SELEBI-PHIKWE: As part of his countrywide tour to meet the people, President Ian Khama last Saturday took to the streets of Selebi-Phikwe East constituency.
The president started off at Ikageleng before he headed to Botshabelo where he addressed a Kgotla meeting. Multitudes of Botshabelo residents thronged the Kgotla to meet the head of state. The turnout was overwhelming and people seemed to enjoy the meeting as nobody left before the meeting was over like it usually happens with other meetings.
They enjoyed the President Kama's speech so much that there were frequent ululations and cheers in between his presentation. In fact there was a near stampede when President Khama walked into the Kgotla as everyone was eager to at least catch a glimpse of him if not to shake hands with him.
Addressing the meeting, Khama said it does not necessarily mean that as president he knows everything around the country, hence it is imperative for him to tour the country to get views and opinions from the people. He said the initiatives and programmes that he has introduced are the people's ideas from the last interactive sessions he had with them.
He added that the government is working hard to improve the lives of citizens and cited that it is the government's mission to fight crime, connect street lights, sewerage system and to phase out pit latrines in the area to improve the standard of living, as well as to eradicate poverty by means of the programmes like labour intensive works that would not be tendered for.
The president added that the Selebi-Phikwe Diversification Committee has been set up to improve the towns' economy.He added that it has been brought to his attention that there are delays in helping the youth access grants and other financial incentives designed for them and said as such there will be a youth office and an officer in each constituency to facilitate youth empowerment in the country.
President Khama also mentioned that the repayment period for the Self Help Housing Agency (SHHA) loan will be extended to 20 years without interest and as a result, people will pay lower instalments. He promised to consult the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) so it builds affordable houses for Batswana to buy.On crime prevention, the president said he wants the police to work hard and warned them against laxity, noting that he would take tough action against them.
President Khama noted that his aim is to reduce the road carnage and to protect women and children against abuse. He indicated that culprits in cases of abuse are drunkards. "I would like to stop irresponsible alcohol consumption but we are living in a democratic country where you are free to do what you want.
We are reducing the operating hours for bars and alcohol prices are going to shoot up by 70 percent. "It is not that I want to curtail people's freedom (to consume alcohol) but we want to produce responsible citizens whose future could otherwise be destroyed by alcohol abuse."
For his part, Minister of Finance and Development Planning Baledzi Gaolatlhe said they are working tirelessly on programmes that will help the country achieve its 2016 aspirations.
He said for a long time BCL mine had not been making any profit, hence the government injected more funds into its operations to make sure the mine did not close down.
Gaolatlhe said the copper and nickel reserves are very low and it is expected that the mine may cease operations by 2013. "This however will not happen because more money will be injected into the mine towards prospecting for more of these minerals. The European Union (EU) has also given us P9 billion to be spent on prospecting."
The Finance Minister said the government has taken a firm stand to diversify Selebi-Phikwe's economy and it is government's intention to see the town's economic fortunes soar with a corresponding reduction in the unemployment rate by 2016.
Residents had also decried high charges of electricity connections but Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Ponatshego Kedikilwe said there were reasons behind high charges by Botswana Power Corporation (BPC).
"The corporation must also not make a loss in its operations as per its regulations. This is worsened by vandalism of copper cables, which the corporation has to replace at very high costs at the same time having to make profits to keep running.
The prices from which BPC purchases these commodities increase regularly. Subsidy is good but is has its own problems because it involves using funds that were geared for other developments."