I would like to express my profound gratitude to the People of Gaborone Bonnington South for having found it fit to elect me to represent them (their views and concerns) in the 12th Parliament of Botswana. I will do my utmost best to represent them in Parliament diligently to the best of my ability.
I take this opportunity to commend the Government of Botswana for introducing the Online Business Registration System. With the view to facilitate ease of business registration! We applaud it, but why end at online registration of companies. My comment is focused on the empowerment of SMMEs POST registration. This is because once companies are registered and eligible to tender, they will tender without any tenders being awarded to them, until they lose hope and confidence in the credibility of the Government tendering system. We need to have software that automatically gives a chance to all companies for small works! It’s unbelievable that there are some registered Batswana companies that submit tenders all the time but have never even gotten one, we need to give all Batswana companies a chance. Currently there are many youths with registered companies, who are unable to actively participate in the economy by creating meaningful jobs to sustain themselves. This is because tenders circulate around the same people. We need to go a step further and introduce techniques that will help minimise favouritism and corruption while affording businesses equal opportunities.
My recommendation is that: Beyond online registration of companies, we must introduce a fair, transparent and inclusive digitalized tender management system for Small Businesses. The current order is prone to unfair and unethical awarding of tenders. The digitalised system will allow for Ministries to capture their potential goods and service providers such that when there is need for procurement, digitalized procurement system will determine which tenderer is eligible as per the tender requirements, such that everyone gets the opportunity to be awarded a tender. The digitalised tender management system will not only afford more people a fair chance but will also improve on transparency as well as give Batswana hope and trust in the tender awarding system.
Delayed payments are a very serious concern for the SMMEs. The delay in making payments to SMMEs has contributed to the demise/death of many. If Government is serious about empowering and growing the economy through the SMMEs then their payment should be a priority. As in other economies that are serious about SMMEs and economic growth, Government has come out with a law for speedy payments. I suggest we should have a law limiting payment to SMMEs for work done to only 30 days.
It is commendable that mines currently employ an average of about 96% Botswana citizens. The plan for Debswana Mining Company to reopen the Apprentice and training Centre is also commendable. However, we pray that all the mines develop citizen suppliers in their value chain as this continues to be a challenge. A typical area of concern remains the sub-contracted companies in most mines that are owned by foreigners and continue to hire foreigners.
Localisation must be emphasized regardless of whether it is the mine directly hiring or a subcontracted company. Exceptions should only be where it has been practicably proven that there is need for rare expertise that is not available or rather difficult to source locally, even then, there has to be an understudy program in place. Sub contracts are definitely another area that has the potential to create Job opportunities for Batswana among others.
During my previous life, I briefly worked in the mining industry, I believe that this sector needs the government to pay close attention to it, as that is where the government and the country can derive more value and Batswana can be employed in large numbers. I hope the government will intensify its mission of looking for investors who can take over BCL operations and revive the Phikwe and Francistown economies. We also need to expedite the Lephalale Botswana railway line, that line will unlock our coal potential, as we would be able to access the Mozambique and South African ports! I implore the government to do a feasibility study for a copper smelter with a corresponding copper refinery. The Kalahari copper belt with proven reserves of Khomaceu and
Dukwi mines with life span of more than 20 years dictate that we do so, so we don’t miss the boat. Jobs will be created during construction of this mega projects and permanent jobs during operation. I humbly ask the government to look at empowering Batswana companies to be given work at our mines. Morupule will soon have an open cast, let Batswana company do the mining, Cut 9, Cut 3, all this projects should be done by Batswana companies.
I have a great concern with respect to certain job categories that are allocated to foreigners, particularly because there are many Batswana with such qualifications and capabilities to do the said jobs effectively. Currently, the Government spends a lot of tax payers’ monies training Batswana on blue collar jobs through Technical Colleges and Brigades, yet foreigners are many in this country performing such jobs. Currently, Government intends to facilitate the ease of doing business in Botswana by reviewing the Immigration act to effectively enable the employment of non- citizens and ensure a fair, objective and transparent assessment of permits. This is a welcome development as it will ensure that foreigners who come to work in Botswana will not replace Batswana but will rather add value to the country.
The Government has reviewed the land policy that will facilitate citizens to use their land productively by enabling a mixed use of land approach. However, in my Constituency there are a lot of foreigners operating as street vendors and other businesses reserved for Batswana, for instance, selling second hand clothes, hair dressing, restaurants, dry cleaning, internet café including artisan trades such as motor repairs, carpentry, plumbing, welding and fabrication just to mention a few. Mr Speaker the question here is, are these foreigners duly permitted to conduct such business in Botswana, or are we falling short of our mandate to enforce the law?
Another area is that of construction and Road Transport industries which have proven difficult to penetrate as they are dominated by foreign owned giant operators that dictate the market and make it difficult for upcoming Batswana companies to thrive. In as much as we do need these companies in order for our economy to thrive, the main question remains, what provision has been put in place for Batswana who want to be players in these industries.
I want to believe that the law has been set all we need to do is to enforce it. As members of the 12th Parliament, we have to work closely with other law enforcing entities in our respective constituencies to encourage them to implement the law and ensure that our people are protected, empowered and dignified. I strongly support the initiative by Government to introduce early childhood education in Public schools to improve learner readiness for school and lifelong learning. In addition to that, the government has introduced ICT as a platform for learning. I strongly advocate for the urgent roll out of these initiatives in all the schools in Gaborone Bonnington South. I need to address the issue of overcrowding of classrooms throughout Botswana. In my constituency, the current student teacher ratio is around 47:1. This setup is an outright disadvantage to both the teacher and the student and will definitely impact negatively on the quality of education. I propose that construction of a primary school in phase 4 and building of additional classrooms in existing schools will alleviate the crisis and will definitely reduce the ratio to 30:1.
The Gaborone integrated transport project is long overdue and a most welcome development. However, as Iscrutinised the planned roads, I realized that there has been an omission of pedestrian bridges as there will be clearly need for pedestrian safety. In addition to that, we need to complement this development by constructing internal roads and making provision for the disabled in Gabs Bonnington south constituency. We urgently need Construction of storm water drainage system in Gabs Bonnington south constituency. During rainy season in most cases we experience floods, which predisposes us to health challenges and damage to property. I also want to highlight the urgent need for solar power street lighting in my constituency. As you may imagine, poor lighting compromises both security and safety of the residents as it attracts things such as petty theft and burglary.
We appreciate that in Botswana the provision of quality health care remains one of our top priorities. Some of the ways in which these priorities could be achieved is by upgrading certain clinics to operate 24hrs. There are currently two clinics in my constituency. One in Block 9 and the other in Gaborone West phase 1. There is an urgent need to upgrade the clinic in Gaborone west phase 1 to operate 24 hours as it located in highly populated area. Government continues to fight against communicable and non-communicable diseases alike. These continue to be on the rise despite the prevention and control strategies that have been put in place. A contributory factor may be the poor state of our Health facilities which continue to deteriorate. We are grateful for the new medical facility at the University of Botswana as it hoped that it will alleviate the situation especially at Princess Marina referral Hospital which is currently in a desperate state. Unfortunately it is not in use. PMH is usually overpopulated with both in and out patients and it is always characterized by shortage of doctors, drugs, beds, diagnostic tools and blankets. An average waiting period to consult a specialist at Princess Marina is unreasonable, usually +-6 months. Appointments are prolonged whilst disease progress, by the time they get investigated it’s already late; we have lost lives of our beloved while waiting to be referred or assisted. Referrals are also delayed due to slow processing of funds, government take time to pay bills which impact on accessing health assistance, for instance referrals to SA were frozen for some time due to delayed payments by government, some patients couldn’t make it while waiting to be referred.
There are no ambulances in hospitals and clinics, the few that are there are just like any other car with no proper equipment (Oxygen, resuscitating equipment). Another area to consider under health is Wellness and recreational facilities. An introduction of such facilities in each constituency or in a given area could assist to reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases such as Sugar Diabetes, hypertension, obesity and so on. The initiative by the Government to realize the need for and identify the Old Serowe Institute of Health Sciences (HIS) as a facility that will serve as the first National Substance Use treatment Centre is commendable. However, we continue to notice an escalation in smuggling drugs into Botswana through our Boarders. SONA Under Botswana Police, alluded to the fact that The Police service investigation capacity has been enhanced to deal with drug trafficking, which is noteworthy. However, this issue is very serious and calls for immediate intervention strategies by the Government especially to introduce border patrol and control. Mr Speaker, we owe this country to protect our youth against this monster called drugs as it affects both the user and their care takers. There is also a need to reinforce strict punitive measures on suppliers of such substances.
*MP for Gaborone Bonnington South Christian Greeff making his contribution to the State of the Nation Address (SONA)