Saturday, August 13, 2022

In Khama’s corner on anti-alcohol crusade

After becoming President in April 2008, Ian Khama initiated a raft of measures aimed at curbing alcohol use. This included the introduction of the infamous alcohol levy and the reduction in liquor trading hours.

Despite the negative impact of the measures on the brewing industry and knock-on effect on the profitability of Sechaba Brewery Holdings Limited (the parent company of both Kgalagadi Breweries Limited and Botswana Breweries Limited) the initiatives are slowly receiving overwhelming support from some commercial farmers who feel that alcohol abuse is killing Botswana’s economy.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph on the challenges facing the commercial farming industry , Pandamatenga Commercial Farmers Association (PCFA) outgoing chairman, Tiene Kruger, whose terms expires next March, is fully rallying behind the president’s anti-alcohol crusade.

An occasional imbiber during his spare time, Kruger unequivocally denounces alcohol abuse. He is of the view that alcohol abuse is killing the national economy with its destructive impact on the country’s labour force, especially commercial farm workers.

On the basis of the impact, Kruger minces no words in supporting President Ian Khama’s resolve to fight alcohol abuse.

“I fully support the president in his fight against alcohol abuse. Alcohol is a killer. It is killing our labour force through persistent and unwarranted absenteeism. It has destructive influence on the national economy and impacts negatively on the fight against HIV/AIDS scourge. If government proposes to ban alcohol in this country today, I will be one of the people to fully support the proposition because alcohol is killing the national economy. It is destructive,” said Kruger who admitted to previously firing on the spot employees who brought alcohol into his 500 hectare farm.

He agrees with Khama that alcohol abuse brings too many societal ills as irresponsible drinkers are in his view always broke, even at the end of the month when they have just been paid their wages.
“Our employees misuse money on alcohol and are in the habit of asking for salary advances. I flatly refuse to give advances if I know the money will be spent on alcohol”, said Kruger who confessed to being a milk drinking addict.

While his views may earn him accolades from the presidency and its administration, Kruger lambasted government’s generous social welfare programmes that are a recipe for laziness.

“Government is making people lazy by generously giving them food hampers. Even the able bodied who should be working are living on government handouts. That is not good for the economy. It must only be the deserving that get assistance. Government’s propensity to donate food hampers is killing the economy as there are a lot of undeserving beneficiaries who are benefitting from social welfare programmes. Stringent scrutiny should be applied before one is eligible for assistance. A lot of able bodied people are taking advantage of the system’s lapses to avoid fending for themselves. This situation should be discouraged and people have to be made aware that hard work yields comfortable and good living. A complete mind set change has to be inculcated before we all turn into a nation of beggars,” warned Kruger.

He said a lot of Batswana who should be working do not bother to look for employment as they are assured of government assistance. “Able bodied Batswana refuse to work in the farms and engage in other commercially rewarding activities because they know that government will support them. We have to deal away with that mentality and infuse a self-dependency attitude,” said Kruger who bemoaned the fact that they are forced to employ foreigners because Batswana are refusing to work in the fields.

He said the other challenge they have to surmount regards government’s refusal to grant foreigners work permits. “It is expensive to source labour from outside the country. Frequently foreigners are refused work permits thereby constraining our optimized production capacity. It is frustrating to spend at least P3 000 applying for a work permit that stands to be rejected. This is one area of concern that needs urgent correction. As farmers we need to work 24 hours and produce enough to ensure the country’s food security and reduce the current high import bill,” said Kruger.

Kruger also appealed to government to promulgate appropriate legislation to deal with the problem of bird invasions which normally cause a lot of damage to their crops. “The methods currently used are not environmentally friendly. We must be allowed to use birds of prey to fight quelea bird invasions. This method is called falconeering. Without falconeering we lose a lot out crops that we otherwise would be protecting from birds destruction,” said Kruger adding that it is pleasing that the working relationship between Panda commercial farmers and government has of late improved tremendously.

“In the past we did not see eye to eye with the Ministry of Agriculture. The strained relation has been alleviated. Things have changed for the better since the minister intervened. We are grateful because government can now listen to us. Even Ghanzi farmers are happy with the improved working relation as there are no more threats posed to us by ministry officials. We have direct communication with the minister which is beneficial. The new agriculture hub is an excellent person to work with. We are quite happy and grateful that there is no more acrimony between the farmers and the ministry,” said Kruger.

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