The government of Botswana has embarked on a programme to deny foreign nationals who hold heavy duty driver’s licences from working in Botswana, allegedly in an effort to create jobs for locals.
So far about twenty people have benefited from the program.
“Botswana has a serious shortage of local heavy and extra heavy duty drivers’ license holders,” Timothy Phalane, the Principal Traffic Safety Officer at the Department of Transport and Road Safety told the Sunday Standard.
He said that most of the people that have such driver’s licenses, especially Zimbabweans and Zambians, are employed by the private sector.
He said locals who have such licenses are very few in the market, therefore, this forces the private sector to employ non citizens in large numbers.
He added that this has now become of serious concern to government.
To address the problem, Phalane said that from the beginning of this year, his department received a directive from the Office of the President to start training locals towards acquiring such licenses.
He said as part of the poverty eradication drive, the government found it fit to empower those who are unemployed.
He said although the program was first proposed sometime around 2004, nothing happened until this year when his department received a directive to kick start the program.
“I am not in a better position to explain why the program took so long to start,” he said, adding that, currently, twenty people, seventeen males and three females, have benefited from the program and are the first to be enrolled.
“The program is faced with challenges, especially shortage of either trucks or buses as well as manpower. All these are a result of shortage of funds,” he said. “We are not yet prepared, in terms of logistics, because nothing has been done so far to address the situation.”
Phalane revealed that, currently, the program is based in Gaborone but the wish is to decentralize the program so that it can benefit more locals country wide, if funds permit.
He further said once the locals have acquired such licenses, the government will then not allow employment of foreign drivers for the same.
He urged locals to take advantage of the programme.
Kgalalelo Rankebekwa, a beneficiary of the program, stated that, “I have acquired a licence for extra heavy duty vehicles and am more than ready to be employed.”
She said she is aware of the challenges that she might face as a woman in a male-dominated industry, especially when it comes to driving long distances.
She encouraged women to acquire the drivers licenses.
“Will this program be sustainable or it is just a political campaign to win the hearts of the voters, especially the youth?” queried Thabo Lekoto while a colleague sees this move as empowerment of citizens.