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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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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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