Botswana: Candidates Promise Increased Citizen Participation

Gaborone — The four candidates vying for the presidency in next week's general elections have admitted that Batswana were, to varying degrees, not in control of the country's economy.

In the first presidential debate that was broadcast live on national television in which the sitting president took part on Wednesday, lack of citizen participation in the economy became one of the topical issues as aspirants concurred that Batswana were not active players in their own economy.

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) admitted that economy was not in the hands of Batswana.

He said the BDP manifesto articulated how the economy could be put on the hands of Batswana.

To this effect, he said the Citizen Economic Empowerment Policy and Economic Diversification Drive policy would be turned in to law.

He said the CEE law would address the inequalities of the past by transferring the country's wealth and give land rights to the disadvantaged Batswana.

Dr Masisi said government would ensure that Batswana were not spectators in the economic activities of their country, through among other things, partnerships and joint ventures with foreign investors.

Further, he said the BDP government would empower Batswana particularly the youth by availing to them funding to start businesses so as to enable them to participate in the economic growth and diversification of the economy.

With regards to Botswana/DeBeers negotiations, he said he was unable to divulge information contained in the deal because negotiations were ongoing.

He, however said the fact that Botswana had previously dealt with DeBeers cordially, Batswana should be rest assured that there would be improvements in the new deal.

The President said relocation of Diamond Trade Centre from London to Botswana was a great move and that Batswana should be assured that good things would come along with the relocation.

He said in the new deal, Batswana would benefit from the value chain of diamonds right through as well as synthetic diamonds.

Umbrella for Democratic Change leader, Advocate Duma Boko said the UDC manifesto promised an improved economy through industries that would diversify the economy

He said the country's wealth had never been in the hands of Batswana as only a handful of Batswana benefited.

Advocate Boko said Batswana should wake up to the reality that they were surviving on hand-to-mouth as they had nothing to spare beyond basic necessities because foreigners were dominating as active players in the country economy.

He said the UDC advocates for public venture capital funds that should be provided by government to hand-hold Batswana in effort to bring back the economy to their hands.

With regards to the DeBeers and Botswana deal he said it was disheartening that the deal was kept a secret from the nation.

In this regard, he said government must disclose to its citizens the detailed nature of the new deal because Batswana were entitled to the mineral resources from their own country.

He said there should be a firm bargaining position that would give Batswana an upper hand because the company balance sheet reflected that they thrived on Botswana diamonds.

Leader of Alliance for Progressives (AP), Mr Ndaba Gaolathe said Batswana had become spectators in their own economy while foreigners had an upper hand.

He said AP manifesto articulated how it would turn the country fortunes by ensuring that indigenous Batswana become active players in the economy.

In this regard, he said his party intended to build a sustainable economy that would be able to pay its citizens well in an effort to revitalize the economy.

To achieve that, he said that they would build inclusive institutions and an economy that generated high paying jobs for the majority of Batswana.

Mr Gaolathe said in the first six years AP would double the economy, adding that there would be industries built intended to create employment opportunities.

He said this would be done through a business ecosystem that would encourage growth of Small, Micro to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that would supply big companies.

He also said he was not happy about the DeBeers and Botswana negotiations as that was a highly kept secret.

He said Botswana and DeBeers deal was very rigid and greatly disadvantaged Batswana because they were unable to benefit from other beneficiation initiatives.

Leader of Botswana Patriotic Front, Mr Biggie Butale concurred with other aspirants, saying Batswana had become 'bemused spectators' in the economy.

He said most of the country's wealth was in the hands of foreigners and Batswana were just onlookers. He said there should be policies that protect Batswana to benefit in their own economy and become active players.

On the DeBeers- Botswana new deal negotiations, he said the current relationship between the two was not helping Batswana.

He was of the view that as much as the DeBeers and Botswana relationship was symbiotic, to some extent the new deal should give Batswana an upper hand because they have an entitlement.

Source : BOPA

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