Address to the Botswana National Assembly, Gaborone, 11 March 2003

Honourable Speaker,
Your Excellency, President Festus Mogae and Mrs Mogae,
Your Excellency, Vice President Ian Khama,
Honourable Leader of the House,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Honourable Members,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Distinguished Guests,
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 all Batswana.

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 exercise'.

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 your example.

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.

Honourable Speaker;

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;
Water Affairs;
Mining and Tourism;
Environmental co-operation;
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 and energy;
Migration;
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 Organisation (SARPCCO).

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 Agreement (FTA).

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 diseases.

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 elections.

I am equally certain that we have to continue our cooperation to help the people of Zimbabwe to resolve the many problems they confront.

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 institutions.

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.

Honourable Members;

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 House.

Thank you.

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