As the nation awaits the change of guard at State House, it is imperative to urge the incoming president to pay more attention to the issue of citizen empowerment.
Or should we say indigenous empowerment, as Mr. Ephraim Setshwaelo puts it! There has been a lot of concern, more especially during the tenure of Rre Mogae that the economy of this country is in the hands of foreigners while the indigenous citizens are mere observers.
Botswana is probably the only country in the world that is comfortable with minimal participation of citizens in its economy.
Batswana are not in the driving seat of the economy.
What we need is a centre where we can scrutinise the manpower available so that we are not told there are no qualified Batswana.
I know that whenever this issue is raised, some people cry xenophobia. But we should not even wink when it comes to empowering our own.
If you look at the business sector, businesses which are supposed to be the reserve of citizens are flooded by foreigners. I have always argued that it does not make sense to have a foreigner coming as far as Bangladesh to come and run a butchery here. No wonder some of them end up being involved in stock theft. They do not know anything about cattle, but think they can make money out of them. Some chain shops owned and run by foreigners sell bo serobe, magwinya, palachi and so forth. Others are selling ntshe le magapu. These businesses should be reserved for the citizens. Batswana cannot compete with these big businesses because foreigners have got more money. It is easy for a foreigner to get a loan with banks in this country than it is with the citizens.
It is high time the government faced reality. Batswana are agitated and we are sitting on a time-bomb. What is happening in other countries will be nothing strange if it happens here. Batswana cannot continue to be beggars in their own country. When President Mogae was still Minister of Finance and Development Planning, citizens were marginalized. He was not sympathetic to fellow citizens. Batswana continued to remain marginalised when he became president.
New democracies like South Africa have taken steps towards citizen empowerment with programmes such as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). Every time the South African government ventures into other countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, they also push South African companies. South Africa is pushing hard in countries like Mozambique and DRC. Where is Botswana? It doesn’t feature anywhere. In fact, we are importing skills that are abundant locally. Councils have now employed foreign engineers and the trend is that the tenders are won by these engineers’ countrymen. Does someone want to tell me that this is just a coincidence?
It boggles the mind that in this country foreigners are allowed to buy items from government auctions. Foreigners are able to buy vehicles from government auctions and sell them to locals at a higher price. This is uncalled for because these vehicles are bought with taxpayers’ money and citizens are those tax payers. Government auctions should be reserved only for the citizens.
There are now a number of foreign-owned garages which deal with buying vehicles from government auctions, refurbish and sell them to citizens at exorbitant prices. This is criminal.
Almost all the beauty and hair salons in this country are owned by foreigners. The government is grappling with the problem of unemployment in this country yet it has literally created jobs for foreigners. We hope that the incoming president Ian Khama will be different from his predecessor and take a deliberate move to address the problem of citizen empowerment.