Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Leaders square up on true reasons for high fuel rise

Botswana National Front (BNF) has blamed the recent increase in fuel prices to the funds that were diverted from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) while the Ministry of Minerals Resources, Green Technology  and Energy is denying that the hike has anything to do with the diversion.

At least P250 million from the NPF was used by the Directorate of Security Services (DIS) to procure security devices from an Israel company.

Permanent Secretary in the Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Cornelius Dekop has denied that the fuel price hike was a result of the alleged looting at National Petroleum Fund.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprise, Dekop said that the alleged looting has nothing to do with the price hike.

Dekop had initially claimed that he was not aware of the alleged looting when the MP for Gaborone Central Phenyo Butale quizzed him on whether price increase was not a result of the alleged looting of funds from NPF. 

According to Dekop, the lack of financial resources at the NPF had no direct role in the price hike.

He indicated that the NPF has not yet been exhausted saying they have P200 000 million in the account adding that they continue to get money from the fund to use it for other activities.

Dekop also revealed that the Directorate of Intelligence Service has also deposited an amount of P114 million into the NPF account. Butale further wanted to know if he was aware that the NPF funds were used to cushion customers from fuel price hike.

But Botswana National Front (BNF), Publicity Secretary, Justin Hunyepa has directly linked the recent price increase to corruption scandals involving top officials and cabinet ministers who benefited from illicit transactions from the NPF.

Hunyepa differed with Dekop arguing that the NPF is meant to protect and cushion citizens from the negative global effects of fuel increase.

 He further noted that the party is concerned that the rural poor and low income residents will be hardest hit as paraffin will increase by a whopping 63 thebe per litre, pushing them further into a humiliating poverty trap.

“Thousands of students in rural and low income locations who live in un-electrified homes have just started their final national examinations and will be adversely affected as parents will not afford to buy them paraffin. The same poverty stricken citizens use paraffin for cooking as wood and charcoal are equally unaffordable,” added Hunyepa.

Hunyepa also stated that the BNF fears that the food prices are expected to go up as transportation costs go high due to the increase of petrol. According to Hunyepa, the workers who commute to work and some very long distances will be adversely affected by this corruption driven fuel prizes increase.

He also noted that the P250 million that was siphoned from NPF recently could be used to cushion the poor Batswana from this devastating petroleum increase.  According to him those who will escape the recent prize increase are those who benefited from NPF funds. Hunyepa also noted that that the owners of public transport will be badly affected by the recent increase which could affect their daily operations. He said that the BNF fears that the move will cripple the taxi, combi and bus owner industry.

“There is another serious food security threat as the ploughing season has just started. Diesel prices have been raised to the all high of 73 thebe per litre. Tractor owners will find it hard to commence ploughing,” said Hunyepa. 

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.