The newly elected Member of Parliament for Okavango on Tuesday lambasted President Khama’s administration of breaching the recomended standard of living for ordinary poor Batswana, saying the recent Ipelegeng initiative by the Botswana Democratic Party, designed to uplift the lives of the nation, was a farce as it contravenes the poverty datum line as suggested by the consultants.
Responding to the president’s speech the youthful Botswana Alliance Movement MP, Bagalatia Arone, insisted the Ipelegeng workers were paid a petty salary of P360 a month, a far cry from the recommended income the consultants the same government engaged to remedy the existing disparities between working poor and the rich.
“The recent poverty reduction programmes employed by the Khama administration, although noble, such as the much talked about Ipelegeng, would not take this country from the glaring poverty the ordinary Batswana are currently experiencing. Through this programme, Batswana continue to be employed on a rotational basis, obtaining a paltry P360 a month, contrary to the recommendations by the consultants engaged by the ruling party who put the datum poverty line at P900,” argued Arone, who defeated his BDP arch-rival, Vister Moruti.
“I am of the opinion that the government should be assisted to at least raise the income a bit. If the current Ipelegeng income is viewed on annual basis, these poor Ipelegeng workers would translate to earning a paltry P30 a month,” he insisted, referring to a rotation and temporary employment subjected the workers by the government.
Originally referred by former president Mogae administration and those who came before him as Namola Leuba, the Khama administration changed it to Ipelegeng in 2009 and initially splashing more than P1000 a month salary, attracting quite a number of youths from the local factories because of the promising income and, in the process, paralyzing the industries.
Contributing to debate last week, Lobatse MP Nehemiah Modubule also lamented government maneuvers in eradicating poverty, describing the Ipelegeng initiative as a joke and an insult to the ordinary Batswana living in abject poverty.
“I fail to grab the real intentions of this party (BDP). They lobbied against P350 sitting allowance arguing it was petty income in the face of this demanding economic turmoil yet they prescribe the same paltry to Batswana,” Modubule said.
A former teacher, Arone also took a swipe at the government efforts in leveraging the citizen economic empowerment, arguing the initiative leaves much to be desired as more development is tilted to the “main communities of Mahalapye and Serowe” while constituencies such as the Okavango are left in the cold.
“Citizen empowerment, as lobbied by the government, is not benefiting all the citizens. There is unfair distribution of national resources while places like Mahalapye and Serowe are well looked after. If this practice is not looked into, it could spill into tribalistic crisis where some people of a certain tribe could claim ownership of natural resources and thus causing an uprising against the government,” he noted, obviously attacking President Khama and the vice president Mompati Merafhe who come from Serowe and Mahalapye, respectively.
Turning to the education sector, Arone lobbied for the introduction of teaching pupils in their mother tongue, saying the same principle is working well in Namibia and South Africa.
“Teaching pupils in their mother tongue has proved an appropriate initiative. Those who excel in Setswana medium schools are only those pupils who have been naturally gifted,” he said.