Maun West MP, Ronald Ridge, on Thursday angered and won himself many foes from his ruling BDP MPs and, under the same breath, was cheered on by the opposition parties, and winning himself friends as he dismissed his leader’s State of the Nation speech.
On the floor responding to President Festus Mogae’s address, Ridge dismissed the speech saying it only serves to worsen his sleepless and tormented nights as he gets worried about his constituents.
A debutante and coming from a marginal region where he thinly and by chance won the elections and where electorates could easily be derailed, Ridge finds president Mogae’s speech out of taste and favour and meaningless to himself and his constituents.
“I can not find the reason president Mogae’s government surprisingly reintroduced school fees. Most Batswana are poor and my constituents are even worse,” Ridge complained. “With some ministries returning millions of unused Pula, truly, there is no point to reintroduce school fees on the basis of cost sharing.”
He said the government reintroduced the fees amid rampant corruption and ineptitudeness by government officials resulting in millions of pula being wasted and embezzled.
“Government overruns and unfinished projects are the order of the day and that only signifies that something is amiss, notably corruption and ineptitudeness within government circles,” Ridge observed.
“With the poor Batswana paying taxes at the same time when government ministries are returning unused money, truly the reintroduction of school fees is nonsensical. It is a stab on Batswana’s backs.”
Delivering his speech last week, president Mogae reiterated that the government stood by cost sharing since it was primarily aimed at sustaining service provision.
“Today we are faced with many challenges which require additional public resources. At the same time donor support has diminished as a result of our relative success and consequent classification as a middle income country.
This circumstance calls for greater self-reliance,” said Mogae. “If we are to maintain the level and standard of services we have attained thus far, there is need for those who can to contribute towards provision of public services.
Those in need will continue to be assisted.”
Ridge told parliament he was aware of suspicious eyes from his fellow ‘democrats’ but reassured them he was a fully-fledged ‘democrat’.
“I have noticed for sometime now that whenever I stand to speak my mind my fellow democrats attribute me to the BNF. I have never been a BNF member unlike some of you who joined BDP from BNF,” Ridge yelled to BDP MPs who murmured to his blunt criticisms of president Mogae’s speech.
He said as a ruling party they had to take stock of themselves for self reflection, adding that the current reflection over education and the so called cost sharing was an ugly scene.
On the relocation of Batawana from the area in the vicinity of the Maun air-port to Disaneng ward to pave way for the expansion of the air port, Ridge decried the deal as raw.
He said his team calculated a relocation infrastructure amounting to P89 million only to get sad news recently that the available fund amounted to P47 million.
According to Ridge, permanent secretaries in the public service doctored the figures.
“Out of the P47 million, the government expects miracles to happen with regard to essential services such as schools and clinics. Our primary school children in Disaneng travel long distances to fetch these services.
“But when we demand money for the infrastructure, the government officials bury their heads in the ground.”
About rampant crime in the area, Ridge said it was chasing away potential tourists. He blamed the escalating crime on the inadequacy of the police and the soldiers, saying he hardly sees a police officer on patrol in Maun.
He called upon the government to take appropriate steps to fight crime before it was too late and admitted that crime was certainly engulfing the area.
On HIV/AIDS, the Maun West MP complained that the employees in the delta were ill-treated by their white foreign employers.
“They are denied access to Maun Hospital to obtain ARVs. Should they attempt to go without permission, they lose their jobs. They are even expelled for petty things.