Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who sponsored a motion that forced the government to go back on plans to implement the controversial liquor regulations in 2006, says that the government has handled the issue in a highly irregular way. For that reason, Ntuane, who is the Botswana Democratic Party’s candidate in Gaborone West South, says that he fully supports planned court action by the Liquor Traders Association.
Ntuane’s expectation had been that the Minister of Trade and Industry, Neo Moroka, would report back on the outcome of consultations he had been tasked by parliament to undertake. The consultation was a result of a motion that Ntuane had tabled and had been carried by parliament. The motion called on the government to put the regulations on hold until the minister had sought views of the nation at large.
Moroka did indeed go around the country addressing kgotla meetings on the proposed regulations and judging by what was said at those meetings, a majority seemed to endorse the government plans.
However, like LTA, Ntuane’s view is that in “a modern democracy” like Botswana, “the kgotla is not the proper forum to determine public policy,” especially that not everybody would be able to attend its meetings.
Ntuane also takes issue with the government for not consulting liquor traders ÔÇô “a glaring omission” is how he calls this oversight. This assertion is based on the fact that throughout the consultation process, liquor traders were never consulted as a stakeholder group.
“The consultation was only restricted to kgotla meetings,” Ntuane says.
Liquor traders were expected to take advantage of those meetings to put their views across. However, some liquor traders who attended the meetings complained that they were deliberately not called upon to speak by people chairing the meetings.
Murray Dipate, an LTA committee member, claimed to have been subjected to such treatment.
There does not seem to be a clear parliamentary procedure with regard to how ministers should report back after undertaking consultations similar to the one on liquor regulations. In his last state-of-the-nation address, former president Festus Mogae, who played an active role in what some do not believe was a consultation process, told parliament that the government’s proposals had received overwhelming support from the nation.
Last month, then assistant minister of Trade and Industry, Lebonaamang Mokalake, told parliament that the regulations would be implemented any time soon.
Ntuane’s impression of these statements is that the government was merely reiterating a position it had publicly expressed earlier and not articulating precise details of what form and shape the regulations were going to take.
“Kgotla meetings were conducted in the same way. No detail ever came out of how the sale of liquor at music festivals and at liquor restaurants should be carried out. My expectation was that the minister would report back to us as representatives of people who had complained about the regulations,” Ntuane says.
What would also have desirable, the MP adds, is for the government to have set the stage for a “win-win situation” and not cripple the liquor trade with punitive laws that are going to be of great inconvenience not just to traders but to people who eke out a living through this trade.
“The issue is not just about alcohol but about people’s livelihood as well,” he says, adding that President Ian Khama has spoken of need to create employment, especially for the youth.
He notes that a sizeable number of young people are involved in the music industry which has a symbiotic relationship with liquor trade.