Saturday, October 31, 2020

Legislators jittery over CEE Bill

The proposed Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE) Law came under the scrutiny of legislators at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week.

Members of Parliament (MPs) demanded answers from the accounting officer at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Permanent Secretary, Keganele Malikongwa, on whether or not the draft bill will make it to the July Parliament sitting for debate. 

MPs are worried that the CEE Bill will be passed into law without their constituents appreciating what is in store for them. 

“We have not consulted our constituents through Kgotla meetings so that they can also appreciate and contribute to the CEE draft law so that they feel included in the process too. We are concerned that constituents will only meet this new law after it is published.” Noted MP for Bobonong, Taolo Lucas.

Malikongwa said they consulted different stakeholders about the proposed law but they could not go to councils due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We have consulted different stakeholders but we could not go to council level due to the lockdown, but we have been able to consult them through support from Local government. Local government was able to consult councils on our behalf using their different structures,” Malikongwa said.

The recently suspended Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MP for Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane got heated up and asked the PS: “Who did you consult at council because councillors have not been sitting, the town clerk is not council, when you say council you have to be referring to councillors.” 

Alliance for Progressives (AP) MP for Francistown South; Wynter Mmolotsi who was standing in as chairman of the committee had to intervene and calm down the aggravated Moswaane. 

Mmolotsi asked the PS if she thinks parliament will be able to debate this law in the upcoming parliament session, to which the PS responded that she hopes so, failure to which parliament will be notified 

Malikongwa said the draft is not ready for publishing because there are other processes that have to undertake before they can publish. She said the plan is to have the draft bill law debated during the next sitting of parliament.

The Bill is supposed to be presented during the next parliament sitting slated for the 27th of July 2020 for debate. 

The discomfort was sparked by MP for Ghanzi North, John Thite when he passionately spoke about Batswana businesses that have closed down in the past due to the mushrooming of big retail stores.

“If you go around the country in towns and villages there is so much building infrastructure owned by Batswana in the form of general dealers, butcheries, bakers which is now dilapidated and the investment has now gone down the drain.” He noted. 

Thite spoke about a retail model that Botswana used to have in the form of Lucky 7 stores which in his view used to seek to promote local enterprises that has collapsed due the emergence of big retail stores.

He further pressed on the accounting officer to ask if the ministry is still steadfast into seeing Batswana taking part in the retail business and see them participate in the economic transformation of this country. 

“Are you confident that you can continue to tell Batswana that you are still helping them develop in terms of entrepreneurship since the inception of big retail stores like Choppies and Spar.” He questioned.

He spoke out against the tendency of an establishment of a monopoly that seems to be erupting with giant stores and foreign investors.

“We continue to see lots of Batswana taking part in poultry business and all these big retail shops do not have room to accommodate them, do you continue to say as a ministry this mandate is still relevant where you want to develop local entrepreneurs and see them take part in the economic activity? Do you still not see the poultry market as a monopoly?” asked the Ghanzi North MP.

He asked the ministry what it was doing to intervene.

The poultry business has, in recent days, been a much-heated topic that saw Batswana urging one another on social media to boycott buying poultry products from giant retail stores. They encouraged the idea of “buy Botswana” products with trending hashtags such as “support local” on different social media platforms.

The PS said they are alive to the fact that the whole value chain is being monopolized. And that is why they need to review the current policy and turn it into a law.

Government published the amended Industrial Development and Trade Acts, paving way for some sectors of the economy to be in the hands of citizens only.

The new Trade Act reflected some changes made to the list of certain business ventures that are exclusive to citizens or wholly owned citizen companies. The list includes auctioneers, agents, car wash, cellphone shop business, cleaning services, florist, general dealers, dry cleaning services, general hire services, importation of pre-owned cars and laundromats.

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