Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse has dismissed President Lt Gen Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) saying the president should have instead acknowledged that the closure of BCL mine was a mistake on government’s part. According to Keorapetse, SONA was just hopeless arrangement of words and pronouncement of questionable figures.
“SONA offers no hope for the unemployed former BCL workers and people of Phikwe, Khama should have acknowledged that liquidating BCL was a mistake,” he said, citing that its impact on the people and economy is huge.
Keorapetse observed that the government was ill-advised by the Mineral Development Corporation and called for reopening of BCL Mine.
“Government has to accelerate diversification of the town’s economy yes, but in the mean time, P2 billion in recapitalization and restructuring including non core activities and good management, BCL is a profitable venture for the next 7 years or so,’’ he explained.
When delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) before legislators in Parliament this past Monday, President Khama had, contrary to expert views and specialists’ analysis, said that the closure of BCL mine will not cease billions of national economic activities, saying that the mine closure will in fact have less negative impacts on the country’s economy.
However, Keorapetse, who is also BCP spokesperson, said President Khama did not provide assurance for the people of Phikwe following the trauma of having their lives turned upside down by government’s ill advised decision to shut down the mine.
“Khama doesn’t say what he plans to do with the jobless former workers, people are leaving Phikwe empty handed with banks and other lenders taking a big share of their small terminal benefits, the pitiable benefits are so depressing that some are committing suicide,” he said.
According to Keorapetse, Khama‘s failure to acknowledge the socio-economic impacts of the mine closure proves beyond reasonable doubt how insensitive and his government is. “The President says BCL demise will have no impact on fundamentals of the economy but fails to acknowledge the enormity of the problem, he just glosses over the issue and understates the problem.”
Keorapetse told WeekendPost that it is unclear how Khama intends to create jobs in Phikwe, noting that the President is just ambiguous about revitalizing the economy and has no clear targets and set timeframes and easily assessable progress tracking mechanism.
In his SONA, President Khama also said that government treasury will be less affected by the decision to put the eastern bloc economic nucleus on provisional liquidation.
“We anticipate an overall domestic growth rate of 3.5% for this year and 4.1% in 2017. In this respect, while the liquidation of the BCL Group of companies will continue to have economic and social implications, particularly in the area of employment, it is anticipated that it will have limited direct impact in terms of our exports, Government revenues and overall growth,” President Khama said.
Khama however noted that they shall continue keeping a closer eye on the situation surrounding the dissolution of the former copper nickel giant, “Government shall, nonetheless, continue to closely monitor developments with respect to the BCL liquidation process with the view of updating our macro-economic projections as may be necessary.’’
He however acknowledged that a harsh liquidation aftermath may arise in due time. “The negative effects of the liquidation of the BCL Group may reduce this figures ,its medium to long term impacts on the economic growth , export and government revenue should be manageable,’’ he noted.President Khama further said that Phikwe would not be left to relegate into a ghost town.
“Madam Speaker, a Board for the Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA) has been appointed and is already engaging a Technical Advisor for the rollout of the zones. Priority is now being given to the development of the mixed use Special Economic Zone at Selibe Phikwe.”
Further emphasizing on the Phikwe revitalization strategy unveiled two weeks back under the coordination of Linah Mhohlo, Khama added that the Phikwe localized diversification vehicle SPEDU has engaged with communities in the Region to resuscitate and support development projects in such areas as piggery, fish farming through co-operatives and development trusts.
“SPEDU is also facilitating the establishment of a Regional Chamber of Commerce and the development of the strategy to incorporate the SMME’s into the mainstream economy in partnership with Business Botswana,” he said.
Khama further revealed that SPEDU is facilitating the allocation of land for the establishment of an air separation plants and an aloe Vera farm and plant. “These businesses are expected to be fully operational before the end of the 2016/17 financial year, while plans to facilitate dam tourism are also underway.”
For his part, Policy Specialist at Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Cultural Development, Lawrence Ookeditse cautioned against implementation failure.
Ookeditse who continues to gain respect in policy crafting and impactful undertakings after pioneering the Job Summit and Youth Business Expo observed that the President should have stated how the issue of poor project implementation and monitoring was going to be different with Phikwe recovery. When responding to the SONA Ookeditse observes, “A chunk of money is allocated to SPEDU, the revitalization strategy is encored on SPEDU undertakings, and the same SPEDU has been there for almost 10 years and they failed dismally,” he said.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.