Drums for tangible and sound economic empowerment destined to indigenous Batswana heightened Thursday with the members of parliament skeptical of government intervention in securing the livelihood of its inhabitants in the currently foreign predominant tourism sector.
Debating the tourism bill presented to parliament by the minister of education Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi on behalf of the responsible minister Kitso Mokaila who is away on official duties, members of parliament hurled stones at the minister Mokaila insisting his ministry was more inclined to appeasing the foreigners at the detriment of Batswana as evidenced by the tourism sector which is saturated by the expatriates.
Leading the pack the MP for Molepolole south Daniel Kwelagobe took a swipe at the ministry for concentrating all their efforts in enriching the foreigners investors who in the short term would accumulate wealth and disappear to their place of origin leaving Batswana impoverished.
“Our government is doing nothing visible to entice us acknowledge their efforts towards citizen economic empowerment. The tourism sector is inundated with foreign investors who worse still abuse Batswana workers and pay them the lowest possible wage. Even basic operations such cleaning sheet, transporting clients in the game drive are all left at the disposal of the foreign operators. To outsource and downstream even these basic operations seems a biggest problem our government would not venture attempt,” Kwelagobe dropped the bombshell, insisting on the government to impose conditions for the smooth running and cordial business relationship between the foreigners and the indigenous inhabitants.
The second largest revenue earner after the diamond mining sector, the tourism sector is largely regarded as the engine of growth for the country but according to the legislators this engine is leveraged by the foreigners who accumulate astounding and lucrative wealth while the owners of the land are by-standers watching their wealth enrich the foreigners who ironically have no scruples to abuse them let alone respect them.
“The foreigners would not alert us to set conditions for themselves knowing such a move would off-set their stomachs. So it up to us to come with such conditions. When I was then the minister I granted a consortium to the mobile phone operators setting a condition they must venture into the business with Batswana. Such an initiative paid off with these Batswana accruing millions after their term of contract.
And I believe this to be the right way forward to ensure we Batswana obtain what we deserve ,” Kwelagobe enlightened.
Presenting the bill which is designed to re-enact the tourism Act with amendments Venson-Moitoi indicated the document proposes among others the introduction of a clause empowering the minister to make regulations in addition to the standard ones from time to time.
“This includes where necessary reserving certain tourist enterprises for citizens only or wholly citizen owned companies. This is in order to enable meaningful entry and participation of citizens in the tourism industry,” she revealed.
For his part Francistown west MP Tshelang Masisi emphasized on educating the nation from grass roots about the importance of tourism sector to the country failure of which the intended mission would hit a snag.
“Batswana need to be taught the good things about this sector right from the primary stage up the ladder to enlighten them tourism could uplift one’s future and thus alleviate poverty. It is only through the education route that we could off-set this sector from being dominated by foreigners,” Masisi observed, urging in the same breath the government to come up with some form incentives to encourage local tourists to embark on what he described as “internal tourism”.
Like his predecessors who spoke before him Gaborone central MP Dumelang Saleshando supported the bill urging however the government to introduce prefferial treatment for citizens so as to entice Batswana into the sector.
“Currently white foreigners are obtaining lucrative benefits out of the sector while we are subjected to crumbs of bread. We too want a piece of cake,” Saleshando remarked.
As regards fronting the legislator insisted on the revocation of the licence to operate should the perpetrators be caught, arguing the impinge frustrates the noble ethos the government initiated.
Besides including the revocation and the suspension clauses, the tourism bill would unveils the issuance of indefinite licenses.
“This is to create a sense of security and instill investor confidence. It would also reduce annual paper work and numerous meetings of the licencing committee. Instead licences holders would just pay annual fees,” Venson-Moitoi added.