Members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi this week spent the whole day discussing a motion long overtaken by events and has already been passed into law. The traditional leaders who all the time though they were contributing towards legislating the gambling industry in Botswana were not aware that a law was already in place because the country’s website of laws, Botswana e-laws, was last updated on 31st December 2011. The e-laws is a project sponsored by the Attorney General’s Chambers to promote easy access to the Laws of Botswana, the law reports and other legal information. Botswana e-laws website shows that the Laws of Botswana have been updated to 31 December 2011 only and amended Acts by Parliaments are unavailable.
A cabinet minister who did not want to be named admitted that this makes it difficult for researchers to access amended laws, and explains why Members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi were not aware of the Gambling Act through which a tax levy was introduced. The motion presented by Thabo Masunga of North East Region requested government to introduce a tax levy and set up a fund for the rehabilitation of all people affected by the social ills associated with gambling. The Assistant Minister of Trade Keletso Rakhudu revealed when asked to respond to Dikgosi debates by Ntlo ya Dikgosi Chairman and Kgosi of Batlokwa Puso Gaborone that the motion under debate was passed into law by Parliament in 2012. Rakhudu said Government introduced a tax levy through Gambling Act of 2012; the levy of such percentage as maybe prescribed will be payable every month. He added that the Act provides for the establishment of a fund into which all levies imposed under the Act shall be paid. “The levy imposed under the Gambling Act will amongst other things be used for rehabilitating people affected by ills associated with gambling. The Act further provides for the establishment if the Excessive Gambling Prevention and Rehabilitation Committee. The duties of the Rehabilitation Committee’s duties as prescribed under the Act shall include guiding and monitoring the development and implementation of programmes and strategies aimed at preventing addictive of compulsive gambling and rehabilitating compulsive gamblers. The Rehabilitation Committee’s duties also include monitoring the social and economic effects of gambling in Botswana, including the need for counselling and other services. Meanwhile earlier on when debating the motion, the tribal leaders observed that gambling was a source of concern across the country especially in urban areas.
Masunga said the levy from gambling could also be used to assist in rehabilitating victims of gambling. He paid tribute to government for using the money from the alcohol levy to fund youth projects. Kgosi Kgomotso Boiditswe of Serowe region who supported the motion revealed that some gambling addicts have virtually deserted their family homes. “Such people hardly sleep at the family homes. They would rather spend the night at hotels. I’m of the opinion that alcohol is better than gambling. I have seen cases where families have broken down because of gambling,” said Boiditswe. He cited an example in which a government pensioner blew his whole package on gambling.
“Some people travel all the way from Serowe to Palapye and spend the night there,” he said. Kgosi Basiamang Garebakwena of Molepolole region also supported the motion saying some married men have neglected their families as a result of gambling. “Wives and children of such families go hungry while head of families spend the whole money gambling. This is a serious situation or social ill that needs to be addressed”, he said. Kgosi Kea Lempadi of the Okavango region who also supported the motion said there was need for a levy because casino operators raked in billions of Pula at the expense of gamblers. He said the government should not bear the burden of paying for the costs related to rehabilitating addicts saying the casino operators should take responsibility. Kgosi Kahiko II of the Ghanzi region did not support the motion saying the country was facing a number of challenges and social ills and wondered if there should be levies for all of such social ills.
“Are we going to have tobacco levy, , alcohol levy, prostitution levy, etc; what are we going to do with people affected by other social ills,” he wondered.