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.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.