Before 17,7% lie becomes the truth, please take a moment to realise the office that you represent and that I, among the masses of the unemployed who will hold you accountable. Hypothetically speaking, does it mean that this trend will be observed every year, say it becomes 14% in 2018, then 11% in 2019, wow, that will be a stretch! As to what informs this trend is the Mmamashia ghost mystery we will never know. My concern is; if we fail to acknowledge the fact that Ipelegeng has no place in the just released statistics; then we have a serious problem. We cannot allow for your statistical perceptions to become part of our reality. It is wrong to entertain “alternative facts” here. Alternative reality can be dangerous in the long run, especially if the hypocritical lie is pervasively preached in place of the real truth. You could be treading on thin ice here when your professional integrity can be questioned by the public. I guess you wouldn’t understand when a woman queuing after you at the shop counter is holding minced bones for dogs under the guise that she is going to feed her dogs. I also assume that it’s been a while since you had “menoto” as part of your radish, right? Well, ma’am, for us, it’s part of our daily reality. As a graduate, and a son of a domestic housekeeper, I believe I’m in my rightful place to speak my heart. Sadly, her dream to see her seemingly ‘educated’ children live fulfilling lives is still a farfetched given that we hardly have enough to buy groceries at the end of the month. The scenario of waking up next to your younger siblings holding a degree is a common reality these days. The government programmes which we were asked to enroll for have not gotten us anywhere, be it internship or Tirelo Sechaba. The worst thing is that we have not had an honest talk over these issues with the key stakeholders because of fear being reprimanded. We are mostly sanctioned over what we should say and how we should say it, and that is the problem. Most Batswana have been witness to the roll out of the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP), diamond story/diamond beneficiation schemes which are no longer part of everyone’s conversations these days. Are we ever going hold ourselves to be a countable for the national projects that have been mismanaged in the past? Which leads to believe that the rich will keep getting richer while the poor will keep on poorer.
I am so gravely disappointed in the way you continuously turn a blind eye to the reality of the unemployed youth, and now you have conjured up some glossy figures to make it look as if Botswana is performing above par. As to why you have concocted those figures, I may never know. Sadly, I do qualify within the morphed 17,7% category. If this figure reflected the atmosphere in Botswana, maybe it would have been worthy to parade it to your employer or the international arena. However, I’m very skeptical as the figure stands. Figures aside, mma, let me tell you, the experiences of most young people, especially graduates. We have to bust tables in restaurants and retail shops, endure long hours only to get paltry pay at the end of the month. The fancy degrees can’t do much because they can only go as far as getting the trappings of what the employer can give. Most economists will tell you that the current minimum wage in which we are supposed to get by is unsustainable like Ipelegeng. This is in consideration of the rent, utilities, and other monthly expenses one has to deal with on a monthly basis. It’s was not by choice that we settled for such low paying jobs. This is the grim reality among the youth that I interact with at the department of Labour hoping for a “messiah” to rescue them from the desperate hunger just to give them a P50 piece job. Guess what, these people are not stupid as your office may want to imply, they are university graduates. They converge at the Department of Labour just to be hopeful, not that they are awaiting their dream job. The one thing they already know thus far is that they have succumbed to the reality that the dream jobs are already occupied in these offices and there is no “deadwood employee” who will voluntarily make way for a university graduate. It’s a struggle just to go around asking people for jobs these days. By the way, have you ever observed the lawlessness that is brewing in the streets lately? You can only count yourself lucky if you don’t get mugged stepping outside your yard. Remember; this is a group of youth that is angry, hungry and frustrated, and it is proving difficult to control crime these days.
Now stepping away from that reality, here are my concerns about the statistics that you released. I may not understand the justification for qualifying Ipelegeng as some form of formal employment other than a temporary government relief programme. Your office tried that last year, in which you concluded that the unemployment figure stood over 20% and we dismissed you for a joke and now you want to go back and introduce Ipelegeng as part of the instruments in assessing the level of unemployment in Botswana. I am ashamed of myself for letting you get away with the ill-advised justification last year by including Ipelegeng as part of the formal employment, and now you have it reflected in the current statistics. This ill-informed survey cannot become a reality in this day and age. We can’t let you get away this time. You among other academics may understand that Ipelegeng is unsustainable as one (if lucky) is employed for just a month on rotational basis. In densely populated areas, it can take you more than six months because all the Ipelegeng hopefuls are subjected to a raffle or “khupelekhupele” as they are called in kgotla, so one is guaranteed to secure their job only for that month. Trust me, I have been through the Ipelegeng system, and sometimes you can wait your luck for a year. The other issue is the social security benefits that come along as part of the temporary employment programme. The last consultative gathering in April by ILO, hosted by Business Botswana indicated that Ipelegeng is ill-advised, and this programme was vehemently criticised by Dr Jefferies. What they have also alluded to is the fact even the most employed Batswana do not have safety cushions after they retire because there is no pool of finance to provide this group with social security. Exceptions can be made for those working for bigger companies, but most SMEs would mostly tell you that business is not doing well, hence they cannot afford to make gratuity pay outs for their outgoing employees. So for a lot of the productive age groups, who are either employed as Ipelegeng beneficiaries or those holding piece jobs, it can be realised that most families rely on the breadwinners for their dear survival. In a family of five, the eldest breadwinner can support both the parents and the siblings, leaving little for him or her at the end of the month, for contributing to their social security. The last time, I checked, Ipelegeng beneficiaries, walk away with nothing. Which brings me to the one last question, since the programme can only absorb less than 60 at a go for that month, how do you justify the mass that is not absorbed for employment that month, because I can assure you, they are many.
I’m appalled by the lack of social conscious displayed by your office when the unemployment issue is sensitive for most youth graduates. It should be understood that unemployment is rife across the globe; so this is no talking point here, and this has nothing to do with the BDP government, nor the opposition. The reality is that unemployment is here to stay and we really need to address it, and the only way we can do that is by properly designing research frameworks, assigning relevant areas of scope to which you make assessments as well as testing that hypothetical theories so that research case does not become questionable. Mma Statistician General, please get the basics right, no organisation, such as International Labour Organisation (ILO), with the lose definition of “unemployed” can substitute for the reality on the ground. Let’s define the issues for what they are, and then address them appropriately. Just to be fair, the skills mismatch has been some of the issues that can be brought to light by the Ministry of Education and the Human Resource Development Council, and I will be the first to admit that the education system needs a serious revamp. As far as dusting off those figures to suit the government or those who will govern after 2019, I will implore you to release appropriate figures we can work with. The bottom line is that I’m not going anywhere, much less is my lack of employment. I will be waiting for you to tell us what influenced this significant drop especially that the mining industry took a nose dive in 2015/16 followed by massive retrenchments by other industries such as banks, utility companies, and mind you this has the same ripple effect on the small businesses and auxiliary industries. Even those that have been queuing up for the Gender Affairs fund these days hoping to get funded for their projects have had it tough as the department is still assessing the previous proposals. As the head of the office that has the power to influence policy and decision makers across government, private sector, please be candid, and as painstakingly uncomfortable as it is, let’s call out raw figures as they are and announce them for what they represent.