The question of who or what is an indigenous Motswana has once again emerged. However, this time around, Minister Mmusi Kgafela, who leads the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, has decided to play dumb by categorically stating that he does not have a clear answer to the question.
But who or what is an indigenous Motswana? This is the hard question that put Minister Kgafela struggled to answer when he was called upon to in Parliament recently. Answering a question from the MP for Gaborone Central, Tumisang Healy, Kgafela said he does not have a clear answer of who an indigenous Motswana is.
Healy had asked about efforts in place to ensure economic empowerment for indigenous Batswana and if government is satisfied with the level of citizen participation in the mainstream economy,. “I am not sure,” came the response of Minister Kgafela. “I do not have a clear answer for this because firstly I do not quite know what indigenous Batswana really means.” He went on to say he was not so sure whether the MP wanted to say black Batswana as opposed to white, Asians, Hispanics and so on. “I do not know how far back in history do we go and what the cut-off point is,” he said.
The cut-off date becomes a cut-off point from which all people before it are considered indigenous Batswana and those after are not indigenous because “we Bakgatla ba ga Kgafela, will be not indigenous because we come from South Africa,” he said, referring to his tribe. He added that he was not assisted with a consensus of who is indigenous and who is not. “What we have in the Economic Inclusion Act is a ‘targeted citizen,’ which does not make any distinction on the basis of the straightness or not of one’s hair,” Kgafela said.
“It looks purely at the historic economic disadvantage of the person. It does not look at his race, whether he is Asian or not. So, as far as that law is concerned, it looks at all Batswana who are citizens and who have suffered historically some economic disadvantage. So, I do not have an answer.” With Botswana among the top three most unequal countries in the world, the government relies on studies and surveys conducted by entities like Statistics Botswana and the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) to assess the well-being and progress of citizens, he noted.
He said in 2013 PEEPA carried out a study that influenced the Citizen Economic Empowerment Policy while in 2018 the Botswana Institute of Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) was engaged to evaluate the effectiveness of the CEE policy. BIDPA recommended that implementation of some of the citizen economic empowerment initiatives should be hastened.
Regarding whether the government is satisfied with the level of citizen participation in the economic activity, Minister Kgafela responded: “Of course, we are not satisfied. That is the reason we have brought about the economic inclusion law of 2021 to put in place the institutional setup and the mechanism to facilitate implementation, to strengthen enforcement, to address the need for clarity, uniformity and alignment, and to ensure compliance.”
Kgafela said his ministry is in the process of establishing structures and processes for implementing the law. “These include the development of Economic Inclusion Regulations whose draft I do have at hand and which I am still poring over,” he said.