Members of Parliament across the political divide expressed mixed sentiments Friday over the motion to import manual labour from neighbouring countries, especially from Zimbabwe.
Once a beacon of Southern Africa with a booming economy, Zimbabwe’s financial system is in tatters, compelling its inhabitants to look for greener pastures in neighbouring countries, including Botswana.
Those educated enough easily acquire comfortable jobs in the country while the majority end up settling for menial jobs for survival.
“I would like to unequivocally state that this motion is not intended to rob Batswana of employment opportunities but rather to fill the gap which our children seem not interested to occupy,” argued the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s Moisaraela Goya, the mover of the motion.
Goya wants the government to consider the facilitation of foreign labour for jobs proven less attractive to Batswana, such as domestic working, pastoral and arable farming.
Even with adequate facilities, a considerable number of Batswana do not venture into farming while those fit to become labourers do not opt to tend cattle, let alone till the land for a monthly salary.
Capitalising on this behavior, Zimbabweans, fleeing unfavourable conditions in their country, fill in the voids.
Ranging from domestic working, looking after cattle to baby-sitting, Zimbabweans eagerly take up such jobs.
“South-Africans shunned digging gold as labour immigrants poured into the country to earn a living. Today, South Africans are the best gold diggers and are chasing foreigners away,” the Palapye MP further argued, insisting Batswana should take a leaf from the South Africans and become one of the region’s best in food security.
The new opposition MP of the Botswana National Front, Kentse Rammidi, was, however, adamant the motion barks up the wrong tree and, as such, would not lend support, insisting the government should first investigate the root cause of the problem why Batswana do not like to go into farming.
“They live in deplorable conditions without food and a roof over their heads. Worse still, they are paid peanuts,” Rammidi said, adding that even the mover of the motion and the entire House would not allow their children to become labourers because of the conditions prevailing on the farms and lands.
He said that those who employ these individuals are cruel to the extent of deducting money from their employees’ salary for purchasing small items such as tobacco.
“I know one minister in this House who has the propensity for this. They do not even care whether the siblings are going to school or not,” Rammidi, a former BDP minister, said, sparking a retort from Vice President Mompati Merafhe who indicated that, at his farm, there are educated persons who have even attained Cambridge level.
Rammidi wondered what will become of the farms now that Zimbabwe’s economy is promising. He said the correct medicine is to inculcate a culture of farming into the minds of “our children”.
While supporting the motion, Botswana Movement for Democracy’s Wynter Mmolotsi expressed the sentiments expressed by Rammidi, saying the government must investigate the issue at hand before getting into recruitment drive.
Although he would not finish his deliberations because of time, the Assistant Minister of Education’s few remarks indicated he was against the motion.
“We should be seen to promote citizen empowerment and by importing labour, we run the risk of being viewed in bad light,” Keletso Rakhudu said.
The debate continues.