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Khama was a constitutional delinquent – Boko

Publishing Date : 16 January, 2018


The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader, Advocate Duma Boko was not so kind in his response to President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s valedictory State of Nation Address (SONA) as he indicated that the outgoing President was not a faithful servant of the constitution.

Boko, who is the leader of opposition in parliament said, Khama’s decision to leave office at the end of mandatory 10 year presidential tenure limit is probably the only time the president will be willing to bend to the demands of the country’s constitution. “It remains for me to thank President Khama that he has himself assured us that he will leave the office of President at the expiration of his term. He undertakes to respect and uphold the dictates of our Constitution,” Boko said.

“If he does, it will certainly be the most important act of fidelity to the Constitution of his entire tenure as President. Otherwise he has had to be kept under restraint by the Courts on many of his attempts to subvert the Constitution.” Khama’s administration has had unpopular court wars, most importantly with the trade unions following the historic 2011 public strive. The most recent, and perhaps most controversially was the decision to challenge the parliamentary standing orders with regard to the election of the Speaker of National Assembly and endorsement of vice president in parliament.

Khama had sought to compel Members of Parliament (MPs) to raise their hands, as opposed to secret ballot, to elect and endorse his choice for Vice President. The High Court and later Court of Appeal ruled against him. Another controversial constitutional battle was the appointment of judges to serve in the judiciary. Khama had initially ignored the recommendation by Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to appoint Omphemetse Motumise to the bench. The High Court and later Court of Appeal ruled against him, forcing him to reluctantly appoint Motumise after a bout of frustration.

Boko said, Masisi, who takes over the reins at the beginning of April next year will inherit an economy whose growth is slow, jobless, pro-rich and fragile due in part to slow progress on the diversification of both the economy and markets, and weak external competitiveness.
“You are handing over an economy in worse shape than you found it in 2008. Whilst we appreciate the positive sovereign credit rating, this macro level indicator should not take our focus from the economy’s dismal performance at the microeconomic level, where firms and households are facing difficult odds,” said the Botswana National Front (BNF) leader.

“Business closures have become all too common, household incomes are depressed, real wages are declining, household debt is rising, the ranks of the unemployed are swelling, vulnerability to poverty is growing, and a growing share of our population has become dependent on the safety net and Ipelegeng. We catalogue these because they provide an unanswerable reproach to the contrived reality the President sought to present.”

Boko also urged the government to challenge the country’s economists - in government, academia and the private sector - to develop an alternative model for this economy, re-examine our economic policies and strategies, and inject a measure of creativity into policy design.
“The current dispensation, in which we muddle along seeking to spend our way to success, and we throw money at problems, is neither working nor sustainable, because the days of rich mineral revenue yields belong to our past,” he said.

“Yet, this is exactly what successive BDP governments have been doing, all the while mouthing platitudes about economic diversification and transformation.” Boko said these indicators suggest that the economy is not working for the average person, hence Botswana is the third most unequal society in the world. “This government has failed on job creation, poverty eradication, economic inclusion and the expansion of opportunity for our burgeoning youth population,” he observed. “Whereas vision 2016 envisaged full employment and zero statistical poverty by 2016, nearly one in five Batswana are unemployed, and an almost equivalent number subsists below the poverty line.”

Boko observed that during the tenure of Khama’s government, formal employment grew at a slouchy 1.5 per cent per annum, with the highest annual job growth rates registered by public enterprises (4.6%) and Ipelegeng (3.4%). From 2011 to 2015, enrolment in Ipelegeng rose by 28 percent! In the private sector, which accounts for 56 per cent of formal employment, the rate of job growth averaged 1.2 per cent per annum between 2011 and 2015.

“Yet, over this period, the labour force grew at an annual rate of 3.5%. Juxtapose labour force growth and the rate of job growth and you arrive at the terrifying conclusion that we have an annual job growth deficit of two percentage points,” he said. “The message behind these figures is unambiguous. There are no jobs for the unemployed and the youth who leave colleges with diplomas and degrees hoping for a job. Workers cannot expect wage growth. Our collective wellbeing is eroding.”

The most recent rate estimates put unemployment at 17.7% of the labour force in 2015/16. That amounts to 149,300 unemployed active Batswana job seekers out of a total labour force of 844,050. Add discouraged job seekers and the rate of unemployment rises to about 30 per cent. Remove Ipelegeng from the employment figures and the gravity of Botswana’s joblessness and exclusion becomes more apparent.



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