Botswana: Four in Titanic Clash

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Reminiscent of the Nelson Mandela-FW De Klerk televised debate ahead of South Africa's 1994 general elections, Botswana's four presidential candidates held hands and posed for photographs after their debate on Wednesday night.

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Advocate Duma Boko of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Alliance for Progressives' (AP) Mr Ndaba Gaolathe and Mr Biggie Butale of Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) stood shoulder to shoulder after an intense debate where they promised a new dawn for the country.

Nocturnal activities had ground to a halt as people countrywide were either glued to their television screens, radios or social media platforms for the Botswana Television (Btv), Radio Botswana as well as live stream on the Daily News.

The debate got heated at times, interspersed with World Bank documents citations and even taunts derived from the lyrics of Tswana folk music legend Ratsie Setlhako's Matshwaro, as the four men motivated as to why they should be entrusted with the reins of power.

President Masisi said his intention was to lead a united and strong BDP into a fresh mandate and take Botswana to the next level by diversifying the economy.

That, he said, would be achieved through engagement of downstream economic activities and investing in a knowledge-based economy as well as bringing opportunities to women and youth.

He said while the BDP had been in power since independence, it was now coming up with innovative ideas to create new opportunities for the private sector, citizen economic empowerment and an economic diversification drive as well as to increase domestic production and export industries.

Dr Masisi said the party was committed to the rule of law and would begin a process of national dialogue around constitutional review to identify aspects that needed modernisation for the collective benefit of the nation.

He further pledged that government would continue being responsible in its financial spending and further committed the BDP to fighting corruption.

Advocate Boko said Botswana needed a turnaround strategy plus a coherent policy framework as well as action in order to address some of the challenges the country faced such as unemployment and poverty.

He said unemployment figures were distorted as they excluded those engaged in casual work, Ipelegeng workers and others which he said hindered proper planning since diagnosis of the unemployment challenge was downplayed.

Advocate Boko reiterated key messages from his party's manifesto including 100 000 jobs in the first 12 months, P3 000 living wage and P1 500 old age pension which he said would help to stimulate the economy through boosted spending.

He said if elected into power, UDC would attract market-seeking foreign direct investment by investing in world class infrastructure including increasing the railroad surface from 903 km to 1637 km.

For his part, Mr Gaolathe said the country was in need of credible leadership and a new constitutional framework that could help the country overcome challenges such as poverty, dispossession and corruption.

The AP vision, he said, was to create a new Botswana where the culture of administering government business had proper checks and balances and appointments being made through merit.

He said his party's plan was to create an enabling environment for investment in human capital and social development.

Macroeconomic stability would be managed in order to avoid inflation through prudent fiscal planning, managing budget deficits, allowing Bank of Botswana to be independent on issues such as interest rates, he said adding that government would work with research institutions and pension funds.

He also said AP would focus on developing information communication technology networks including in schools and the workplace promising that a chief digitalisation officer would be employed to oversee the ICT strategy.

Mr Butale of the BPF said his party intended to focus on creating sustainable jobs including the hiring of teachers, doctors and nurses, diversifying the economy and the investing in infrastructure by constructing new roads, railway as well as water systems and electricity power stations.

He also said the youth needed to be empowered with skills and capital to put them in a position to engage in business.

The party would also work on reducing inflation by ensuring that the recurrent budget did not rise in a manner that was not consistent with national income.

Mr Butale said oversight bodies such as the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime and Ombudsman had to be autonomous and should report directly to Parliament as opposed to being under the Office of the President.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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