Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Speech by H.E. Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama - President of the Republic of Botswana and BDP Party President at the National Council

source: Republic of Botswana (21/5/10) TAUTONA TIMES for May 2010
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery"


[Salutation]...Ladies and Gentlemen

1. It is almost seven months since the General Elections were held. An election that saw the BDP returned to power with a significant increase in the popular vote. Our electoral success in the major cities has destroyed the myth which opposition parties were spreading around that our party survives on rural support only. The 2009 general elections proved, once more, that we are the only party that enjoys genuine national coverage - in both urban and rural areas - and that as stated in our election manifesto; we continue to remain the only party that Batswana can trust.

2. I wish to thank all our activists, some of whom are in this hall, for mounting a campaign to take our manifesto message to Batswana. I also wish to commend Batswana for having secured their future by voting for the BDP. I reiterate through you my pledge to our citizens that this Government promises to work hard for their benefit and welfare.

3. Fellow Democrats, Batswana have bestowed their trust in us. They have given us a mandate to run the affairs of this country for another five years. This makes us one of the few political parties in a multi-party system to be in government for nine consecutive terms. I am talking here about a multi-party system in its genuine and objective sense where you have free, fair and regular elections.

4. The responsibility that comes with this mandate is enormous. We must not allow ourselves to be blinded by the euphoria of victory. This five year term constitutes work in progress. Our development agenda is formidable. In our manifesto we promised accelerated implementation of all the Vision 2016 pillars. This means that we must complete the stock of all major on-going urban and rural infrastructure projects.

5. You will have realized by now that the fifth 'D', Delivery, has its roots in the promises we made to Batswana. The obligation to deliver is central to our pledge. I have made Delivery one of our priorities because I believe it can help us create an atmosphere within which improved delivery of services becomes an integral part of our work culture. Improvement of our work ethic is an imperative if we have to eradicate poverty, which we must, coupled with vigorous efforts to produce jobs and industry relevant students and will go a long way towards improving all our people, wherever they are, to deliver world class service. My administration has the five "D's" as its main beacons.

THE 2010/11 BUDGET

6. We went into the national elections against the backdrop of the worst economic down-turn ever experienced since the great depression.

7. Over the years we have used the revenues from our diamonds to fund some of the operations of entities created to empower citizens, provide nationwide infrastructure and significant spending on education and health amongst others, while at the same time building up sizable reserves as insurance to cushion the economy against unexpected disasters. This prudent approach has been the hallmark of our economic policy. It has served us well. Thanks to it, we had registered high rates of economic growth until the financial meltdown that occurred in 2008.

8. As usual opposition parties have been sceptical of our economic management strategies and have tried to punch holes in our policy. If we had not adopted a policy of building up our reserves during the good years the current economic crisis would have found us without anything to cushion its impact.

9. If we had exhausted our reserves before the crisis as the opposition parties had suggested, the economy would have collapsed. We would have had to halt all on-going projects in addition to retrenching civil servants. No retrenchments have occurred in the public service, and significantly few in the private sector as compared to other countries because we have managed the economy prudently. The BDP has established a tradition of giving Batswana factual information even when it may be painful and unpalatable. We are grateful that Batswana have appreciated the value of this tradition of honesty and transparency.

10. There is no doubt; we have to make painful choices in addressing this financial crisis. We have had to stretch our human and budgetary resources to the limit by among other things; freezing pay increases for public servants; introducing cost-sharing measures and most recently increasing our Value Added Tax (VAT). While a majority of Batswana may have been affected negatively by some of these choices, these have been necessary for the short, medium and long term economic stability of this country.

11. By voting us back into power and accepting the decisions we have made and restraining their own demands on the fiscas, Batswana have demonstrated that political expediency can never override prudence in the management of public resources. For this demonstrated confidence, we remain most humbled.

12. While I am pleased that the global economic recovery is under way, we are still not out of the woods yet. We must remain ever more prudent in our management of public resources by minimizing and paying close attention on Government spending. We must still pursue strategies that would ensure that our economic recovery is a durable one.

13. We have committed ourselves to a development programme that seeks to achieve that all Batswana live decent lives. We are aware that without education and life skills Batswana cannot reach their full potential.

14. We are also aware that education and skills development that is not tuned to an economy that creates opportunities for such skills to be employed would not help us develop.

15. I have asked the Ministers of Education and Skills Development and Finance and Development Planning to make presentations to this Council in order that you may be briefed in more detail on our activities in those two ministries. The Ministry of Local Government will participate in both presentations as they cover the same areas at the district level. On other issues I gave you all an outlook when I delivered the State of the Nation Address in November last year.

16. In my travels around the country, I have consulted with many Batswana of all walks of life. I am deeply concerned about the pockets of poverty that still exist. With some restructuring and some qualitative improvement in the management of relevant programmes we could eradicate poverty in our country. In this regard, I have caused the Ministry of Local Government to institute a Task Force on sustainable Rural Livelihoods. This Task Force has to come up with recommendations on how the lives of Remote/Area Dwellers can be significantly improved. We have committed ourselves to a development programme that seeks to achieve that all Batswana live decent lives.

17. I have just given you a brief report on what our government is capable of doing. Allow me to say that I expect our delivery levels to rise even higher. I say this because I know we can produce more than we have up to now. In order to do this, we must remember that during our campaign and in our manifesto we renewed our commitment to promoting A MORAL AND TOLERANT NATION. We pledged to defend and promote our culture and to be UNITED AND PROUD in its diversity and wealth.

18. We must maintain the alignment of our policies to the national will. Our policies must be an investment in the interests of all the major stakeholders in the economy. This is why we must actively promote development of Trade Unions and the welfare of workers. We have ratified ILO conventions and domesticated them in our labour laws in order to safe guard the interests of workers. The lines of communication between public officers and government remain open all the time.

19. There is still work to be done to improve relations between employers and their employees in the private sector. I must in the same note urge all Batswana to remember that economic success is dependent on all of us working towards a stable society.

20. My only concern with some of our Unions is when they sound more political than those in politics. The prime function of Unions is to protect the interest of their members whilst remembering that contracts of employment also exist to guide the employer/employee obligations. Unions cause us concern when they threaten political action since the rules governing their relationship with employers have nothing to do with party politics.

21. Fellow Democrats, it would be remiss of me if I did not express my concern at the recent figures showing the rate of new infections of HIV/AIDS. Our PMTC programme has been extremely successful but the overall rate of new infections has gone up from 17.1% to 17.6%. This means that Batswana are lowering their guard and this should not be allowed to continue.


22. Consistent with the theme of the conference, let me now address myself to matters which in my view continue to affect the party and its brand. I do so ever mindful that things we do not say or take for granted may be the things that lead to our downfall or failure tomorrow as a party.

23. Past successes do not guarantee a future. It is what we choose to do both individually and collectively that impacts significantly on our future. And as we meet today to celebrate and reflect on our electoral successes, I would like us to pause and ponder on the following questions.

24. What is it that binds us as Democrats? Are we held together by a shared vision, common principles, values and beliefs or something else? The answers to these questions will determine whether we will continue to govern and deliver on the mandate given to us by the electorate.

25. I have also asked myself this question before and since it is still filled with vexation, I will ask it again. If Democrats cannot show compassion and tolerance for each other, if we continue acts that divide us, if mutual trust and respect for fellow Democrats continues to be illusive, what message are we giving to those that voted us into office? Even if I did not get an answer to that question I will tell you what will happen if we continue on that path. Batswana ba tla re thoboga.

26. When I traverse the length and breadth of this country what I often hear is that some of our members are missing in collective team spirit and mutual trust. What I also hear is that some members are promoting individualism over party interest and nudging towards opposition politics.

27. By our own conduct, we are increasingly inviting the public to view us with dissatisfaction. Within our midst, some have elevated factionalism and self interest so much so that nothing else matters. Debates on matters of national interest have become an excuse behind which to launch attacks on the party leadership.

28. Whist some may hope to profit from a public backlash against the party and its leadership, the dangers should all be too apparent - we succeed as a collective and fail as one too. If I may put it more candidly, the greatest threat facing us is one of indiscipline.

29. In a somewhat strange way, those that speak against indiscipline are roundly condemned as boot lickers and those that undermine the party and cause conflict from within applaud themselves as true democrats and party loyalists. This is unacceptable for democracy by its very nature presupposes that decisions are by consensus, that is, the views of the majority must prevail and be respected and not undermined by those whose views are in the minority.

30. For reasons best known to themselves, there are some, whose sense of self worth has blinded them to the fact that they are first and foremost BDP members. As part of a collective, they own their obligation and loyalty to the party. But if you point out this fact to them, it is to commit a cardinal sin against those opposed to the party leadership or those whose personal ambitions have yet to materialize.

31. It has now in fact become common practice for members to either buy newspaper space or give exclusive interviews to media outlets denouncing the party leadership as autocratic.

32. It is remarkable how we sometimes tend to forget that we share the same electoral fate. To democrats bent on undermining the party, either through collusion with the opposition or sponsored media editorials, therefore I say, be wary of those who seek to elevate your course for such is only meant to bring you into collision with your own party solely for the benefit of the opposition.

33. We should not seek to manipulate public perception by projecting ourselves as capable of standing up to the party leadership. A rebellion against the leadership is not a true measure of character or of principle. It is grandstanding.

34. The tendency among those not willing to work within acceptable party boundaries and structures is now to portray themselves as victims of a leadership that is irrational, intolerant and driven by unreasoning coercion.

35. The above strategy clearly designed to undermine the party leadership, has the effect of undermining the party as well. Such self-serving politics are detrimental to all and undermine party cohesion which is important in contributing to efficiency in government as well.

36. Let me end by stating that we should be a broad based and tolerant organization. We must be mindful that each phase of development or growth brings with it its own challenges. How we address these challenges can either make or break the party.

37. I am not adverse to criticism so long as it is done in an open, constructive and respectful manner. As a party leader however, let me emphasize that the party will not tolerate acts of indiscipline and sabotage by our own members. We will not applaud acts of indiscipline or shy away from taking action against wayward members, for to do so, would be abdication.

38. We must re-affirm our commitment to the party and accept and honour our responsibilities to it. This requires us to subordinate our personal ambitions to party interest and to always remain faithful to what holds us together.

39. We must always remember that no individual is greater than the party. We are strong only as a collective and weak in our individuality.

40. For my part I am deeply committed during my term of office to improve the lives of Batswana especially targeting the poor and less fortunate, by generally putting in place measures from which everyone will reap benefits from. I expect during this period to be supported by my party by backing me up in these endeavours rather than frustrating my efforts by bringing in turmoil.

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