MP for Sefhare/Ramokgonami Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang said it will be unfortunate if the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) can use their majority numbers in parliament to turn down his motion calling for Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR) to be mandatory for extraction companies.
In an interview on Friday, Dr Gobotswang said it was clear that the BDP aisle will shun the motion. This, he said, is because BDP legislators support exploitation of Batswana.
Gobotswang said law should be passed that extraction companies should at least commit about 2.5% of its Profit Before Tax (PBT) to the CSR initiatives that be will made mandatory by the law.
He noted that, Botswana has number of extraction or mining activities that happens across the country.
According to him, the country as result seen notable economic growth from diamonds revenue transforming the country from the least to the upper middle income but there is a still the gaps.
“However, these revenues have done very little for the communities which hosts these mining operations. Boteti which hosts more mines than any district in the country is rated the third poorest district and recorded one of the highest levels of crime and social ills; remember how long it took to upgrade the one lane tarred road to Rakops constructed in-house by the Department of Roads,” he said.
Dr Gobotswang also said the rural Jwaneng-Mabutsane which is the center of diamond mining is also among the poorest in the country with no significant social and physical developments.
Meanwhile, a Corporate Governance expert who pleaded not to be named said CSR taxing is complex.
He said 2.5% of profit that is suggested by Gobotswang for CSR is big money for other companies.
“CSR in its nature differs from company to company in terms of impact and budget of initiatives. For example, mining companies such as Debswana and Lucara are sponsoring impactful big CSR initiatives that creates large employment. If companies are to be forced to pay certain fee of its profit to CSR, companies will resort spend on less impactful initiatives like donating shoes,” he added.
According to the expert, it is important for Botswana to have the CSR policy at the national level.
He said majority of companies are pursuing CSR voluntarily from their own guideline formulated.
“For example, a national CSR policy can be able to inform or guide CSR initiatives in line with the key priorities that the country should addresses. For example, in Botswana there is a high unemployment particularly among youth. With a clear national CSR policy, the unemployment could be addressed for example with companies guided to put their priorities to it,” he added.
The motion, he said, advocates for a law that seeks to provide mitigation against the adverse effects of mining on the communities that host the extraction companies across the country.
“The adverse impact of mining on the host communities are, but not limited to the following: Dispossessing communities of vital resources such as grazing and arable land. Post mining, the suitability of the land for animal husbandry and crop production is significantly diminished,” he said.
Toteng Farmers for example, he said, have been dispossessed of farms to give way to copper mining.
He said Toteng farmers which have been since disgruntled to government were moved to communal areas thus exposing their livestock to the predators, a move that impoverished many families.
He said a mandatory corporate social responsibility fee is levied on the extraction companies to mitigate against the adverse impact of their operations on the communities that they mines in.
“In the case of Boteti, both Lucara and Debswana have a CSR policy whose main aim is to assist the community focusing on sports development. As part of its CSR Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) is to build a P25m multi-purpose stadium in Palapye as well as the refurbishment of the Palapye Central Police Station for P700 000. A Bill to be passed in parliament setting a mandatory CSR levy of 2.5% of profits before Tax for all extraction companies operating in the Republic of Botswana,” he said.
Meanwhile, the BDP aisle led by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Lefoko Moagi opposed the motion, arguing that it will be burden to miners.
Moagi said the motion is more of repetition of the Citizen Inclusion Act as companies are already paying taxes and mandatory CSR could lead to relocation of companies from Botswana to invest elsewhere.
MP for Mmadinare Molebatsi Molebatsi also concurred with Moagi saying that motion is a waste of time since its very essence is captured by the Economic Inclusion Law that speaks to the CSR.
But, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (MP) for Selebi Phikwe Dithapelo Keorapetse said the BDP MPs are determined to trivialize the issue as they stick to an irrelevant Economic Inclusion Law.
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