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Office of the President (OP)
Inside the Presidency-Issue No 4 of 2011

Our prayers are with the people of Japan

Welcome once more to your weekly window into the Presidency.

Along with the rest of the country, His Excellency the President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama has been saddened and concerned about the tragic series of events afflicting Japan as a result of last Friday’s terrible earthquake and accompanying tsunami. In this respect he was immediately informed on Friday morning of the developing crisis and promptly communicated this nation’s prayers and condolences to the Japanese Government.

While it is fortunate that Batswana residents in Japan have reportedly all been spared physical harm, we continue to monitor the ongoing developments, while admiring their fortitude of the Japanese in the face of extreme adversity.

The President’s schedule this week included reconvening a special Economic Committee of Cabinet (ECC) to look further into questions of Land Policy in the interest of greater equity and efficiency in future allocations.

As has been previously noted in addition to Ministers membership of the ECC includes Senior Officials and other key stakeholders, as well as Assistant Ministers, allowing for broader discussion of significant issues. It is thus one of the many consultative pillars that uphold good governance in our country.  

The President’s diary this week also included quarterly briefings from the Ministries of Defence, Justice and Security and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The latter allowed for consideration of the potential impact ongoing events in the region, such as the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as developments in Japan and elsewhere.

During the past week, His Excellency also met with US Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Eric Goosby, and accepted the credentials of the incoming High Commissioner for Zambia, H.E. Ms. Marina Nsingo.

His Excellency expressed his appreciation to the AIDS Coordinator for America’s continued partnership with Botswana in fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

During his meeting with Zambian High Commissioner, the President expressed his strong desire that funding for the projected Kazungula Bridge, which will directly link Botswana with Zambia across the Zambezi River, will soon be secured. In this respect High Commissioner Nsingo reported that her country has applied for external funding to facilitate its own contribution and anticipates a response in the near future.

Additional visitors to His Excellency included the music artist Vee.

Over the weekend, His Excellency was seen poling a mokoro in order to reach the residents of Jao, in the Okavango, as part of his commitment to personally reach out to communities throughout the country. Yesterday, he was in the Southern District, where he consulted with the inhabitants of Gooraseno, Moshane and Ranaka.

On other matters, during the week the Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, the Hon. Mokgweetsi Masisi responded to a range of questions put to him in Parliament. In the process, he reassured colleagues of the progress being made to promote the recently established Botswana Civil Service College as a local centre of excellence for human resource development.

The Minister further reported on the Coordinating Office for People with Disabilities’ ongoing success in facilitating vocational placements, while advancing its core mandate to develop and coordinate the implementation of policies programmes, strategies aimed at empowering People with Disabilities.

The Minister also noted that the exercise of placement was being carried out to close temporary gaps and take advantage of existing opportunities, while the Coordinating office was working with the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs to enhance long term efforts.

In response to a question about the role of Batswana women in the Second World War, Minister Masisi confirmed that Government is aware that during the conflict women throughout the then Protectorate bore a huge burden by maintaining the home-front while providing additional support for the war effort. In this respect he affirmed that:

“There certainly can be no doubt that the Batswana women of that era made an invaluable contribution to the war effort. While there are currently no plans for an official commemoration of the Second World War, the sacrifices made by Batswana women during the period deserve to be remembered and honoured by this and future generations, whenever and wherever our nation’s overall participation in that conflict is considered.”

The Minister also confirmed to Parliament that some of the money that was used to establish the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services in 2008 had come from an end of year surplus in the Disaster Relief Fund, which is a below the line account in the Office of the President.

In the interest of transparency and accountability, he further acknowledged that officials at the time has sought authority for the expenditure from the then Minister in the Office of the President, instead of the Minister responsible for Finance and Development Planning, which would have been the correct procedure.

In putting the matter to rest, the Minister apologised for the said administrative error, assuring fellow Members of Parliament that he personally viewed it as having been a serious omission which must not be allowed to occur again.  

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