Sunday, May 17, 2009

H.H.Lt.Gen.M.S.Merafhe,VP of the Rep.of Botswana at Celebrate Africa Fundation Ceremony to Honour Botswana as the Best African Country for 2009

source: Republic of Botswana (17/5/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 14 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


[Salutations]...Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;

1. I am very delighted and indeed humbled to receive this Award on behalf of the Government and people of Botswana. The Government and people of Botswana recognize the importance of this Award and the high expectations that come with it.

2. This is not an Award for Botswana alone. It is for all the people of Africa in recognition of the bold initiatives they continue to undertake to consolidate peace and security and advance the cause of development. There is a strong momentum evolving on the African continent which underlines our resolve and commitment to seize every moment, to turn a new leaf, by taking control of the destiny of our continent. We take great pride in receiving this honour, more so that we come from a continent often blighted with various political and social misfortunes and negative image.

3. We in Botswana remain fully conscious of the fact that the modest achievements we have made as a country could not have been possible without the invaluable support, goodwill and cooperation of our many friends and partners from our own region and beyond. Our success is the success of others as well! As the 17th Century English preacher and poet John Donne aptly put it: "No man is an Island complete in itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..." We therefore take great pride in our common humanity with the nations of the world.

4. This Award epitomises renewed hope in the future of our continent especially given the fact that presently, the vast majority of countries across the African continent have embraced democracy, good governance and the rule of law. It is events such as this Award ceremony that serve to help put the realities of the situation in Africa in a proper perspective and help project the positive image we all desire.

5. I sometimes describe myself as an incurable optimist. I remain fully optimistic about the future of our continent, despite the many problems that continue to bedevil us. I fully subscribe to the view that it is only with the unrelenting perseverance and confidence in our ability as a continent to solve our own problems that we can secure a better future for our people.

6. Madam Chairperson, on many occasions I have been asked to explain the secret behind Botswana's modest success with democracy, economic development and stability. Botswana has been privileged to have been governed by a succession of public-spirited, visionary and distinguished leaders.

7. In his book entitled "Very Brave or Very Foolish: Memoirs of an African Democrat", Former President of the Republic of Botswana and one of the founders of our nation, Sir Ketumile Masire, maintains that when they chart the political and economic path for this nation they were never carried away by the ideological euphoria of the times. They ignored all the "...isms" (Socialism, capitalism, communism, etc) to adopt a more pragmatic development and political paradigm that addressed the social, economic and political needs of their people.

8. The infusion of those democratic and progressive values into the National Constitution and the subsequent creation of effective institutions to run national and local affairs is the key explanation for Botswana's record.

9. Our broad national objectives are aimed at continued growth of Botswana as a strong and viable political and economic entity, as well as affording equal opportunity and continued participation of all groups in the governance and development processes of the country.

10. As Arthur Findlay put it in his, The Curse of Ignorance; A History of Mankind, "Politics should only be concerned with matters which have to do with the prosperity, comfort and happiness of the greatest number. Whatever increases these blessings deserves support, so long as Individual liberty and freedom are preserved, and justice always prevails."

11. This commitment is enshrined in the four national principles of Democracy, Development, Unity and Self-Reliance, as well as the seven pillars that drive our National Vision 2016. In addition, fundamental freedoms and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution are strictly upheld.

12. Botswana is committed to the democratic process. Democracy has always been our way of life. It is actually part and parcel of our tradition and culture. Democracy is often described as a bad system. It is indeed a bad system until you start thinking of an alternative.

13. In terms of our tradition, public affairs are debated freely and openly in a "Kgotla" or a central "Village Parliament". It is at this village forum where decisions concerning development and other matters of public interest at local level are arrived at by consensus and there is no suppression of discordant views.

14. Botswana's experience serves as a positive reinforcement of the view that, whilst international support is vital in the creation and consolidation of democratic institutions in Africa, democracy and development cannot thrive without the primary ingredients of ownership, commitment and support of the people themselves.

15. In order for democracy to flourish, special emphasis needs to be placed on civic education, establishment and consolidation of democratic institutions, as well as strengthening of civil society. The crucial role of civil society organizations in building strong and vibrant democratic societies in Africa cannot be over-emphasized.

16. In order to ensure the necessary nurturing climate for our democracy in Botswana, we are continuously engaged in efforts to strengthen democracy, transparency and accountability through institutions such as Parliament, Local Councils, the Independent Electoral Commission, the Ombudsman's office, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, the Courts including the Industrial Court, the Office of the Auditor General, to mention but a few.

17. Before I conclude let me express our profound gratitude and appreciation to the Board of Celebrate Africa Foundation for having found Botswana worthy and deserving of the Award of "Best African Country for the year 2009". My sincere appreciation also goes to the management and staff of New York University's Africa House, and in particular the Director, Professor Nyarko, for hosting tonight's event.

18. It is therefore with a profound sense of duty and humility that I now accept this prestigious Award on behalf of His Excellency the President, the Government, and People of the Republic of Botswana! I thank you for the courtesy of your kind attention.

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