[lg policy] Botswana: The BNF Manifesto

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 27 17:29:35 UTC 2009

The BNF Manifesto

The Botswana National Front (BNF) has become the second party to
present its Manifesto before the University of Botswana (UB) student
community at the invitation of the University of Botswana Political
Science Society.

The BNF Manifesto at a glance is quite updated, the foreword by the
party president Otsweletse Moupo takes cognizance of the recent
political squabbles within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP);
and in an admirable sense of introspection, admits to the troubles
that have rocked the BNF itself.

If anything is admirable about the BNF Manifesto, while not saying
nothing is, it is that they promise that government will not abdicate
from its core responsibilities. When human beings decided to live
together in a commonwealth in ancient times, establishing what
political scientists have termed a social contract; the basis of such
a contract was that each lay off claim to everything and anything they
can be acquired by use of their own means and allow the establishing
of a sovereign (a ruler) who shall provide for their needs and
arbitrate conflicts.

The aim was to ensure that widespread banditry and looting of all one
set their eyes on, if their power permitted, paves way to order, not
disguised order, but real order imposed by the ruler with the consent
of the ruled. Such a ruler has duties to citizens of the commonwealth
to collectively care for their needs and ensure that the commonwealth

Caring for the needs and welfare of the citizens here meant not a
scenario where the ruling class simply holds fort for a clique of
wealthy citizens but for the common good, which ought to be the
guarantee of all party manifestos. It is a positive sign to see the
BNF expressly say that it is the duty of government to provide decent
housing and create jobs for if anything else, the citizens have
something they can hold them accountable to.

Whether the BNF can actually live up to such a promise once in power
remains a mystery, until we see them govern. That wise man George
Orwell in his dystopian novella Animal Farm painted a picture where
the human farm owner was an indifferent and useless drunkard whom the
animals overthrew only to be as corrupted by the sweet promise and
proceeds of power. His writings are not without merit given the many
revolutions that miscarried.

The first article of the manifesto tackles the issue of
nation-building. The BNF here posits that it believes in "unity in
diversity". Thus the various ethnic groups in the country can live
together in harmony and none needs to have its culture and uniqueness

To address this problem they pledge that upon attainment of power
"Setswana will be the official language and taught as a subject to all
ethnic groups". It further asserts that "in our efforts to create a
genuinely democratic society, the BNF government will institute a
system whereby the medium of instruction at primary school level for
the various ethnic communities will be their own languages".

To further institute the principle of unity in diversity, the
manifesto outlines that a language policy shall be established whose
intent shall be to guide school curriculum, funding for research and
development of ethnic languages. The laws of the country and current
policies shall also be reviewed to outlaw all forms of ethnic

The next article deals with what are perhaps the most pertinent issues
in the country at the moment - the economy and employment.  It asserts
here that all BNF policies are based on its Social Democratic
Programme, thus accepting a huge public sector coupled by a private
ownership of the means of production.  A four tier economy will
develop under a BNF government-there will be government, parastatals,
private entities and cooperatives.  Thus, the BNF promises to run a
mixed economy.  While the private sector's role is appreciated, it
appears heavily constrained though as most emphasis is upon assisting
cooperatives while the private sector is viewed as 'motivated by
immediate financial gains', a charge that so far has proven true.

On employment; unlike what they say the BDP believes in, the BNF
believes job creation is the primary responsibility of government and
not of the private sector as it 'mostly interested in making profits'.
To create jobs, they pledge to accelerate development especially in
rural areas so as to attract investments to those areas. Commerce,
industry and agriculture will be major sectors in development while
those with entrepreneurship zeal will have access to finance through
loan guaranteed schemes and other forms of credit.

On education, the Front believes in the process of political education
of the masses as a basis for freedom.  Of interest here as well is the
distinction of education from instruction. "Education, as contrasted
with instruction, shall be community based or society-oriented rather
than certificate and status-oriented". This education shall be free,
compulsory, coupled with production, instill respect for the country's
cultural heritage, and encourage a sense of community and not
individualism. Furthermore, "the BNF government shall make
kindergartens and day-care centres an integral part of the education
system so that working parents shall be relieved from extra burdens of
financial and emotional stress of looking after their infants."

Social security and welfare are often at the centre of
socialist-oriented governments and the BNF presents an expansive
social security system. Social security will be overhauled through
legislation that provides for old age pensions, dependence and orphans
benefit, contributory pension and unemployment insurance benefits and
pre-school facilities for working parents.

What is new in this social security programme appears to be the
introduction of unemployment insurance benefits, which are long
overdue given the rising unemployment levels even among fairly well
educated citizens.

Pre-school facilitates for working parents will be a new concept as
well but largely, unless if there will be change in the extent of the
benefits, the other benefits are no different from the BDP is
currently offering.

In terms of health, the pledge is to build hospitals in the urban
areas and health centres in medium sized villages and the rural ones.
An innovation here is to provide mobile medical services network to
"serve all otherwise inaccessible areas". There shall be an emphasis
of quality and efficient service while "our traditional health system
will be encouraged and developed".

Housing is a basic need that demands serious attention.  The BNF
promises to consult nationwide on housing strategies and also to
encourage employers to house their employees.  Rentals shall be
treated as installments towards eventually purchasing the house.
Access to decent housing shall be treated as a right and not a
privilege and that "it is the duty of the state to ensure that people
are properly housed."

The environment and tourism, like most sectors, will under a BNF
government see lots of investment by the government on them.

The manifesto provides that there also will be recognition of the
necessity of a clean environment in development.  The emancipation of
women and the facilitation of sports and recreation for youth are also
among the promises that are being made. "The BNF is committed to the
abolition of all forms of discrimination and inequality based on sex"
which the BNF believes most Batswana women are suffering from as a
result of institutionalised patriarchy.  To emancipate them,
organizations and cooperatives, if one may call it that, will be
established by them with government support to cater for their
particular interests.

The youth meanwhile will be mentored into leadership so as to assume
responsibility. A youth parliament will be actively promoted to raise
the voice of youth. Sport will also be treated not as a "mere playing
process best left to the designs of volunteers like the BDP government
has done for many years".

Sports will as such receive a 'fair share of the budget', adequate
recreation facilities will be provided and administrators will be

Labour relations are often a point on which socialist leaning parties
are heavily skewed towards. In their nature as parties for workers,
they seek to promote workers rights and the BNF presents, predictably,
such an arrangement for workers.  The BNF begins with recognition of
both the freedom and right to work, the right to strike and freedom of
association.  Trade unions under BNF leadership "will be answerable to
their general membership and not to politicians as is the case under
the BDP government".

Members of the military, police and prisons service will be allowed to
organise into associations though with limited rights to strike.

A localisation of the public service will also be closely monitored
even though expatriate workers are welcome.

Rural development will also be accelerated as the majority of people
still live in rural areas. Provision of electricity, water, and basic
infrastructure will be the mainstay of this rural development policy.

Agriculture will be a critical sector to developing these areas and
helping the country earn food self sufficiency.

Water development through harnessing surface and underground water
resources shall be given particular emphasis.

Agriculture, it appears, will become the most important sector of the
economy as it is earmarked as a sector that will generate capital for
undertaking of other aspects of development. Agriculture shall be for
local consumption and agro processing will be developed.  Cooperatives
shall be important in this sector.

Mineral resources on the one hand will be harnessed to benefit the
majority of Batswana through mostly being processed within the

Prisons will be centres of rehabilitation and not be viewed as areas
of punishment; a national police service 'close to the people as
possible will be created'; corruption and abuse of office will be
checked through adequate information to the media and civil society
and "the BNF government will define defence policy" as it believes
"the BDP has no defence policy or rather that the defence policy has
been let in the hands of security forces", which has "resulted in
heavy drain on the economy".

On foreign policy, the BNF shall proceed from a realist thinking
perspective that acknowledges after the cold war the world did not
suddenly become a "just and peaceful place" and that "international
monopoly capital is adopting new methods for world domination".

As such, the BNF shall "cooperate closely with all countries and all
progressive and social democratic governments around the world".

 The BNF though, shows much faith and confidence in SADC to bring the
people of Southern Arica together; and on that note, at least,
isolationism seems remote.
Going through the Manifesto, one feels a sense of a party that wishes
to take the economy into the hands of the people through an expansive
government. The civil service and government's services will be
further extended.

The major challenge for the BNF will become how well they tread the
fine line between respect for individual property rights and private
investments on the one hand and the pledge they are making to the
people to transfer ownership of factors of production to them.

As well, given an anti-foreign domination of the economy,which is a
justifiable stand, they will need to balance that with a potential
backlash from those who may choose not to buy Botswana's mineral
products since the country will be a little more of a closed economy
and not the liberal one that those liberal markets desire - for a
diversity of their own selfish interest at times.

That aside, and if such concerns are tackled properly, the Manifesto
presents a feasible and desirable alternative for inclusive economic
development and political governance.
 Power, at least will be vested with the people, though what they will
do with it we do not know as yet.


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