Wednesday, July 6, 2022

BDP backbench teams up with opposition against cabinet

In a rare show of solidarity, Botswana Democratic Party back benchers this week joined hands with opposition Members of Parliament to defeat an attempt by the executive to block a law on beneficiation.

The position of the executive was that Botswana is still at a developmental stage and not ready to legislate on beneficiation due to lack of expertise. That position, however, attracted a fiery debate from legislators who argued it was inconceivable that for more than four decades into independence, the country could still afford to peddle the same excuse.

Finance and Development Planning Minister Kenneth Matambo tried in vain to convince parliament to amend the motion by Member of Parliament for Shoshong, Philip Makgalemele, into a beneficiation policy.

A collective of opposition legislators backed by ruling party back benchers voted against the amendment after the specially elected Member of Parliament, Dorcus Makgatho-Malesu, shouted a division in the house prompting a vote which saw 19 MPs voting against the amendment while 13 supported it from those present in the house.

During the debate on the motion, cabinet could not convince the house that the proposed law would scare investors.

Vice President Dr. Ponatshego Kedikilwe, cabinet ministers, Nonofo Molefhi, Dorcas Makgatho Malesu, Keletso Rakhudu and Mokgweetsi Masisi tried to convince parliament that Botswana was not ready to enact legislation on beneficiation.

Cabinet ministers argued that a law on beneficiation rather than policy would scare away investors. The mover of the motion, MP Mkgalemele wondered how such a law could scare away investors.

“We are awash with money. We do not need money from foreign direct investment. We need technical expertise. Sometimes it helps to be able to negotiate with foreign investors than legislate. I was worried by the suggestion [by MP Botsalo Ntuane] that when a company wants to do mineral prospecting in Botswana it must provide a plan for beneficiation. Let us start with a policy,” said Matambo.

The MP for Gaborone Central, Dumelang Saleshando, argued that, “this is an old issue. Former Minister David Magang in his book ‘The Magic of Perseverance’ talks about what used to happen in cabinet regarding beneficiation. The fears raised by cabinet that we will scare investors are not new. The same fears were raised in the 1970s. They are still being raised. I am of the view that if we had the law 10 years ago, we could possibly be having an unemployment rate of 2 percent or we could be a net importer of labour. There is a sense of urgency in this motion. We may find ourselves 15 years down the line with empty pits at our diamond mines. I disagree with the amendment”.

Member of Parliament for Molepolole South, Daniel Kwelagobe did not buy into Matambo’s story.
“I hear that the law [beneficiation law] will be rigid. The law will be made by this parliament. If parliament sees that the law will be rigid it will make it less rigid. We have so many policies which are currently dysfunctional. We can’t waste time creating fears around the sought legislation,” he said.

Legislator Fedelis Molao, who also supported the motion, said that the executive should not ignore the concomitant issues of beneficiation and citizen economic empowerment and divorce them from the proposed law.

“Economic diversification is not for the future. It is for now. Acceleration of job creation is not for the future. It is for now. The [proposed] law will scare fly by night foreign investors not real ones and so be it,” Molao said.
The debate on the motion continues.

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