The Electricity Supply Bill that has entered its second reading in parliament riles and confuses Lobatse MP Nehemiah Modubule because it blends the good with the bad.
Contributing to the bill on Thursday, Modubule said he finds it difficult to support the bill because it is littered with good and bad initiatives.
“The bill in hand plays with my emotions as it incorporates the bad and the ugly,” Modubule told parliament. “The government’s initiative to allow private corporations to venture into the production and supply of energy is an indirect approach by the BDP government to privatisation. The BNF stance is clear and straightforward. We are anti-privatisation.
“That withstanding, the government’s proposal to provide for appeals against the decision of the Minister to the High Court rather than the president coupled with the government’s recognition that where the High Court has decided the minister erred such decision should be referred to international arbitration where specialties will be available to determine relevant values for compensation are welcome developments.”
He continued: “For these reasons, the bill plays with my emotions as it glitters the good and the ugly scenes at the same time.”
The current Electricity Supply Act, Section 17, provides for appeals to the president against the decision of the minister.
Internationally, the practice is not considered to be independent since the minister and the president are part of the same executive.
Modubule is adamant that replacing the President with the High Court will see impartial decisions reached.
The Lobatse MP argued that it is evident the government is indirectly and forcefully paving the way to privatization with the allowance of private entities into national institutions and corporations.
He said such thinly veiled motives are plain and conspicuous to be noticed.
Of late, when privatization was at its peak, opposition parties fiercely clamoured against privatization saying not only would it lead to job losses but would also promote over dominance with powerful entities having a field day owing to their financial might.
“The government should be responsible for the energy service supply to the public. Private corporations are profit orientated. With the allowance of private enterprises into the mainstream of electricity supply, the government is indirectly paving the way to privatization where corporations with financial muscle will dominate the scene. But privatization promotes job losses and poverty. Such a move is not conducive to the development and promotion of the electricity supply industry.
“As things stand, it will not come as a surprise when this House, before long, discusses the water bill disguised to privatize the water department,” Modubule argued.
The MP also took a swipe at the government’s move to create a tilted playing ground in favour of the BPC against other potential competitors. He argued the BPC could not be a competitor and simultaneously be a regulatory body in-charge of the operations of private corporations at the behest of a minister.
“The BPC can not be a player and a referee,” Modubule argued.
According to the proposed bill, the independent corporations will have access and use the BPC transmission facilities and other associated infrastructure for a wheeling charge levied by the BPC.
This initiative, according to the Lobatse MP, is unfavourable as it tends to promote an unleveled playground that adequately accommodates the BPC at the expense of potential competitors.
Modubule pleaded with government to come up with less expensive electricity services adding that “the government has recently imposed stringent measures against the disadvantaged rural poor fire-wood collectors under the guise of desertification” and as such the BDP government should introduce favourable and affordable electricity supply services to the less privileged.
The controversial Lobatse MP eventually revealed he could not support the bill that is primarily designed to promote privatization.
“As a matter of principle and policy, I stand not to support the bill,” Modubule concluded.
Mochudi West MP, Rakwadi Modipane, lambasted the government for caring more for the few privileged rich and less for the predominantly disadvantaged rural poor.
“By charging exorbitant prices to install electricity supply,” Modipane charged, “the government opens arms wide to embrace the few privileged individuals at the detriment of the disadvantaged poor.”
He said he was at a loss for words how ‘a newly born South African government’ could access its populous disadvantaged rural poor living in shacks with electricity while its few privileged rich were struggling to access electricity.
He maintained that it was purely because the ‘South Africa government had its disadvantaged rural poor at heart’.
Rural areas in Botswana, he said, boast of electricity installed in primary schools and government residential plots and few financially capable individuals.
Gaborone South MP, Akanyang Magama, also called for an independent committee that is not led by the minister adding “a committee with the minister as the head is prone to politicization with the minister biased towards his or her party.”
He also called for less expensive electricity supply adding that the current expensive status quo inhibits Batswana to access electricity.
“The electricity installation cost at present in my area is around P30, 000 or more,” he said.
Magama also called for citizen empowerment saying government should shed the skin and start to favour Batsawna.
Though most MPs decried the BPC monopoly as the source of concern over high electricity prices, they reasoned government subsidy intervention was now particularly necessary for the rural disadvantaged and poor.
“The enormous transformer prices the public is expected to pay to install electricity when, at the end, the BPC takes over the wholesale ownership of the same is ridiculous and pure theft,” he argued.
The Electricity Supply Amendment Bill seeks to authorize the creation and licensing of independent producers and suppliers of electricity.
In the same vein, the bill also seeks to, generally, take “measures conducive to the development and promotion of the electricity supply industry, and to provide for matters connected with or incidental thereto.”