Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Khama’s empowerment plan bombs

President Ian Khama’s strategy to empower citizen drivers by training them to acquire long distance heavy duty and extra heavy duty licenses has bombed into a tragedy of good intentions only six months after stumbling out of the drawing room.

Murphy’s Law, which states that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” has struck the project which was launched amid hype and hope: The program has had to be halted with government scrapping the bottom of the barrel to train only 60 of 800 drivers who, it was projected, would go through the programme annually.

The Botswana Confederation of Commerce Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM), who came up with the idea, are up in arms charging that government hijacked their project and sidelined them only to botch the whole thing, and the Department of Transport, which was charged with implementing the project, has washed its hands saying that “when the directive came from the highest office, there were no logistics in place before the program could start and that alone made things very difficult, especially that the program was not budgeted for”.

Six months ago, The Office of the President issued a directive that the Ministry of Transport and Communication should embark on a massive roll out campaign to train locals to acquire long distance heavy and extra heavy duty drivers licenses in-order to create job opportunities for locals in an industry currently dominated by non citizens who hold such licenses in Botswana. The programme has, however, had to be stopped after floundering due to lack of resources, such as trucks for training.
This has sparked recriminations’ with BOCCIM slamming government for sideling them.

Chairman of the BOCCIM Transport Sector, Gobusamang Keebine, says it is a pity that the Ministry of Transport chose to hijack the project, which was meant to empower the locals to acquire heavy duty licenses.

“Initially, this was a BOCCIM idea, but after the presidential directive sometime earlier this year, the ministry decided to sideline us from the program, which I personally don’t appreciate,” he said.

Keebine says the initial agreement was that both BOCCIM and government would formulate a syllabus that will be used for the program.

“However, the ministry decided to go ahead and formulate the syllabus without engaging BOCCIM. It is very important to do things in a very transparent manner,” said Keebine.

He, however, stated that BOCCIM was ready to help the ministry run the program because at the end of it all, it is a benefit to the economy of the country.

“It is worrying to see non citizens flooding the transport industry when a huge number of locals are unemployed,” he said.

The Principal Traffic and Safety Officer at the Department of Transport and Road Safety, Timothy Phalane, told The Telegraph that “the program is temporarily on hold because of unavailability of the required vehicles”.

“So far, we have managed to train about sixty candidates since the beginning of this year when the program started. However, our plan was to train about 800 locals annually.”

Phalane explained that because of a number of problems that are currently surrounding the program, the results of program will be very minimal. “When the directive came from the highest office, there were no logistics in-place before the program could start and that alone made things very difficult, especially that the program was not budgeted for,” he said.

Phalane said when they started, there was only one suitable truck belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture, which, at some point, was taken away leaving them with nothing.

He said the other vehicle is a mini truck, which is not suitable for the program. He said they pleaded with BOCCIM to source them some trucks that can be used.

However, BOCCIM has not yet responded to the ministry’s request. He added that, on the other hand, the ministry is planning to request for trucks from the Botswana Defense Force. He said once those problems are sorted out, he is optimistic that the program will then run smoothly.

He encouraged those who want to have both heavy and extra heavy duty licensees to keep applying.

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