Some Members of Parliament (MPs) have accused government of favouring expatriates at the expense of citizens. They argued that there is a practice whereby citizens are sidelined as they are employed as unskilled labour while government reserves well paying positions to foreigners.
The legislators raised the concerns when debating a motion by Selebi-Phikwe West MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse which called on Parliament to review the statutory instrument No: 106. The instrument gave Khoemacau Mining Company the exemption to hire expatriates in certain positions.
Keorapetse had stated that the good news about Khoemacau mine is that it is said to be worth a whopping P4 billion that was expected to create an average of 1,663 jobs per annum and is estimated to likely bring P10 billion, including about P700 million in tax to the economy within its 2021-2042 operational life span. “These figures presuppose a better life for Batswana in that many will get jobs and provide for themselves and their families. It is more good news for those who lost their jobs at mines such as BCL, Tati Nickel, Lerala and Ghaghoo to name but a few that closed. The mine should employ 814 people of which 781 or 95.9% should be citizens. I challenge the President and his government to provide details of the aforementioned 781 positions held by citizens,” Keorapetse said.
The MP further stated that there is no doubt that many Batswana survive on crumbs whilst foreigners enjoy sumptuous meals. He also pointed out that Batswana are mostly employed as unskilled and semi-skilled whilst foreigners are reserved skilled jobs through the statutory instrument.
In his intervention, MP for Okavango, Kenny Kapinga asked the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Annah Mokgethi whether there is a precedence where a statutory instrument is issued specifically to address the interest of a particular company. He also asked what was the major motivating factor for the ministry to have passed the legislation such as the one under consideration for a specific company like Khoemacau.
He also asked if the principal act allows the ministry to issue out working permits for people whose services are needed and such skills cannot be found within the country without the necessity of going for subsidiary legislation like statutory instrument.
“It raises concern when specific legislation is made to address the interest of a particular company because questions arise on what justification were put forward and to whom,” Kapinga said.
Keorapetse interjected on clarification asking Kapinga as a qualified lawyer to assist him, stating that the way it was done it is not necessary to actually have a statutory instrument exempting positions but that when you have foreigners applying for jobs whose skills are not available, it is up to the immigration selection board to take that decision.“They are the ones to say ‘this person applied for this skill that we do not have locally’. That is how it was supposed to be done, but not going the route of a statutory instrument. It is how it should have happened,” Keorapetse said.
“People in my area where that mine is situated are struggling because even cleaners and drivers are foreigners? I wanted to ask that similar question on what motivated the ministry to take that route of statutory instrument. What was the motive?” Kapinga questioned.
Sharing the same sentiments with the mover of the motion, MP for Palapye, Onneetse Ramogapi stated that there are 112 positions, 25% of which is 28, which means 84 remain open to foreign experts and employment and minister is saying they are reviewing the statutory instrument in terms of reducing or increasing the number.
“As they are reviewing, when can we expect the finalisation of the review and will we as the Parliament get that information? But the concern is when they are busy reviewing. The mine might also be employing and if they have employed and have reviewed, so what redress will the minister put in place so that Batswana who are out of employment, are experts and deserve to be in these jobs can get those jobs,” he said.
Supporting the motion MP for Sefhare/Ramokgonami, Kesitegile Gobotswang said they were worried as legislators because those are the similar qualifications that the locals have.
“Are you saying we should leave 75% of jobs to foreigners, I personally do not agree with that and believe all of us here are worried by this. We have been having mines for years and now we could be the ones exporting such expertise to other countries,” Gobotswang said. In response, Immigration minister Mokgethi said Khoemacau mine is a highly mechanised operation. She said at the time the mine submitted a request to the ministry they did not have a mining contractor on board and they simply submitted an inventory of the skills that are usually needed for a mechanised mine to operate.
Mokgethi said the mine has since engaged a mining contractor, BAMINCO, which has since conducted an assessment during which it was discovered that about 25% of the positions that have been exempted do not necessarily have to be.
“My ministry is currently in consultations with Khoemacau mine aimed at reviewing all the exempted positions of the mine. The mine has signed an HR agreement with the ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity and Skills Development which guides the recruitment of expatriates,” Mokgethi said. She went on to say notwithstanding the fact that exempted positions are not ordinarily advertised, the mine has already advertised some of the positions in search of the skills available in the local market.
However, the ruling party rejected the motion with 35 votes whilst 15 were in support.