It has been hardly three months in office for Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Bogolo Kenewendo, but already critics are calling her out, accusing her of deviating from her bold stances. The 31 year old Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP), detractors say she has turned ‘soft’.
It would appear, her last week interaction with members of the media, where she outlined her new ministry roadmap has attracted scrutiny, particularly from Alliance of Progressives Youth League President, Jacob Kelebeng who is of the view that the minister is either misinformed or deliberately feeding the public with wrong information.
Minister Kenewendo told a press conference last week that her ministry had worked out a strategy to robustly combat hindrances in trade and impediments to ease of doing business, and in turn promote industrialization from both domestic and foreign investment. The bottom line was outlined as delivery of the much needed economic diversification and employment opportunities.
Further, Kenewendo had given a report on the Selibe Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) saying that since the infamous BCL mine closure, government had through the Phikwe Revitalization Strategy created over 750 jobs so far. Kelebeng told WeekendPost this week that Kenewendo’s statements on Selibe Phikwe were just her misleading the nation for political gain. “Our people in Phikwe are still jobless, so it is very difficult to appreciate which jobs the Minister was referring to,” noted Kelebeng.
The AP Youth Leader further told this publication that Kenewendo has since softened up compared to when she was still a back bencher in parliament and a member of the Public Accounts Committee. “She has now adopted a low note approach to addressing the very problems she was highlighting before becoming a minister, she is in the very ministry she has been scrutinizing, now we expect solutions as a matter of urgency,” asserted the AP leader.
Kelebeng also underscored that it was imperative for Kenewendo to move swiftly to address what he termed incompetency and duplication of mandates between SPEDU and Former Bank of Botswana Governor Linah Mhohlo’s Phikwe Revitalization Strategy. “These are amongst other issues that Kenewendo raised when she arrived in parliament, we are not expecting her to quickly make changes but we need to appreciate consistency and the same seriousness in her tone and approach, but she has now began praising the same SPEDU and accommodating Linah Mhohlo whereas she is on record grilling MITI Permanent Secretary Peggy Serame about Linah Mhohlo’s role,” submitted Kelebeng.
Meanwhile, in Kenewendo’s defence Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) National Youth Executive Committee Vice Chairperson, Vuyo Yane told WeekendPost that the 31 year old Minister should be given time. “Apart from the fact that she is only a few months in office, she cannot be scaled the same. She is a minister now, she no longer just identifies problems she has to solve them and solving problems is a process,” said the BDP NYEC deputy leader. Yane, who is a Specially Elected Councilor at Sowa Township Council submitted that in due time Kenewendo would crack the whip. “The key issue would be the implementation of this roadmap, and we can only hope for the best and support her, she will deliver,” he said.
Another issue that arose was the Minister’s stance on foreign retailer’s uptake of locally produced goods, the SEMP spoke robustly against what she termed exploitation of the local market by foreign companies. When answering a question at the recent Press Conference, Kenewendo highlighted that talks were ongoing with retailers, traders, products and service dealers to make them appreciate government’s intention on citizen economic empowerment. It was noted that for instance some music products dealers at local malls were not retailing any locally produced music from Botswana artists.
However Kenewendo noted that her ministry would formulate a policy to engage all retailers across board into ways they can better appreciate Botswana products. “This is not the position she held prior a cabinet post, she was clear government wasn’t doing enough on several occasions when taking the former Trade Minister to Task,” a local Business columnist. “This matter cannot be addressed by policy, we need laws that can bind this retailer so Kenewendo needs to crack the whip and put things into legislative frameworks because she was talking about these things before being appointed to cabinet,” he said.
In an era where the advocacy for the rights and inclusion of marginal groups, especially individuals beset with profound and multiple impairments, grows more fervent, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development is actively devising schemes to integrate these individuals comprehensively.
Embarking on a pioneering venture, heralded by the Minister Douglas Letsholathebe, the establishment of a novel facility designated for individuals faced with disabilities is on the horizon, set to inaugurate in Maun by mid-2024.
This forthcoming entity, bestowed with the title “Maun Center for Learners with Severe and Multiple Disabilities,” is set to emerge as a sanctuary for those grappling with intense and diverse disabilities in the expanse of the Ngamiland District. Its mission extends beyond serving as a haven; it aims to elevate educational standards and secure outstanding scholastic achievements for this special cohort.
With palpable optimism, Dr. Letsholathebe heralds that this sanctuary, a collective effort of the ministry’s allies, is constructed and awaits its ceremonial launch in the June of 2024, marking a significant epoch in the winter season.
“Construction of the Maun Center for Learners with Severe and Multiple Disabilities has concluded, now in the stewardship of my Ministry. We are poised for its operational unveiling come June 2024,” Dr. Letsholathebe revealed, signaling a new chapter of assurance.
The Government of the Republic of Botswana is steadfast in elevating the status of individuals with disabilities, fostering an environment where their rights are fervently protected and upheld.
Echoing this commitment, the recent adoption of the Persons Living with Disabilities Act marks a historic stride. Its foremost objective is the establishment of the National Disability Coordinating Office alongside the National Disability Council, aligning with the mandates of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This movement is expected to significantly influence the integration of disability-centric issues.
Moreover, this legislative framework is set to fortify ongoing initiatives, increasing the economic participation of disabled individuals, thereby enhancing their living conditions and steering them towards securing a life marked by dignity and fulfillment.
In light of historical evidence, individuals bearing disabilities have consistently encountered significant obstacles in securing employment, often finding themselves at the margins of the workforce. Constraints to equitable employment opportunities compared to their non-disabled counterparts were a common plight.
A substantial portion of employers harbor reservations about integrating people with disabilities into their workplaces, fearing potential complications. Only a select few are open to the idea of employing individuals with disabilities. Consequently, these individuals face heightened unemployment rates and a lack of social support, exacerbating their vulnerability to economic hardship. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), along with the nation of Botswana, champions the cause of workplace inclusion for people with disabilities.
Statistics from Botswana’s multi-topic survey for the fourth quarter of 2021 underscore the situation. The labor force comprising individuals with disabilities saw an uptick to 11,553 from 8,649 in just a year. Among these, 4,313 were males and 7,240 were females. The unemployed tally stood at 2,195, against 9,358 who were employed. A notable majority resided in Urban Villages, with the remainder spread across rural locales and cities.
During this quarter, individuals with disabilities accounted for approximately 1.3 percent (9,358 persons) of the overall 717,418 employed populace, marking a significant increase from the previous year. The distribution of employed persons with disabilities across various areas also saw changes, with urban regions employing a majority, followed by rural areas and cities.
The report further delves into the occupational landscape for people with disabilities, noting a predominant employment in service/sales roles over elementary positions – a contrast to the broader employment data.
Despite a reduction in unemployment figures for individuals with disabilities from the preceding year, the unemployment rate stands at a worrying 19.0 percent, with disparities between genders. Urban areas house the majority of the unemployed, with rural areas and cities following suit.
Unemployment across different age groups reveals a balanced distribution, highlighting a widespread issue across the demographic spectrum. This paints a vivid picture of the ongoing challenges and gradual progress within the sphere of employment for people with disabilities.
Majority of employers are still hesitant to employ people with disabilities because they believe they may bring problems in the workplace. Only a few employers are willing to hire workers with disabilities. This as a result makes people living with disability to be affected by high unemployment and insufficient social protection which then further increases their risk of poverty. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is advocating for the inclusion of people with disability in the world of work and Botswana as a country too is advocating for their inclusion in the workplaces.
According to statistics Botswana, multi-topic survey quarter 4, 2021 labour force module report, the total labour force for people with disability was estimated at 11,553 persons, an increase of 2,904 persons over a period of twelve months (from 8,649 persons recorded in Q4 2020). From this total, 4,313 persons were males while 7,240 were females. In addition, 2,195 persons were unemployed whereas 9,358 persons were employed. Furthermore, the data showed the majority of labour force with disability were in Urban Villages (6,185), 3,708 were in rural areas and 1,661 in Cities & Towns.
The essence of community and local flair reigns supreme as St Louis Lager takes a bold step with its ambitious “Hype the Homegrown” Initiative, designed to bolster the visibility and support for local artists and home-based brands, weaving them into the fabric of mainstream success through revolutionary partnerships.
The launchpad for this endeavor has been set with a plethora of creative projects. Among them, a musical odyssey titled “The Journey,” featuring the fusion of local House and Pop virtuoso Hanceford Magapatona, widely celebrated as Han C. Enriching the project further are talents like the visionary Producer Flex the Ninja and the RnB Phenom, Priscilla K, whose track “Away” has captured hearts. This six-track EP, ripe with local genius, is up for grabs across all streaming services, inviting listeners to a world of Botswana’s finest.
But “Hype the Homegrown” transcends the bounds of musical exploration, delving into the realms of fashion and lifestyle, stitching a dynamic collaboration with Collections by B.K. Proctor. This venture, rooted in 100% local ownership by the trailblazing Rapper and Entrepreneur Bokang βBKβ Proctor alongside Digital Maverick, Fifi Wale, showcases a vibrant melding of St Louis Lager and Collections by BK Proctor insignias across a series of street-savvy sneakers and tees. These exclusive pieces have hit the shelves at the Collections by BK Proctor boutiques within the bustling hubs of Gaborone Fairgrounds Mall, Grand Palm, and Toro Junction Mall in Francistown.
Unveiled by the marketing maestro of Kgalagadi Breweries Limited, Gaamanngwe Ramokgothwane, this initiative not only shines a spotlight on KBL’s enduring commitment to the arts but also underscores the wealth of creativity brewing within Botswana, deserving of grand stages and accolades. Ramokgothwane passionately advocates for a collective embrace of this homegrown brilliance, positioning “Hype the Homegrown” as not merely a campaign but a clarion call to action for institutions far and wide to champion and elevate local talent.
Echoing this sentiment, KBL’s steward Carlos Bernitt envisions a future where these artisans not only sparkle locally but also etch their mark on the global canvas, all through the unified backing of Batswana. With “Hype the Homegrown,” a legacy of innovation, creativity, and inspiration is in the making.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Seipati Olweny, acknowledged this campaign as a turning point for the creative community. She stressed the indispensable role of local talent in crafting Botswana’s cultural tapestry and stimulating economic diversification, pledging unwavering support from the ministry towards this collective journey of uplifting local flair.