Monday, July 5, 2010

Opening Remarks by H.E. the President at a joint meeting between Cabinet and the Gaborone City Council

source: Republic of Botswana (29/6/10) TAUTONA TIMES no 9 of 2010
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery"

B1) 24/6/10: Opening Remarks by H.E. the President at a joint meeting between Cabinet and the Gaborone City Council


1. Let me thank you, Your Worship the Mayor for welcoming us to your Council this morning. I have decided to bring Cabinet Ministers here so that they can interact with you as local political counterparts with a view to sharing ideas on the development of our country. This is our second interactive meeting. We held a similar meeting with Francistown City Council last month.

2. The nature of this meeting is motivated by the need to consult and promote good governance. There is no doubt in my mind that development demands consultation between the people and Government as well as between Central Government and Local Government bodies as institutions closer to the people.

3. Let me remind you from the onset that a fundamental premise of planning in Botswana is that it should be based on a participatory system whereby people have an opportunity to express their needs and aspirations. These needs and aspirations should in turn be the basis for local level planning and eventually, National Development Planning. This is the process that we followed in the preparation of National Development Plan 10 and Urban Development Plan 3. If this system is to be fully achieved, then a dialogue such as this one must be established between policy makers, development authorities and communities.

4. We have a mutual social responsibility to account to our people and be responsive to their needs and aspirations. This is even more critical during this period of recession where there are more demands than the available financial resources.

5. You will all be aware by now that Government revenues have continued to dwindle; and this means we can only undertake a very limited number of development projects and recurrent activities. This constrained economic situation dictates that Local Authorities in collaboration with their communities have to assume greater responsibility for planning and development of their localities.

6. Although Botswana is financially more fortunate than many other African states there are two overriding problems with respect to local authorities, and that is, continued dependence on central government for financing development programmes and a relatively low standard of financial management. The question that I have always asked myself is what will happen to development and delivery of services if the period of slow growth in government revenue continues?

7. No local authority can expect to survive and be developed if it does not cultivate and nurture the willingness of its residents to pay for many of the services they wish to enjoy. The issue then is how do we ensure that local authorities go about raising adequate or at least a proportion of the financial resources they require for development programmes and their recurrent activities?

8. Councils are owed large sums of money in property rates and service levy. I am informed that Gaborone City Council is currently owed over P65 million for property rates and P4 million for service levy. Obviously such a huge debt distorts planning and financial management. It could also be a breeding place for corrupt practices.

9. As Council, you have to stop being apologetic in demanding monies owed to you by people who expect service from you. This is important because the money is required to meet your development and recurrent expenditure obligations, sustain service provision and supplement the Revenue support Grant from government.

10. I must also emphasise that as a Local Authority, you cannot achieve anything new by following old practices. You therefore need to tap and harness the capabilities of human resources at your disposal in Gaborone to find sustainable ways to meet their social, economic and material needs and improve the quality of their lives. You therefore need to forge links with the community, other service providers, your stakeholders and strategic partners. This would help to think outside the box.

11. The other question is whether we are doing enough to put in place economic strategies based on the appropriate policies for attracting the market forces to our region. In an era of an economic downturn, it requires no special pleading to state that local authorities must pay greater attention to stimulating the social and economic growth of their localities. Such broader strategic thinking should be applied with a view to bringing life in the Capital City.

12. I normally travel around Gaborone to meet people and I always see pockets of poverty in many parts of our City. I need to point out that poverty eradication has been identified as one of the priority areas by my government. This is critical if we are to make any impact in the upliftment of the living standards of Batswana. The overall objective is to assist vulnerable groups like the destitute to graduate to sustainable livelihoods. As a government body closer to the people, you need to explore various ways through which these people can be assisted and engage other stakeholders like the private sector to assist them engage in income generating activities. Coordination with central government ministries, Private Sector and Non-governmental Organisations in the city is also important if you are to make any difference and reduce people’s dependence on government.

13. Having said that, I must point out that I am concerned that community participation and mobilization in development is waning. The spirit of self help which laid a solid foundation for nation building and community mobilization for development at independence and thereafter has to be revived. I therefore call upon you here in Gaborone to start community development and mobilization initiatives for capacity building and community empowerment. This is important, if we are to do away with the culture of entitlement and reduce dependence on government handouts. Reliance on government for everything is neither desirable nor sustainable.

14. As a local authority, Council is a major procuring entity in the city. You should therefore use your purchasing power to support Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to grow the local economy and create employment opportunities for the city community. You should make sure that procurement of basic commodities like bread, uniforms etc. is done within localities or communities that consume them. It is only this way that you can build vibrant competitive entrepreneurship within the City.

15. Last but not least, I am concerned about the filthy state of Gaborone City, our capital city! Let us all remember that the City houses the government and provides a mirror through which the international community and tourists can judge us as a country. I therefore expect you to marshal your resources and network with other councils and the private sector to ensure that this City is kept spotlessly clean and that you make it more aesthetically and environmentally appealing to our visitors and potential investors. Initiatives towards achieving that do not necessarily require large funding but rather the strategic involvement of our business community and indeed the residents of Gaborone on city beautification.

16. I am aware that some roads in the City do not fall under the jurisdiction of your Council and this tends to create confusion. We intend to restructure control of roads in and between settlements for ease of maintenance, cleaning and coordination; and once this has been approved by Cabinet the confusion will be resolved.

17. Let me conclude by reiterating and emphasizing that our citizens require clean, effective and accountable local government. This is essentially the thrust of our meeting here today. I do appreciate that you also may be having several issues that you may wish to raise with Cabinet Ministers; and these shall be responded to accordingly and where there are responses they shall revert accordingly in due course. I thank you.

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