Batswana have grown weary of living on the margins of poverty while hoping that one-day their turn will come to also ‘eat’ just as foreigners freely enjoy the country’s wealth.
This was said by Bobonong legislator, Taolo Lucas in Parliament when debating a motion calling for the establishment of the social justice commission.
The motion tabled by Lucas, calls on government to establish a social justice commission. This he said would help address the acute levels of inequality in the country, equalise the opportunity structure, promote inclusiveness and advocate, protect or safeguard the interests and welfare of the marginalised sections of society.
According to Lucas, Botswana is wealthy but sadly her citizens remain spectators as outsiders enjoy the country’s riches.
He pointed out the need to transfer the country’s economic emancipation to all for locals to also have a bite of the cherry.
Doing so according to Lucas will take the country miles ahead in capacity building being skills and economic benefits.
Lucas added that the nation’s progress should not only be judged by the impressive economic figures, but should be judged by the quality of life of its entire people.
“Our country has posted very impressive economic growth figures that have earned us accolades from many,” Lucas said.
“The big question is whether our wealth as shown by those figures is evenly distributed amongst the citizens. Are people in rural areas enjoying wealth posited by the country’s impressive gross domestic product (GDP).” Lucas said the national poverty rate stands at 16.3%, but the figures hide the regional poverty levels demonstrating the abject poverty that Batswana live in. He gave an example of Kweneng West, which he said its poverty average prevalence rate is at 50.6% with Ngwaketse West following with 40.3%, Kgalagadi South at 39.5%, Gantsi at 36.3% and Ngamiland West at 33.4%. Lucas said another concern is land ownership stating that along the border with South Africa exists chunks of freehold land largely owned by non-citizens.
He gave an example of Tuli-Block, a private reserve, which ownership emanates from colonial heritage stating that the mass of the land to have squeezed
He added that in North-East District and Francistown, Tati Company owns massive amounts of land that is generally unavailable for use by the town or communities that are so heavily starved of residential and agricultural land.
“Tribal Grazing Land Policy (TGLP) has also privatised huge areas of land with its farm owners enjoying dual use of land. They routinely overgraze their farms and dispatch their animals to communal lands as alternative pastures,” Lucas said. “Communal cattle owners are thus squeezed of the limited land available and they cannot graze their cattle in the farms during difficult times. This is unfair and it’s an area that needs immediate attention.” Still on the issue of land, Lucas said there are dire difficulties in land allocation as hundreds of thousands of people are on waiting lists for residential land.
He said that also applies to inequality of access and quality health care as it is directly linked to one’s ability to pay.
The Member of Parliament said a majority of citizens depend on public facilities for health care and most public health facilities are congested with acute staff shortage.
Lucas added that the poor pass rate of learners at secondary schools is an indication that many young people are condemned to a life of squalor and unemployment.
“We need to evolve policies that have a social justice slant that emphasises the fair distribution of resources, services, opportunities and development projects. We need to evolve programmes that give dignity to their recipients, policies that are sensitive to the plight of the poor, unemployed, youth, women, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, people living with disabilities and all marginalised sections of the population,” Lucas said.
However, Lucas could not complete his presentation after legislators from the ruling party vacated the house in large numbers until Parliament quorum collapsed forcing the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mabuse Pule to adjourn Parliament.