Address to the Botswana National Assembly,
Gaborone, 11 March 2003
Your Excellency, President Festus Mogae and Mrs Mogae,
Your Excellency, Vice President Ian Khama,
Honourable Leader of the House,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
People of Botswana:
We thank you very much for the privilege accorded to
us to address this important seat of the representatives
of the people of Botswana.
I bring you fraternal and warm greetings from your
brothers and sisters across the border. I would like
to extend our deep appreciation to the people of this
country for the warmth with which they welcomed us to
Botswana. We can assure you that not only do we feel
at home, we are in reality at home.
We are at home because we are one people. We are tied
together by the same history, culture, tradition and
language. Our countries, our economies and our destinies
are inextricably bound together. Because of this, we
can correctly and proudly declare that today, we are
Once more, I would like to take this opportunity to
thank the government and people of this country for
the sacrifices that were made to ensure that the people
of South Africa attain their freedom. Without your sacrifices
and selflessness, which brought about great suffering
to many people of this country, we would not be speaking
to each other, today, as free citizens.
We are grateful for the fact that even in the face
of apartheid brutality that knew no bounds, you remained
unwavering because you understood, quite correctly,
that it would be impossible for you fully to enjoy your
freedom while South Africa suffered under a racist tyranny.
Today, we are proud to say that the freedom of South
Africa also belongs to the people of this country. Indeed,
this freedom belongs to our brothers and sisters in
our Region and the rest of Africa.
This is particularly important for us in this Region
because this freedom has meant an end to costly destabilisation,
economic sabotage and cross-border military aggression.
Because we have together defeated apartheid, we now
have the possibility to concentrate all our efforts
to bring about development and prosperity to all our
peoples and countries.
Honourable Speaker, I must make the point that the
time has come for us to work together to produce a full
account of what Botswana and Batswana did to contribute
to the liberation of South Africa. I am certain that
narrative will tell a story of outstanding courage,
heroism, solidarity and commitment to principle, demonstrated
by the people of Botswana during a difficult period
of our common history.
In January 1985, a South African journal, "Indicator
South Africa", carried a story of elections in
Botswana, co-written by Brian Egner and Alan Whiteside,
under the heading 'Multi-Party Elections in a Frontline
State' and observed that:
"The elections for national and local government
in Botswana passed almost unnoticed in the South African
media, overshadowed by the saturation given to the Coloured
and Indian elections. However, the proximity of the
elections in Botswana and South Africa allows a comparison
which throws into relief the dissimilarities between
these neighbouring African states.
"Botswana's enthusiastic voter response, the open
expression of a broad and representative ideological
spectrum, and the role of self-help housing as a salient
urban election issue, provide the architects of South
Africa's democratisation process with an example of
the political legitimacy so evidently lacking from their
recent constitutional exercise."
(p11, Indicator SA Vol 2, No. 4, January '85).
I am certain you will have noticed the curious statement
by the writers that the 'voter response' and broad and
representative ideological spectrum (in Botswana)..'
would 'provide the architects of South Africa's democratic
process with an example of the political legitimacy
so evidently lacking from their recent constitutional
What is curious is the fact that the writers thought
that the apartheid tri-cameral process in South Africa
at the time was, as they called it, 'South Africa's
democratic process'. Of course, we all know that this
process was not only the very opposite of a democratic
process, but it was a sham that was roundly rejected
by the South African people, bringing more people into
the struggle for genuine democracy in our country.
However, the article is useful because it makes some
observations that are very important to us today.
First, reading this article today, reminds us of the
fact that Botswana's democracy had long matured and
as we continue our work of the renewal of our continent,
we should use this as an important example that says
we do not need to look beyond the shores of Africa to
see democracy at work.
Accordingly, we say, again, that we are happy to address
you this afternoon because this House represents to
us as Africans, a proud and an enduring monument of
democracy, peace and stability.
Second, the article makes an important point that we
must take on board as we rebuild our countries. This
is the need to look at similarities and dissimilarities
in our democratic processes. This is critical if we
are to ensure that our democracies become durable and
adapt to our traditions and cultures, and adjust to
the constant evolution of human society.
We are faced with the challenge of infusing our traditional
systems and institutions into modern processes in a
manner that does not dilute our democracies but also
in a way that does not marginalise these traditions
and customs. In this regard, we have much to learn from
Third, we are faced with the challenge of creating
efficient and viable institutions to ensure that we
achieve the goals of peace, human rights, prosperity
and social cohesion. These include continental, regional
and country structures that would take the specificity
of our countries into consideration.
Already, at the continental level, we have, through
the African Union, agreed on the need for a peer-review
mechanism so that we are able to ensure that there are
benchmarks by which we can assist one another to make
the necessary progress with regard to improving the
lives of our people in conditions of freedom and stability.
Fourth, the curious statement we pointed out earlier,
is an important indication of the possibility of legitimising
the illegitimate by skillfully implanting a seemingly
innocuous assertion in an authentic analysis of different
situations. This happens everyday, particularly through
the power of the media, both electronic and print, so
that ideas are implanted in our minds without many of
us analysing their real meanings and intentions.
This is related to the previous point and speaks to
the manner in which those who own or have access to
institutions that deal with information and ideas use
these structures to advance particular thoughts.
Our continent and peoples have been victims of these
processes, whereby in many instances we are portrayed
to be other than what we are, presented as half developed
humans whose empty heads must be filled with the good
ideas from elsewhere.
As part of our renewal as Africans, we need to own
the institutions of critical thought so that none other
than ourselves can represent who and what we are, and
that we ourselves should determine what we have to do
to create a better world for our peoples.
As we consolidate our democracies and continuously
learn from one another, one of the critical challenges
will always be the need to ensure that we bring an African
tradition and perspective to our structures and processes.
Our two countries have been working on practical measures
that would ensure that we are able to use our combined
strengths and resources to bring about development for
the benefit of our peoples.
The programme for the joint development of our countries
and peoples is now contained in what our countries signed
this morning - the Agreement on the Establishment of
a Joint Permanent Commission for Co-operation.
I have no doubt that all of us are delighted with this
agreement, which will clearly enhance bilateral cooperation
between our countries in the following areas:
Agriculture and Livestock;
Mining and Tourism;
Monetary and Financial Arrangements;
Transportation, Roads and other infrastructure development;
Health, Culture, Education and Development as well as
utilization of human resources;
Joint development and utilization of natural resources
Telecommunication, Broadcasting and Posts.
Clearly, these are critical areas that are central for
the development of our countries. There is no doubt
that to succeed better in these and other areas, we
have to increase our collaboration and co-operation.
In so doing, we would be true to the old Setswana saying:
Mabogo dinku a a thebana! Indeed, for the development
of our continent, region and countries, individually
and collectively, we need both hands so as to perform
our tasks adequately.
As we know, the agreement that we signed today reinforces
other agreements and joint activities that we have had
in the past.
We were privileged to work with the Government of Botswana
and the Botswana Defence Force to help the people of
Lesotho to protect their democratic gains.
We will recall that in June 2000, here in Gaborone,
our countries signed an Agreement for the Establishment
of a Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security.
We have also worked together in combating crime through
the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation
Together with President Mogae, we launched the first
cross-border conservation park in Southern Africa, the
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Through this important
project, we demonstrated that it is possible to combine
our resources for the advancement of our countries.
Our business sectors have for many years co-operated
for the benefit of our peoples and indeed there are
increasing business opportunities on both sides of the
border. Already, the Botswana Export Development and
Investment Authority has established an office in Johannesburg.
This is important for the facilitation of business and
investment activities in both our countries.
At the Regional level, we believe that the negotiations
between Botswana and Namibia with regard to the possibility
of building a hydro-electrical power project along the
Okavango River must succeed. We say this because the
positive outcome of the Okavango River Project would
benefit the entire Region.
Honourable Members will remember that the Heads of
State and Government of countries that constitute the
Southern African Customs Union (SACU), met here in Gaborone
last October to sign the new SACU agreement replacing
the earlier one of 1969.
We had to re-negotiate this agreement because the earlier
one had shortcomings in that, amongst other things,
it did not have provisions for democratic institutions
and there was no dispute settlement mechanism.
Of importance also is that we have now entered into
negotiations with the USA to arrive at a Free Trade
Together as members of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) we have a responsibility to help with
the implementation of SADC restructuring programme.
We need to do whatever we can to ensure that this important
institution is transformed into a vibrant, effective
and efficient structure that is able to take the lead
in the renewal and integration of our Region and Continent.
Clearly, if the New Partnership for Africa's Development
(NEPAD) -a programme of the African Union (AU) - is
to succeed, our regional structures must be strong.
Honourable Members, our Region is faced with one of
the worst famines in living memory as a result of three
successive seasons of drought that has led to failed
harvests. This, as we know, is variously affecting our
countries, with millions of people facing starvation.
I am sure that all of us extend our thanks to the countries
and organisations that have responded positively to
the request by the World Food Programme for assistance
in this regard.
Although we cannot control nature, we need to plan
properly for these eventualities and ensure that our
region is always well prepared adequately to deal with
these natural calamities.
It is imperative for all of us, working within our
regional and continental structures to find permanent
solutions to these and other challenges.
Furthermore, together we have to combine our efforts
to address the challenge posed by the occasional outbreaks
of foot-and-mouth disease because this has the potential
of worsening our food crisis as well as negatively affecting
the beef industry and therefore deny our farmers access
to some of the important markets in the world.
In addition, our region, like the rest of the continent,
is faced with the scourge of communicable diseases,
such as AIDS, TB and Malaria. It is important therefore,
that we must increase our collaboration, co-operation
and sharing of resources between our countries, so that
together we can be in a better position to contain these
I am confident that I am speaking for everyone of us
in saying that we are very happy with the peace developments
in Angola. The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination
of Humanitarian Affairs has described the Angolan problem
as the largest on-going humanitarian crisis in the world
today. I am certain that we can, within our own capacities,
respond to this crisis facing our brothers and sisters
in that country.
Allow me Honourable Speaker to thank Sir Ketumile Masire
for the work he continues to do to help the people of
the Democratic Republic of Congo to achieve democracy,
peace and stability.
Finding a permanent solution to the DRC has not been
easy and we are strengthened by the fact that soon the
people of the DRC will establish an inclusive transitional
government that will, among other things, prepare that
important country in our region and Africa for its democratic
I am equally certain that we have to continue our cooperation
to help the people of Zimbabwe to resolve the many problems
As part of our efforts to accelerate the process of
the regeneration of our continent, the African Union
has prioritised a number of Organs that need to be established.
We are confident that our colleagues in this country
will continue to lend a hand so that we move with the
necessary speed to establish some of these critical
The threat of war continues to hang over Iraq and the
world. I am certain that I express our collective view
when I say that we share a heartfelt desire for the
peaceful resolution of this matter, including the destruction
by Iraq of all weapons of mass destruction.
We rely on the Security Council of the United Nations
to discharge its responsibilities as the principal global
institution charged with the task to protect and advance
international peace and security.
The renewal of our continent is gathering pace. Working
within our continental and regional structures, I am
confident that we will increase the momentum towards
the implementation of the NEPAD programmes.
Through the many programmes that we are pursuing, in
the fields of politics, economy, culture, education
and others, I am confident that as Africans, we have
begun a process of defining ourselves and ensuring that
through our work, we guarantee a peaceful and prosperous
future for all our people.
To succeed we must have an army of committed politicians,
business people, the intelligentsia, women, the youth,
traditional leaders, workers and others, to lead this
important process of our renewal. We need to work on
a programme of ensuring that we retain the many professionals
that our countries train with our limited resources.
We should also work on a programme to attract the many
Africans who are in the Diaspora so that they can contribute
their unique and important skills to the project of
the African Renaissance.
Above all, we need Africans who are committed to the
continent. We need people whose passion is to use their
skills and influence to end the various unnecessary
conflicts on our continent. We need people who know
that our limited resources should be used for the development
of the millions of poor people in our countries. Clearly,
through the work of these committed Africans, we would
be redefining ourselves. Through our good work we will
be sending a message that there are many among us who
are ready to make a difference in the struggle for a
better life for all.
In the process of defining ourselves, we have to take
heed of the words of the poet Kobina Sekyi who is critical
of the mind and antics of the alienated African elite.
In his poem "Sojourner", he writes:
A product of the low school embroidered by the high,
Upbrought and trained by similar products, here am I.
I go to school on weekends (excepting Saturdays) ..
I speak English to soften my harsher native tongue,
It matters not if I speak the Fani wrong.
I'm learning to be British, and treat with due contempt,
The worship of the Fetish, from which I am exempt.
I was baptized an infant, a Christian hedged around
With prayer from the moment my being was unbound.
I'm clad in coat and trousers, with boots upon my feet,
And tamfurafu and Hausas I seldom deign to greet.
For I despise the native that wears the native dress
The badge that marks the bushman, who will never progress.
All native ways are silly, repulsive, unrefined,
All customs superstitious, that rule the savage mind.
(P4 Beyond the Colour Line - Pan Africanist Disputations,
Kwesi Kwaa Prah, Vivlia Publishers, 1997).
A cursory study of most developed countries in the
world reveals that, apart from developing and learning
important technological advances from other nations,
these countries retained their cultures, their identities
and did not regard their native ways as silly, repulsive,
unrefined, nor did they treat their customs as superstitious.
Part of our regeneration as African people, is to hold
fast to our identity and create institutions that must
correctly define us according to who we are. I am confident
that the leadership that is gathered here this afternoon,
will help us to be who we are and ensure that in all
that we do, we remain true to ourselves.
Once more, I am most grateful to you, Honourable Members,
for the privilege you granted us to address this important