Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Parliament forced to adjourn as BDP MPs play truant

Parliament Friday forced to shelve debate on a motion to establish an Economic Diversification Unit for Lobatse because Botswana Democratic Party MPs had bunked the house to prepare for their primary elections. The Friday session set aside to debate motions was characterized by a number of disruptions until business was suspended all together. Parliament adjourned around 11 instead of the normal 12.30 because it could not form a quorum as BDP parliamentarians deserted to prepare for their primary elections held yesterday (Saturday).

The first batch of BDP primary elections in the North were held recently, with parliament suffering the same fate. Addressing parliament, the MP for Lobatse Nehemiah Modubule lamented that the oldest town in Botswana was facing many serious problems and was on the verge of becoming a ghost town. Unlike Lobatse, the mining town of Selebi-Phikwe was swiftly assisted when it was confronted with similar challenging problems-Modubule said, citing SPEDU. “The regional economic development agency was set up to achieve amongst others the economic development and regeneration of Selebi-Phikwe region…to promote business efficiency and competitiveness in the region and most importantly promote employment,” he argued.

Besides SPEDU intended to promote inward investment and trade facilitation, the Unit also aimed to enhance the development and application of skills relevant to employment in the region. But that would not be to the “oldest town in Botswana which at one point was intended to be part of the capital city of the country which is gradually descending into a ghost town.” “Given its historical significance to the country, Lobatse should by now be one of the fastest growing towns in the country. With waning economic activities in the town, Lobatse is heading for a disaster as certainly people are leaving to other areas,” Modubule added, emphasizing “everyone seems to be in hurry to leave.”

With population of Lobatse standing at 29,689 in 2001 and a plunging low at 29,007 in 2011 according to population census, the Leader of the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change in Parliament is adamant these are the signs that Lobatse is collapsing. “2001 population and Housing census indicate that the majority of people totaling 18745 or 63% then were unemployed and the number is likely to have tremendously increased by now,” Modubule further decried. Parrying the arguments raised, the responsible Minister for the diversification drive Dorcus Malesu-Makgato argued the proposal was not sustainable for the country still uncertain of the global recession. “Should we consider the SPEDU arrangement everyone including Saleshando and Rammidi would want a similar treatment in their constituencies,” Malesu-Makgato scoffed the opposition Botswana Congress Party MP’s. For her part Minister of Education, Skills and Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi echoed the same sentiments, saying much was done to save Lobatse from extinction.

“P600m was recently pumped to resuscitate the embattled Botswana Meat Commission, P225m for the lather production and P300m for the dairy production,” Venson-Moitoi said, accusing Modubule of asking too much from the government assistance. “We also have constituencies,” she added. The Vice President said as much as Lobatse is important to him because he cut his political teeth in the area so were other places with even heavier challenges. “Take for example the North West and Kweneneng West constituencies,” Ponatshego Kedikilwe said, maintaining should the public coffers improve Lobatse would be considered for other developments.

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