Unemployment remains Botswana’s most serious crisis at the moment. Most of people finish school and no more find jobs waiting for them. Most factories and even Government institutions are on cost cutting mode – retrenchments are no more seen as the last resort; they are an everyday phenomenon of an economy seemingly fully stretched. Mine closures are rife with estimates putting job losses from this sector at well over 20 000. While job summits have been held, and solutions proposed indications are that nothing much has been done to absorb the majority of our jobless residents. It was on the back of this that young graduates were forced to form an Unemployment Movement last year. Though they have worked on increasing awareness to this scourge, which is primarily to blame for increased incidents of vigilantism in villages where youth groups form to rob and harass residents, they are still to make a mark. Yet still for their efforts they have had to bare state wrath when they were whipped and savagely beaten for marching to Parliament in an attempt to raise their plight with members of Parliament. They found the police armed with whips and every aggressive ornament they had and didn’t waste time in imposing discipline on them, even loading them in their vans to have some detained over night at their police cells. Despite these, jobs have not been delivered. Yet surprisingly last week Statistics Botswana unveiled unemployment statistics that showed that the country’s poverty level has fallen beyond the 20 percent mark. Most have taken the announcement with a pinch of salt – dismissing it as some fancy work that attempted to make Government look good despite the grave situation at hand.
Aware of the disbelief from various observers, the Statistician General Annah Majelantle was forced to address a media conference to further clarify the outcome of their survey. Other officials went to Radio stations to equally clarify the source of their data, methodology used and international standards adhered to in coming to their conclusion. “Enquiries from stakeholders received following the release of preliminary BMTHS results provide useful feedback and gives us a guide as we strive to provide information that is understood and properly-interpreted by the users. There have been inquiries about the categorisation of Ipelegeng engagement. Whereas ipelegeng employment is not a permanent engagement, the definition that I have just enunciated classifies a worker in ipelegeng as being employed. Participants in this programme are engaged in the activity which attracts cash remuneration on a monthly basis. Our employment figures, therefore, include workers in the programme who at the time of the survey had been engaged in this work within the last seven days,” declared the Statistician General. It is this particular classification that has raised eyebrows. It is so because the scheme has attracted masses of the poor and unemployed and it has not been considered – by most at least – as worthy of being considered as a sustainable job creation. It seemingly abuses people as the earnings from this scheme cannot afford one a full month grocery and even quality clothes to wear. It is a social safety net scheme that must only be treated as such. As things stand, Government will easily become complacent and fail to generate sustainable jobs for these and many more. We call on Government to step up employment creation efforts and not bask in the glory of what seemingly stands as a fancy work of numbers that makes it look good.