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. â€¨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.â€¨â€¨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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.