Remains one of the most unequal societies in the world

Chairman of the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), Olebile Machete has noted with concern that the gap between the rich and the poor in Botswana is one of the highest in the world.

Machete expressed grave disappointment that Botswana remains one of the 10 most unequal societies in the world although she has been rated as an upper middle income country.

He is equally worried that citizens are facing significant socio-economic difficulties as evidenced by the high cost of living, with inflation having hit its highest levels earlier in the year. In his view, a great source of shame for every single Motswana is the fact that Botswana holds the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest rate of rape in the world!

“We harbour the highest per capita rapists in the whole world! Shame on us as Batswana. A dark moment in our Republic has to be the shaming levels of Gender Based Violence, where women and girls are brutally killed by their intimate partners, when they are not beaten black and blue by those most-close to them.

“We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. We live at a time when families are often torn apart, as evidenced by the prevalence of children without sufficient parental care in the country,” lamented the chairman at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Gaborone. He challenged civil society organisations to stand tall and point out without any bit of shame, what their contribution in the fight against such vices has been over the past 12 months.

“Are we viewed as partners in development by those that matter, in particular government and development partners such as the United Nations?" he wondered, as he challenged BOCONGO members to reflect on whether society viewed BOCONGO as a critical partner in development.

“Or are we as a sector, viewed as a by-the- way structure of convenience or inconvenience, depending on the direction the wind is blowing?"

The chairman noted that BOCONGO’s intention is to show its footprint in the development trajectory of the Republic, as well as place CSO’s within the broader achievements of the country’s development outcomes.

He would like BOCONGO to jealously guard the civic space. The chairman noted that BOCONGO has a duty to ensure that CSOs and other non-state actors deliver on their mandates without interference, intimidation, fear, or favour.

“We need to religiously, as a sector, periodically reflect on this strategic imperative, for it is the lifeblood of our existence. BOCONGO should at all times have its finger on the civic space pulse and jealously protect the same,” he said.

The biggest question that he was hoping the AGM would respond to is whether the members are collectively able to protect the civic space.

“Are our members and members of the CSOs movement confident enough to claim their space as and when necessary? Can our members, with a straight face be advocates of their constituents without fear?" he asked.

Machete said BOCONGO can only claim its seat at the table if it demonstrates its value proposition. “Colleagues, we invite you on this journey value proposition demonstration. For BOCONGO remains the single most sustainable vehicle to protect the civic space as well as consolidate our efforts into an overall sector contribution to the country’s development,” he said.

His view is that when the stakeholders collectively see the potential in BOCONGO and facilitate it to deliver on imperatives, it will be able to reawaken the civil society movement.

He also told the meeting that, it is the intention of the Board to submit a comprehensive report to the Office of the President in the coming 2023 demonstrating what their value has been over the past 12 months.

“Funding remains the single biggest challenge for CSO’s in Botswana. This is the only existential threat to our sector at the moment. Our classification as an Upper Middle Income Country compromised our attractiveness for funding.

“Our rankings on issues of democracy, corruption, and other governance indicators have further compromised our attractiveness in so far as funding is concerned,” said Machete, who incidentally does not agree with the rankings of the country.