Saturday, May 15, 2021

‘This president has failed the nation’ – Butale

With 28 more months left in President Ian Khama’s term, some opposition MPs already feel confident enough to make definite pronouncements about the sort of legacy he will leave behind.

“I happen to hold a view and this view is that this president has failed this nation,” said Gaborone Central MP, Dr. Phenyo Butale, when responding to Khama’s state-of-the-nation address. “He fails repeatedly to account for the money that he takes from Batswana.”

Regarding the presidential address itself, the MP said that if he were to sum it up, he would say that “it is just an announcement of how much we squandered.” He stressed the need for the address to move beyond reporting outputs to talking about outcomes. Giving the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) as an example, Butale said that it is not enough for Khama to state how much money the Agency disbursed without stating returns on such investment.

“When you talk about money that is being given by CEDA for example, you are saying that these many applicants were funded. That is an output. The question is, are we getting more entrepreneurial as a society?” he asked.

Over the years, Khama has introduced a number of programmes and the MP’s impression of them is that are not coordinated.

“Every one of them is being done in isolation of the others. Today you introduce what you call Tirelo Sechaba, next is the Boot Camp and so on. So there is no integration; we are spending money in isolation and every year we come to parliament as if to boast to Batswana about how much we are going to take and squander and come back for more,” Butale said.

The opposition has been up in arms over the power and water shortage that has come at great cost to both households and business. During the last session of parliament, Butale’s party, the Umbrella for Democratic Change, organised a protest march that Khama didn’t take kindly to. In an attempt to neuter the march’s impact, the president said that the government doesn’t have rain-making powers. In apparent reference to this remark, Butale said that while the government wants to deny that there is a water crisis, facts on the ground speak otherwise: “Three weeks, four weeks, months of going without water and nobody says anything about it. When we say that let us account for the resources that have been poured into this area, we are told statements like ‘we are not rain makers’.”

In playing up the point about Khama having been an abject failure, Molepolole North MP, Mohammad Khan, enumerated a list of things that he feels the former bungled. First on the list was the alcohol levy which the president introduced with the hope that it would reduce alcohol abuse. In his address, Khama said that the levy had amassed P1.8 billion in the reporting period. Khan said that the figure would be much higher if the levy was also collected in shebeens. Next on the MP’s list was the economic stimulus package (ESP) which the president has announced will be injected into the national economy. Khan said that at the end of the day, the package will amount to naught because of rampant corruption.

“Many of us are asking the questions: how much of that money is going to go into the pockets of certain individuals from this very house? How much of that money is going to go to the Botswana Democratic Party coffers through commissions. These are questions that are being asked. We are nervous about P15 billion being injected under the ESP, Mr. Speaker, and then most of it probably ends up wasted in either individual’s pockets or the BDP,” he said.

Fleshing up a statement about “our neighbouring countries … giving us serious competition”, Khan cited declining standards in education.

“We have failed our children in the past seven to eight years. Look at the declining results,” he said. 

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