Thursday, September 3, 2009

Keynote address by H.H.Vice President Lt.Gen.Mompati S.Merafhe to mark the Official Launch of Vision 2016 Awareness Month @ Letlhakeng

source: Republic of Botswana (23/8/09): TAUTONA TIMES no 23 of 2009
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline"


[Salutations]...Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

1. In exactly seven years, Botswana will turn 50 years and when we reach that milestone we should be able to look back with pride. That is the reason why I am happy to be here in Letlhakeng this morning to launch the Vision 2016 Awareness Month.

2. This year's theme, 'Turning challenges into opportunities: the journey continues' encourages us - as a nation - to stay the course, however harsh the terrain. The theme is a repeat of last year's and one might venture to suggest that this indicates how those who are spearheading the Vision are themselves staying the course.

3. Bagaetsho, the important thing about this launch is that it gives us an opportunity to remind ourselves of what we have achieved and what we have yet to achieve. Most importantly, the awareness campaign alerts us to the fact that the year 2016 is almost upon us. With only seven years left before we celebrate our golden jubilee, we should always be mindful of the truism that 'time and tide wait for no man.'

4. I wish to pay tribute to Batswana for having found it necessary to collectively articulate a vision for their nation. The Presidential Task Group that put together the Vision 2016 document conducted extensive consultations with a cross-section of individuals and institutions in the country. On account of the fact that the Vision is a national collaborative effort, each one of the stakeholders has an obligation to hoe their row.

5. I am proud to be able to say that the Government that I am part of continues to support the implementation of the Vision through numerous policies and programmes.

6. Vision 2016 rests on seven pillars which define our aspirations as a nation. The record clearly shows that while there are still challenges to be tackled, we have, on the whole, made what can be characterised as good progress.

7. Under the pillar of 'Building an Educated and Informed Nation,' we have at this point, enrolled 86% of students in our primary schools. Access to print and electronic media has also gone up significantly. With the improvement of celestial infrastructure in the country, 85% of Batswana are now able to tune into Radio Botswana (RB1) while 40% have access to Botswana Television.

8. We look forward to a future when we will become 'A Prosperous, Productive and Innovative Nation.' To that end, we made a commitment to increase the participation of women in the labour force to increase productivity. The latest statistical evidence shows that female participation in the national workforce has risen to 45%, and we now see more women occupying senior positions, especially in the public sector. The informal sector has also grown substantially and as a result created more employment opportunities for many Batswana.

9. Under this same pillar, we made a commitment that communities will be at the forefront of managing and preserving their environmental assets. It is heartening to learn that some of our communities, like those in the Chobe Enclave, have set up trusts to environmentally manage their locales.

10. The agricultural sector, which has not been doing too well, is being restored to its rightful place in the national economy. We already have concrete evidence that recent efforts by the government to resuscitate this sector through the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) will bear fruit. The Letlhakeng sub-district is itself a good example of how effective ISPAAD has been. I had the pleasure of attending the sub-district's agricultural show early this month and I can therefore bear witness to the progress you are registering in this regard. I was pleased to learn that during the 2008/09 ploughing season, farmers in the Letlhakeng sub-district ploughed 11 995 hectares, which was an increase of 7241 hectares from the previous season. I plead with all of you to make full use of services provided by the government under ISPAAD scheme to enable Botswana to be self-sufficient in food production.

11. Our commitment to Building an Open, Democratic and Accountable Nation has never wavered. Tolerance and respect for differing opinions is still part of our culture and has helped Botswana remain politically stable.

12. Currently, we are ranked number 1 in terms of control of corruption in Africa and number 38 internationally.

13. In terms of good governance, our country is ranked highly both regionally and internationally due to our sustained commitment to practice freedom of association, free media, government respecting the rights of citizens to take part in the affairs of the state and general respect for human rights.

14. The increased representation of tribal groups in Ntlo ya Dikgosi is part of the Vision 2016 goal to achieve equality among all citizens in this country and further unite us a nation.

15. Our key performance areas under the pillar of Compassion, Just and Caring Nation are reduction of poverty, improved health system and no new HIV and AIDS infection by 2016.

16. About 96% of our population had access to safe drinking water in 2004 whilst access to adequate sanitation in both rural and urban areas increased from 39% in 2001 to 52% in 2006.

17. Our health system has significantly improved over the years. Presently, 84% of population is able to access health facilities within a radius of 5km whilst 95% is able to access health facilities within a radius of 8km. Essentially, there are health facilities in almost every corner of this country.

18. As regards Building a Safe and Secure Nation, we have set ourselves the goals of eliminating crime and making our roads safe. I am happy to report to you that with the implementation of the new traffic regulations, road accidents are beginning to drop. In the first half of 2008, 10 163 road accidents with 244 fatalities were recorded. For the same period this year (January to June) the police recorded 8862 accidents with 186 fatalities. As part of effort to professionalize public security service, we have made significant improvement in the training and equipping of the Botswana Police Service and the Botswana Defence Force.

19. Regarding Building a Moral and Tolerant Nation, indications are that we are still tolerant of each other. No one is discriminated against on the basis of their religion, language or ethnic background. We have also witnessed greater gender sensitivity and equality of opportunities for women. The most recent and notable example is of the BDF recruiting women for the first time last year.

20. Under the United and Proud Nation pillar, we want to achieve social stability and build strong family unions. Successes in these areas include the fostering of religious freedom, celebrating cultural diversity and ensuring tribal neutrality in the Constitution.

21. The incidence of teenage childbearing has also been steadily dropping: from 17% in 1996 to 12% in 2006.

22. However, despite progress that we have made, there are still challenges that we have to tackle collectively. We are 14% short of a targeted enrolment of 100% in primary schools and our target to achieve 100% literacy rate in the country is 19% short. Here in Kweneng, especially in this sub-district, some learners drop out of school due to pregnancy while others go to cattle-posts to become herd-boys and herd-girls. This is regrettable and may explain why poverty levels are high in Kweneng West.

23. Let me explain how the Vision partnership is supposed to work. The Government plays the role of facilitator and other stakeholders in the form of the private sector, civil society and citizens in general are supposed to make full use of opportunities made available to them.

24. Billions of Pula are spent on education and our expectation is that citizens who are availed of opportunity to go to school should make the most of it. It must be borne in mind that the government is not just spending this money; it is investing it and naturally expects returns on that investment.

25. If the government gives you a CEDA loan to start a hospitality establishment, we expect you to care enough about service standards to do better than just partition an abandoned warehouse into tiny rooms and recycle left-over food. We also expect those who can fend for themselves to shun the culture of dependency.

26. Some two weeks ago I was in Serowe addressing a kgotla meeting when an elderly woman complained about able-bodied people who want to freeload on the government. This entitlement mentality does not advance the noble goals of our Vision and should be discouraged. It is inconceivable that someone who can travel the length and breadth of a village looking for a shebeen cannot travel half that distance to work on a ploughing field and feed his or her family.

27. At the inception of Vision 2016, we indicated that for us to be a competitive and prosperous nation, a number of milestones had to be reached. We said that for us to become a prosperous nation, our economy has to grow annually at 7.9 %. As at 2007, our economy was growing at 5.1%. Regrettably, this is below the target. We therefore have to be more productive to help our economy grow and generate more jobs for the unemployed.

28. When we consider the recent Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS) Report, it is patently clear that the Vision's target of having no new infections by 2016 remains elusive. The report shows that there was an increase of the infection rate from 17.1 to 17.5%. Slow economic diversification, high unemployment and poverty also remain key challenges that may inhibit us from attaining our Vision goals.

29. We all need to be reminded that over the years, this country has developed some of the best policies but our main undoing has been lack of implementation of projects. I hope that with the forthcoming NDP10 focusing on driving the implementation of the Vision, we will be able to turn this situation around.

30. Bagaetsho, in concluding my speech, let me observe and highlight how the theme for this year's Vision 2016 Awareness Month provides an apt answer for how we should approach the challenges that we face. As the clock counts down to 2016 and as we journey towards that future hand in hand, let us turn each challenge that we encounter into opportunity. Let us also remember that we have seven short years to do that.

31. With those remarks, I now officially launch the Vision 2016 Awareness Month for 2009. I thank you. PULA!

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