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Government’s youth programmes are misguided

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

For the past ten years government has introduced a myriad of youth empowerment schemes. These schemes include the Out of School Youth Grant (OSYG), Young Farmers Fund (YFF), Youth Development Fund (YDF), Youth Employment Scheme (YES), National Internship Programme (NIP) and National Service Scheme (NSS). The latter is a reincarnation of Tirelo Sechaba which President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, at the dawn of his presidency, abolished against public outcry.

About seven years ago the OSYG was replaced with the YDF. Recently, Parliament voted to abolish the YFF and to replace it with what is said to be a more encompassing National Entrepreneurship Programme. Less than two weeks after the vote to abolish the YFF government has introduced a Graduate Volunteer Scheme (GVS) which the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture (MYSC) says is intended to address graduate unemployment.

There is no doubt that government has the political will to address the plight of our youth, especially unemployment. However, considering the multiplicity of the youth empowerment schemes developed over a very short period of time and the overlaps between the schemes, it is clear that government’s policy on youth development is misguided. The reason for this is that most of these schemes come either as president Khama’s own initiatives or are developed by ministers or Permanent Secretaries whose ulterior motive is to impress president Khama.

When the YFF was introduced under the Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency(CEDA) government ignored the public’s concerns that the programme is not sustainable considering the youth’s limited interest and skills in Agriculture, lack of infrastructure, especially in rural areas, lack of rain, lack of a national irrigation master plan, e.t.c. A few years after its introduction, government has abolished the scheme for exactly the same reasons that many Batswana were opposed to it.

When Tirelo Sechaba, which had immense public support, was abolished Batswana decried the fact that government undermined the spirit of volunteerism which the programme instilled within our youth. They disparaged the fact that the abolition took away the one thing which gave young Batswana the opportunity to learn new cultures, something which went a long way in promoting cultural tolerance and nationhood. After the abolition, which cost the tax payer millions of Pula, Tirelo Sechaba was reintroduced for exactly the same reasons it was first introduced.

But when we thought sanity has finally prevailed government has introduced yet another scheme, the Graduate Volunteer Scheme (GVS), which, in my view, is a duplication of the NIP and Tirelo Sechaba. No wonder a statement from MYSC states that for GVS’s enrolment “priority will be given to those in the NIP waiting list, though the scheme is open to unemployed degree holders, particularly graduates not enrolled in other schemes such as NIP and Tirelo Sechaba, as well as those who have gone through two years of the National Internship, but are willing to continue as volunteers under the new scheme,” In my view, these three schemes can be reduced to one scheme with a mandate for internship and volunteerism. With respect to volunteerism, there can be a local volunteer programme and an international volunteer programme.

A Botswana Youth Corps programme, for example, modelled around the United States of America Peace Corps movement, can assist our youth to gain income, skills and experience at an international level. It can also, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, enhance Botswana’s image internationally and propagate Tswana culture and values internationally. It can also, in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade & Industry, promote trade relations we more countries than we are currently able to reach through our limited diplomatic missions.

Having too many youth empowerment programmes is counterproductive. Not only does it lead to duplication of mandates, but it also leads to waste of resources since the multiple departments that implement the programmes each spend on personnel, equipment, software and vehicles instead of such expenses being incurred by one entity. The result is that most funds finance administrative expenses as opposed to the core of the programme. It defies logic, for example, how government can, according to the MYSC Deputy Permanent Secretary, Kgopolo Ramoroka, by the end of January 2015 have placed only 4, 912 interns when it spends 92 million Pula annually on the programme.  
It has always been my contestation that to avoid duplication and to reduce government expenditure on youth empowerment programmes there is need for a National Youth Development Fund (NYDF). Such a fund will, unlike the current one which is wholly dependent on government subventions, be revolving and will be funded through such self-perpetuating means as levies. For example, government can introduce a Youth Development Levy (YDL) to finance the fund. Alternatively, government could devote a certain percentage from such existing levies as the alcohol and fuel levy as contribution to the fund.

The NYDF can be administered by one entity and it can have such votes or divisions as Youth & Volunteerism, Youth Internship, Youth Employment and Youth Entrepreneurship. The latter can be used to finance youth enterprises, especially in prime areas of the economy as may differ from time to time and from area to area. For example, while more funds could be devoted to Youth in Tourism in such tourist areas as Chobe, more funds could be devoted to Agriculture in areas most suited for commercial arable and pastoral farming.

The fund can also have such schemes as Credit and Guarantee, Invoice Discounting, Franchising and Cooperatives. The latter for instance would ensure that the youth use their skills, creativity and vibrancy to revive Cooperatives which are currently predominantly run by the elderly. Because of lack of youth involvement in most cooperatives Hon. Dorcas Makgato’s efforts to revive cooperatives when she was Minister of Trade & Industry did not bear much fruit.  

In South Africa, for instance, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) uses a similar fund which has a Scholarship Fund, a Grant Programme, a Youth Build Programme, a National Youth Service Programme, an Entrepreneurship Development Programme, a Volunteer Business Mentorship Programme, and a Business Consultancy Service (Voucher) Programme. All these programmes fall under the NYDA which is an equivalent of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC).

If such a model is followed even the private sector will be encouraged to invest in youth development in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, especially if government provides such incentives as tax rebates and tax holidays to those who invest in youth development. In South Africa, while Murray & Roberts is cited in the NYDA website as providing an In-Service Training Programme and Bursaries, there is a Cipla Graduate Programme (Supply chain). There is also a Nedbank Bursary Programme.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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