Monday, July 5, 2010

Remarks by H.E. the President at the opening of today's consultative meeting between Cabinet and members of the Kweneng District 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"

B2) 29/6/10: Remarks by H.E. the President at the opening of today's consultative meeting between Cabinet and members of the Kweneng District Council


1. Let me thank you so much, Council Chairman, for welcoming us to your Council this morning.

2. I have decided to bring Cabinet Ministers here so that they can interact with their local political counterparts with a view to sharing ideas on the development of our country. This is our third interactive meeting. The first and second meetings have so far been held with Francistown and Gaborone Councils. This arrangement is the first of its kind where Cabinet is having interaction with Councillors.

3. It is a special meeting aimed at promoting good governance and indeed consulting on policy issues for the development of our country and your district.

4. I believe this kind of interaction is necessary because development demands continuous consultation between Central Government and Local Government bodies as institutions closer to the people. This country requires our concerted efforts which should be blended and complimented between the central and local government. Our role as central government is to develop policies and strategic interventions in consultation with yourselves with the expectation that you will in turn deliver services to Batswana. We are however cognisant of the fact that certain policy and strategic interventions can and indeed should be initiated from the local level.

5. Let me remind you that a fundamental premise of planning in Botswana is that it should be based on a participatory system. That is why you, at the local level, have prepared District Development Plan 7 which has informed the National Development Plan 10.

6. If this system is to be truly enhanced and nurtured, then a dialogue must be established between policy makers, development authorities, and communities. This is even more important during this period of recession where there are more demands than the available financial resources.

7. You will all be aware by now that Government revenues have continued to reduce; and this means as of now we can only continue to implement a very limited number of ongoing development projects and carry out recurrent activities. This constrained economic situation dictates that Government as a whole, including Local Authorities, should be prudent in financial management and also be proactive and creative in engaging their communities to assume greater responsibility for planning and development of their localities.

8. Having said that, let me make reference to some general issues with respect to local authorities which I expect you to seriously debate, and that is an increasing dependence on central government for financing development programmes and a relatively low standard of financial management in some local authorities.

9. The other question is whether we are doing enough to put in place economic strategies based on the appropriate policies for growing economic developmental activities in our districts. It requires no special stating that local authorities must pay greater attention to stimulating the economic growth of their areas of jurisdiction.

10. Some of you will recall that over the years, we have put in place rural development policies that were aimed at revamping the economic and social development of our rural areas. The key focus was employment and poverty reduction. This is still a challenge to us and Kweneng District is not an exception. I need to point out that poverty eradication has been identified as one of the priority areas by my government.

11. 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.

12. For us to achieve this, communities must be mobilized and encouraged to fully participate in growing the economy. One of my government’s new initiatives is to reduce import of goods and services and instead procure such locally. It is in this spirit that we as government expect you to support the Small, Medium Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in your district by procuring their goods and services. Empowering locals will certainly enhance self reliance and reduce dependence on government handouts.

13. The unprecedented growth of Gaborone has had negative effects in peri-urban villages of Mogoditshane, Gabane, Kumakwane, Metsimotlhabe and Molepolole. The settlement development patterns of these villages have changed drastically as a result of the growth of the City and this has brought other challenges related to orderly development of the villages, pressure for social services, crime and other social ills.

14. These challenges are not easy to address, but they require you as a local authority to explore means and ways of addressing them, both in the short and medium term with the limited resources at your disposal. Coordination and integrated approach to these challenges will be critical if you are to make the required impact.

15. As Kweneng District Council, you cannot address development challenges in isolation because some of them cut across the region to your neighbouring districts. Therefore the need to forge strategic partnerships with nearby districts to mobilize resources for development cannot be over-emphasized. You need to adopt a regional approach to planning to avoid duplication of efforts, reduce costs and promote efficiency.

16. Allow me Mr Chairman to share with you my concern over political developments I find most disturbing. This is the third meeting where I have brought Cabinet to Councillors. My reason for doing this cannot be overemphasized as I am fully committed to consulting all decision making arms of government in the implementation of my mandate.

17. We have seen opposition Councillors walk out of one meeting. These Councillors, like all Batswana, have rights that they can exercise at will. They are neither forced to attend meetings that are not relevant to their function nor are they barred by any law to be members of any party.

18. Cabinet holds these briefs with Council just as it does with the all party caucus at Parliament. We are a government that knows that the development of Batswana requires the participation of elected representatives and not just those in the BDP. When Councillors allow petty party politics to begin to interfere with and misdirect their responsibility to represent voters and to discuss and deliver developments, we clearly must be concerned as citizens of this country, about the seriousness of such elected representatives to look after their constituents’ interests.

19. All elected representatives are expected to report to their wards about developments and I do not see how anyone can report fully and truthfully if they have denied themselves the opportunity to interrogate those charged with the mandate to deliver, by failing to attend such meetings as this one.

20. Let me conclude by stating that we should essentially collaborate and discuss governance issues. This is the thrust of our meeting here today. I do appreciate that you may be having several issues that you wish to raise with Cabinet Ministers, who shall respond to them and where they do not have responses they shall revert accordingly in due course. I thank you.

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