting efficient service delivery and coordination; and
* Make an assessment of the suitability and relevance of present local and central government structures established for the promotion of rural and urban development.

20. Through the commission, Government identified three (3) key issues of Local Government structure namely; coordination, capacity building and service delivery, which are critical for the improvement of local governance. In this respect, let me implore Local Authorities in Botswana through Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) to engage Government on the recommendations of the Commission in order to take Local Government in Botswana to the next level.

21. Bagaetsho, before I conclude let me point out that His Excellency the President has laid down a road map that will guide all of us, including the Local Authorities, in the development of this country. In this endeavour we all aim to, among other things:

* Regain Botswana's competitive edge as a No. 1 investment and tourism destination;
* Break the red tape that undermines service delivery;
* Change the institutional mindset towards a more positive approach to productivity, service delivery and facilitation of private sector initiatives;
* Accelerate the pace of project implementation and completion, particularly with regard to those aimed at economic diversification, employment creation, poverty reduction and citizen economic empowerment.

22. I am duty bound to state in clear terms that the President's road map and all that comes with it is not meant only for people at the central Government or in Gaborone for that matter. It is for all of us.

23. I urge the Councils and other Local Authorities to take it seriously and to ensure that it becomes an integral part of your strategic plans and operations. The development of this country is our collective responsibility; the Government can only provide leadership and required strategic direction.

24. Director of Ceremonies, in conclusion allow me to recognise the sterling job done by the contractor, China Civil Engineering Construction (Pty) Ltd which delivered this project in time and within budget. As for the Central District Council authorities, I can only urge you to look after this building; it will look after you!

25. With these few remarks, it is now my honour and pleasure to declare this Chamber officially open. Thank you for your kind attention. PULA!!!!

No comments: