Parliament on Friday gave a motion that calls on government to establish a social justice commission the thumbs down, with 28 legislators voting against and 12 in support of the motion.
Bobonong legislator, Taolo Lucas had tabled the motion stating that it 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.
Tabling the motion, Taolo said Botswana’s wealth was in foreign hands, something that should be brought to a halt through the implementation of the social justice commission.
Taolo said 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.
Lucas said land ownership remains a concern stating that along the border with South Africa exist 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 land has squeezed arable and grazing land from communities.
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.
According to Lucas 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
Earlier on debating the motion, majority of Members of Parliament (MP) from the ruling party dismissed Lucas’ arguments accusing him of having intentions to discredit the government’s efforts towards poverty alleviation.
The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Lemogang Kwape admitted the country was still faced with challenges and that inequalities still exist amongst citizens but said the government has made progress in that area.
Additionally, the legislator said the government has consulted citizens when implementing Vision 2036 pillars. He stated that citizens were asked how they want their country to look and all of their interests have been covered.
“I do not support this motion because the government is busy implementing Batswana’s wishes through Vision 2036. What Lucas is doing is to praise citizen’s problems,” Kwape said.
Dismissing the motion, the assistant minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Meshack Mthinkhulu and the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Eric Molale said the motion was redundant because the government has achieved a lot in uplifting the livelihoods of Batswana.
Supporting the motion the MP for Palapye constituency, Onneetse Ramogapi and Ngami MP Kainangura Hikuama pleaded with other MPs to put party affiliations aside and look at the citizen’s interests.
“The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. There are certain people owning chunks of land while Batswana are struggling without land,” Ramogapi put it plainly.