PARLIAMENT: The ruling party backbench on Friday put heat under the collar of the new administration of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s executive in parliament.
They defied the executive and endorsed a motion by the main opposition party calling for a review of the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD).
Despite an attempt to kill the motion prematurely by the executive, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbench Members of Parliament (MPs) did not budge an inch and unflinchingly supported the debate which saw passage of the motion eventually.
Liakat Kablay, ruling party MP for Letlhakeng/Lephephe constituency argued that people particularly “our voters in the rural areas are gravely afflicted by the glaring poverty engulfing them to look the other way and ignore their plight purely on grounds of partisan politics.”
“Time for partisan politics in no more simply on the basis the motion comes from the opposition. This traditional notion of policy review is long overdue,” Kablay added referring to the suggestion by the Assistant Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Beauty Manake who also attempted to kill the motion on a backdrop that the Ministry was reviewing the ISPAAD agriculture policy.
“This notion of review is not something new to us. We the legislators have been around the House for sometime time now. Every time there is review… the reviews kill noble motions especially coming from the other side of the aisle.
“We cannot take it anymore,” he said in his usual rhetoric of keeping to the wishes and aspirations of the people who voted for him to Parliament.
“Our people in the rural areas loudly call for the inclusion of broadcast planting in our ploughing fields. We cannot just dig our heads in the sand purely on grounds that the motion comes from our rivals in the opposition. I will not be representing their wishes and aspirations adequately as their dedicated MP,” Kablay concluded.
Polson Majaga said MPs cannot be told to tow the party line all the time under the guise of policy reviews that never come to light and bear any fruits.
“In this time and era nobody is certain of his political future. Today you are here next time you on the other side. O chaya stafo.”
“I was here in the previous administration and we never stopped talking about reviews that never come to light and materialize. There is nothing wrong to review the policy while at the same time Parliament adopts their own reviews in this case ISPAAD,” Majaga argued.
“I will only support the review as suggested by the Minister (Assistant) if assurance will be made broadcasting planting will be included in their review of the policy. Anything short of the planting I am not part of,” another BDP Mps said.
“Both broadcasting and row planting have their own advantages and disadvantages but in this ever unreliable and erratic weather conditions broadcasting is the way forward with the shortages of draught power as suitable weather conditions for plants cannot wait for the insufficient tractors and planters amid a long list of waiting agitated farmers,” he said.
Mephato Reatile castigated the current “one size fits all.” He said current ISPAAD arrangement should be reviewed looking at the areas of cultivation such as Kgalagadi with sand and scrubs as compared to other environments like Okavango and Chobe with swathes of big trees.
“I therefore find nothing wrong in support of the motion by our friends on the other side of the political divide,” the former opposition MP said setting a seal for the passage of the motion.
UDC MP Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang moved the motion calling the Government to review ISPAAD to allow subsistence farmers the option of row planting and broadcasting or a mixture of the two planting methods taking into account the critical shortage of agricultural equipment and an increasingly erratic rainfall pattern.
“During my kgotla meetings I received many live testimonies from farmers across the constituency. One farmer testified that the last time he used the broadcasting method of planting he harvested 140 bags per hectare) in tow hectares which translates into 70 bags per hectare). The farmer expressed frustration that since ISPAAD he hardly harvests anything.”