April 11 2010: Suspended Member of Parliament for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, Wynter Mmolotsi, has criticized and threatened never to endorse future thinly veiled foreign loans presented by government before parliament, arguing that to entertain such funds would be a stab in the back of his constituents who trustfully sent him to parliament.
Contributing to debate over the Morupule B power station project loan authorization bill, presented by finance minister, Kenneth Matambo, which seeks to solicit funds from the World Bank, Mmolotsi on Tuesday lambasted the government for negotiating foreign loans with incomplete conditions attached, citing the bill in question as a typical example that lacked tangible conditions, such as the citizen empowerment.
Although acknowledging government efforts to adequately ease persistent electricity outages, the Francistown legislator was adamant the government is doing Batswana injustice to accept loans from outside whose conditions are inclined to benefit other people other than Batswana.
“This is the last time I endorse a loan with such strings attached. It will be a betrayal against my constituents who confidently voted for me to endorse another similar loan which is against our citizens reaping the fruits of their country’s resources. From today onwards and I repeat …I will only endorse loans which adequately stipulate to my satisfaction and to the nation at large,” Mmolotsi said, adding that the same lessons were learnt during ELTEL construction whose loans were obtained from NORDIC countries, but which never provided sufficient conditions only for controversial conditions to surface as the company started operations in the country.
“We do not want to fall prey to the same predicament and I repeat ‘this is my last time I entertain this arrangement,” he reiterated.
Despite intervention from Matambo, the loans are obtained based on international competitive bidding where the country which provides the loans dictates its terms, Mmolotsi would not budge.
“Botswana, as a reliable customer with an array of sound credit credentials, should by today be permitted to provide its priority conditions top amongst them a condition involving citizen economic empowerment,” he said.
Earlier, presenting the bill, Matambo certainly rubbed Mmolotsi the wrong way when he outlined the terms of the World Bank to exclude what Mmolotsi termed a central condition – the citizen economic empowerment.
Through the loan, Botswana is expected to pay the World Bank for a period of 30 years while the grace period is contracted for four years.
Estimated to cost P11.6 billion, Morupule B power station project would augment the existing power station, producing energy from coal via modern technological means.
Part of the loan is envisaged to be used to erect a new power station, distribution lines, substations and water pipeline.
“The proposed World Bank loan will finance the purchase and installation of 3 main transformers, transmission line from Morupule B to Phokoje and a water pipeline from the new Paje/Mmashore wellfield to the project site,” Matambo concluded.
Blamed for sitting on abundant coals whilst heavily depending on South Africa for energy needs since independence, Botswana in recent years found herself in the lurch as the main supplier reneged from providing enough electricity, citing South Africa’s compelling quest to satisfy the populace ahead of the World Cup, scheduled for June.