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‘Jobs President’ tag must come alive

Publishing Date : 21 May, 2018

Author : TSAONE SEGAETSHO

In 2009 there were 17 284 work permit holders, fast track to 2016 - the number had drastically dropped to 5293. The latest labour report from Statistics Botswana indicates that in June 2017, a total of 12,166 (3.0 percent) employees were non-citizens. Out of this total, Private and Parastatal sectors recorded 11,009 employees. Construction industry was the major employer of non-citizens (19.3 percent), followed by Education industry (18.5 percent) and Manufacturing industry (14.7 percent).


To several observers from various industries this is what partly contributed to job losses in different industries because company owners were denied the right to recruit skilled personnel who could help keep companies operational hence they relocated or closed down.
At the centre of the controversial decisions to decline work permits applications were former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi and former Labour Minister, Edwin Batshu. They have since left the scene, will the situation be reversed?


Clearly President Mokgweetsi Masisi is busy overwriting some elements which were unpopular but synonymous with his predecessors’ legacy like the notable purging of former Immigration Minister Edwin Batshu and intelligence boss Isaac Kgosi-a move seen by many as a way to enhance Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as the two were seen as bogeymen for foreign investors and expatriates.


A clear sign from Government Enclave and the Office of the President is that Masisi is pushing to be a ‘Jobs President’ and he would not allow anything to stand on his way. He has been seen to be going around calling in foreign investment and trying to find means for job creation.


In former president Ian Khama’s regime there was Kgosi, a former military man and a member of the BDF commando unit who was made a feared director general of the state intelligence unit, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), which was responsible for vetting visas and residence and work permit applications.


Before Kgosi was fired, sources allege that work and residence permits approval, rejections stood at around 20 percent and the numbers had potential to grow. Since 2008 when Khama took over, a lot of foreigners were declared prohibited immigrants and there were many haste deportations.


Two years ago, former Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) CEO Letsebe Sejoe said FDI was mostly blocked by confusions, complications and delays associated with Visa and work permit applications. Sejoe’s sentiments were also echoed by former President Festus Mogae who said foreigners no longer find this country hospitable as they can be deported anytime without explanations.


BITC, an institute tasked with FDI facilitation and performance improvement took a nosedive three months before Masisi took power. According to the institution’s annual report released in January, BITC, a 16 % overall performance decline for their operational year 2016/17. BITC registered an overall performance of 74 percent compared to the 90 percent registered in the previous year. In the same report FDI registered only 948 jobs. As if that was not enough, Botswana also continues to perform dismally in ‘Doing Business’ Index.  According to the World Bank, in 2017 Botswana was number 71 in the world and in the latest ratings, it dropped drastically to number 81.


Also, last year legislators across the political divide took advantage of the Appropriation Bill debate time for the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs and expressed concern at the manner in which the Khama regime was handling visa applications and residence and work permits. The legislators were mostly of the view that the rejections would not help Botswana FDI. The MPs said the foreigners were ill treated by security officers and this would not help Botswana economically.


The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama also accused Kgosi’s brigade of scaring away tourists if not blocking them from entering through Botswana borders sometimes. However Batshu, a former chief of police, defended the DIS’s style of enforcing immigration laws saying it is within its mandate. The immigration laws of Botswana also give a minister to exercise his discretion in blocking visas and work permits of foreigners.


A pundit of Public Administration Kaelo Molefhe said he hopes that the removal of Batshu and Kgosi is not just changing of furniture, as practical decisions have to be taken. Molefhe said, so far, Masisi looks exemplary as he is meeting other leaders internationally and in the region-possibly it could mean he has seen the need to improve the country’s FDI. “He has shown much and seems to be departing from tradition and the past administration,” said Molefhe.


President Masisi has so far squeezed 7500 jobs in the civil service and FDI reception will mean more jobs from the private sector too. According to business news publication Bloomberg, on Tuesday Masisi said he is “dead determined” to produce more jobs. Jobs are top of Masisi’s campaign card as he will be leading the ruling party to next year’s elections.


He has even met new Anglo American top shareholder, Indian billionaire Anil Agarwal twice to discuss about him making sure more diamonds be cut and polished in Botswana, according to Bloomberg.  Anglo American owns 85% of De Beers which owns Debswana, a diamond company partly owned by the Botswana government. Masisi said there should be a way of achieving a win-win for both where De-Beers cuts diamonds in Botswana and there are jobs created.


Labour activist Johnson Motshwarakgole encourages Masisi’s move of trying to address the concerns of the people. He said he applauds Masisi, who seems to be going around looking for investors and making sure the country competes for investors. Motshwarakgole said Batshu and Kgosi should not be blamed alone as they were acting on the orders of a dictator of a president.


The labor activist also wants Masisi to make sure he improves the minimum wage and makes the salaries of young people cutting diamonds precious like the stones they sort. He said in the past diamonds workers had been paid poorly. “So far Masisi is doing many things right and should be applauded,” said Motshwarakgole.

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