After failing to give beneficiation a shot in the past years parliament has finally relented to legislators pleas and has passed a motion calling on the house to request government to come up with a comprehensive legislation for the promotion of beneficiation of the mining industry.
The motion which was tabled by Tati West Member of Parliament Biggie Butale received unanimous support from members of parliament on Friday. In 2013 Shoshong Member of Parliament Phillip Makgalemele also tabled a motion before parliament requesting government to develop a beneficiation law. When tabling the motion Makgalemele submitted that developing a beneficiation law would result in the formulation of a framework for transforming abundant minerals and other resources to the nation’s competitive advantage.
He added that having a beneficiation law would enhance the quality and quantity of exports, diversification of economy and creation of employment.
Former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament Dumelang Saleshando had also the debate on the beneficiation of minerals especially diamonds in the country close to his heart during his days as a legislator. In fact in his presidential campaign message Saleshando promised to intensify efforts to bring about beneficiation in the mining sector.
Giving his support to Butale’s motion, Okavango Member of Parliament Bagalatia Arone said it was disheartening that though it has been clear over the years that there was a need for a beneficiation legislation to be put in place, government nonetheless chose to frustrate efforts of those who suggested the development of such legislation. Arone said though some argued that the mining industry was sensitive hence the need to exercise caution, the bottom is, it is a lucrative industry. He said Botswana need to move away from the stance that it has long held of being unnecessarily cautious at the expense of its resources.. "Personally I think we have been very slow and careful and in turn exported our jobs" said Arone.
When supporting the motion the minister of Minerals, Water and Energy, Kitso Mokaila assured the house of government’s commitment towards beneficiation. Mokaila said his ministry was currently reviewing the Mining and Diamond cutting Acts and will include elements of beneficiation in them. Mokaila said currently 1000 prospecting licences had been issued out and the fact that a sizeable number of them would not be economically viable to beget mines is proof that the market was highly sensitive and greatly influenced by supply and demand hence legislation should be flexible enough to protect the same industry they trying to benefit from.
For his part Gaborone Central Member of Parliament Phenyo Butale when supporting the motion said mineral beneficiation was a matter at the centre of the country' s economy. He said deliberate efforts to legislate the industry will further protect the nation. Butale said that innovate ways of ensuring that the same legislation is effective and serve its purpose should also be rafted. “five diamond cutting factories as we speak have not re-opened and have left locals stranded" said Butale.
Gaborone Bonnington South Member of parliament Ndaba Gaolatlhe said there were issues of broader contours that such legislation should address saying feasibility should take centre stage and it should be a staged process,” It is imperative that the country get it right” said Gaolatlhe.
He implored government to invest more on research and development , an area that he said government has for a long time neglected. “ There is need for a prescription of what percentage of the GDP is invested in research particularly of material science” he said . He also contended that in order to have the requisite skills and qualifications needed for beneficiation to be successful there is need for a radical and specific emphasis on technical education.
Meanwhile Butale Butale withdrew his motion in which he was requesting that government name a major government facility after the late Gomolemo Motswaledi in due recognition of his immense contribution to the nation of Botswana in the fields of Music and Politics He tabled the motion last week Friday and it was due for resumed debate.