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BDP MPs kill wealth disparity motion

A crowd of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators led by Vice President Slumber Tsogwane yesterday (Friday) walked out of parliament in order to kill a debate on a motion calling for the establishment of Social Justice Commission.

The motion was presented before parliament by Bobonong legislator, Taolo Lucas.  The motion was challenging government deal with reality relating to the country’s inequality instead of hiding behind ‘impressive economic figures.’  As per the motion, Social Justice Commission will be charged with the responsibility of auditing fairness in the distribution of wealth and construction of policies aimed at achieving equity in development.

The commission is expected to work with all concerned stakeholders to recommend appropriate measures to reduce inequality and entrench fairness in the treatment of disadvantaged sections of the population.  According to the World Bank, Botswana is consistently featuring among the top five unequal nations in the world. For Lucas, the Social Justice Commission was to look at income inequalities to ensure that the gap between the rich and the poor is reduced especially the wage disparities.

“The lowest paid person in government earns P28 272 while the highest paid persons earns P934 824 per annum and this should be dealt with,” Lucas told this publication minutes after the motion was aborted. Currently, the national poverty rate on average is 16.3 per cent. Inequalities of land ownership is also a concern for the legislator.

“The artificial scarcity of land has meant high rentals for the citizens further eroding the already limited disposable income of many,” argued Lucas on the floor of parliament.  Inequality of access and quality of health cause is also a concern. Educational inequalities is also a factor that the motion strongly felt should be addressed. The pass rate in public schools is less than 30 per cent whilst 90 per cent pass rate are synonymous with primary and secondary private schools.

While Lucas was presenting the motion, BDP legislators plotted to kill the motion. At the time when the motion was to be debated, most of the BDP representatives walked out until the acting Speaker of the National Assembly adjourned the house. “The BDP felt exposed by this motion because it was revealing the true picture of disparity in our country. For a long time they have been hiding behind the average numbers and I knew it will bring discomfort to them. For now I would say I am disappointed but not surprised by what they did,” a saddened legislator told this publication.

Representing the BDP MPs on the matter, Chief Whip Liakat Kablay said there was no use for them to allow the motion while Lucas was not according them points of clarification. “The thing is he refused to give is opportunity to ask and understand more about the motion he was presenting. This is parliament, not freedom square. The MP should know that because we cannot progress with the motion while we do not understand it. Walking out was better rather than wasting time,” Kablay said yesterday afternoon.

The motion was also calling equal distribution of development projects. Areas like Kweneng West, Okavango, Kgalagadi and Boteti are among the neglected in terms of development, various studies have revealed. But for Lucas who is also an academic, “the building and location of roads, hospitals, schools, police stations, tertiary institutions has been a subject of debate and intense discourse among politicians and communities,” he supported his point.


A study released last year titled: “Education financing research report at national level; the case of Botswana”, has also recommended that the rich people in Botswana should sponsor the education sector in the country. Having analysed the Botswana context and based on other experiences in the country the study came up with some innovative options to provide additional resources to the education segment.

 “Some of these ways are taxing multi-millionaires; putting a levy on the mining sector, as well as increasing Official development assistance (ODA) support, and curbing illicit financial flows in the mining sector to make more resources available as government revenue,” study posits. 
According to the study, Botswana has about 5 Multi-Millionaires; Abdul Satar Dada who owns Associated Investment Development Cooperation (AIDC), he is worth US$50 million.

There is also Gulaam Husain Abdoola, owner of Turn Star Holdings, worth US$25 million; then Chandrakanth P Chauhun, from Sefalana Group and is worth US$12 million; as well as Ramachandran Ottapathu, Chief Executive Officer of Choppies who owns 19.5% in Choppies valued at US$60 million. In addition there is Farouk Essop Ismail, Deputy CEO of Choppies who owns Far Properties worth US$35 Million and also 14.6 percent in Choppies worth US$45 million.

Alexander Forbes, one of the Billionaires and philanthropist of the world states that‚ business was originated to produce happiness and not to pile up money.

Therefore, “these 5 rich people in Botswana and any upcoming rich persons could be taxed in a manner that their taxes are made special to meet education needs in the country,” study highlights. The study came with the recommendation after finding that the education financing model in Botswana is heavily dependent on government providing the resources.

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Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’  The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.

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