Lead questions in Parliament
From lackluster performances in the past session of Parliament, MP for Nkange Edwin Jenamiso Batshu and Tlokweng MP Masego Segokgo have hit the ground running leading their peers in terms of questions asked before the august house. The opening of the 3rd Meeting of the 4th Session of the 11th Parliament (General/Winter Meeting) sitting saw the backbenchers hit the ground running with a plethora of questions about national issues and those in their constituencies.
Elected to Parliament in 2017 after the passing of BNF’s Same Bathobakae in November 2016, the soft-spoken UDC legislator had a slow start in his maiden appearance but looks to have settled enough. He dominated questions to minister's from the first day of the current session. Unlike some of his peers who are finding it difficult to settle in Parliament, Segokgo seems to have done his research and most of his questions are of national interest but not forgetting the challenges his constituency is facing. Segokgo got reprieve for his constituents when Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama revealed that Senn Food is polluting the environment as environmental assessment was not carried out when they constructed their abattoir.
On the payment of the members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) who went for peace keeping missions in Lesotho, Somalia and Mozambique, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi requested to give answer on a later date. He wanted to know when the Botswana Defence Force officers who went for peace keeping missions in Somalia, Lesotho and Mozambique will be fully paid; and why they were only paid part of the amount due to them and the balances due were retained by Government whilst their counterparts from other countries received their money in full while on duty.
It seems the outspoken MP for Nkange is now focusing on challenges facing his constituency as he has spent most of his political career as cabinet minister thus limiting his chances of asking questions as that is the privilege of the backbenchers.
Most political pundits predicted that he will struggle to settle as a back bencher but Batshu, a former Police Commissioner has proved his mettle but fitting very well.
One of the burning issues that Batshu questioned is the destruction of crops by elephants in his constituency and the little compensation farmers are given.
One of the issues that concerns Batshu in his constituency is failure by Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security to install a Senete Disease Control cordon gate which has been knocked down by motorist many years. In his answer Assistant Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security Van Der Westhuizen said it will be installed in July this year.
The former cabinet minister didn’t leave the youth out in his constituency as he wanted to inquire how many have benefitted from the Youth Development Fund and was informed that 142 has been funded at a cost of P13 564 498.83 since its inception.
17 YDF projects have completely collapsed due to various reasons, including but not limited to; poor business management skills, inadequate marketing, high rentals, lack of commitment by beneficiaries, the outbreak of Newcastle Disease for poultry projects and small stock theft, answered Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Dikgang Makgalemele.
Batshu has also asked the Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry to provide a detailed milestone chart (delivery plan) for the establishment of Special Economic Zones in Botswana.
Many political pundits were of the view that former cabinet Minister Kebonang will not survive the backbench as he walked straight into cabinet after his election in 2014 but he has since made them eat humble pie. Kebonang is proving that he is a politician par excellence as this week he rolled his sleeves and asked questions regarding developments in Lobatse.
First on his list was to know if there are plans to upgrade Athlone Hospital and if so when will the project start. In his answer Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness Biggie Butale said that upgrading of Athlone Hospital is planned for in National Development Plan (NDP) 11 as a part of Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) projects. “The project’s budget will be determined after its scoping at the time when it will be accommodated in the budget. The original estimate was P410 million,” he said adding that the delay in starting the project was due to annual budgetary ceiling constraints which can only accommodate ongoing projects.
As part of resuscitating the economy of Lobatse took a decision to construct a Leather Park in the country’s oldest town but the project has been delayed and Kebonang wanted to know when the commissioning will be done. As former Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Kebonang touched on the ongoing debate about De Beers decision to sell synthetic diamonds and that government of Botswana (as 15% shareholders) has approved the same. He wanted to know if government has ensured that Batswana are trained in synthetic diamond production.
In response Acting Minister Dr Unity Dow said Government was engaged throughout on the DeBeers synthetics initiative. “I also confirm that the Government seconded an officer to the project to work with De Beers and he has been working with the company for the past 12 months. Further discussions are currently going on internally with De Beers on collaborations on the project including personnel training and capacity building,” she said.
Sethomo has been working hard to throw the monkey off his back. He has ruffled feathers asking numerous incisive questions about developments in his constituency, which covers the Debswana owned Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa mines.
He constantly consults his constituents during Parliamentary breaks, with most of his questions based on developments that affect their daily lives. As one of the youthful MPs, Lelatisitswe always ensures that he do follow ups on developmental issues affecting his constituencies with focus mainly on education especially the dilapidated schools.
One of the thought provoking questions he asked to the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security if he is aware of the last Expression of Interest (EOI) issued by Debswana for the construction of staff houses prior to or post the envisaged CUT 3 project for the expansion of Orapa pit.
In the current session of parliament Member of Parliament for Gabane-Mmankgodi has dedicated his questions to address issues of national interest with focus on solar energy and alleged corporation at the Power Utility Botswana Power Corporation (BPC).
Another interest is the entrance of BPC into the telecommunication industry through joint venture with Liquid Telecom Botswana for the usage of optic fibre. This has given the nation the light as the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Eric Molale has revealed that the license has been suspended with Liquid Telecom advised to apply for license at BOFINET.