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ASSISTANT MINISTER: Mthimkhulu

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Divided on the poverty line

* ‘Eradication Programme has helped reduce poverty!’ insists Mthimkhulu

* ‘P1.4 billion spent on PEP but poverty is on the rise!’ maintains Saleshando

Although they did not have the numbers to prove it, government are adamant poverty levels in the country have gone done since the Poverty Eradication Programme was launched ten years ago.

Defending the programme in parliament on Wednesday, Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Dumezweni Mthimkhulu, revealed govt’ have pumped P1.4 billion into the initiative, established to empower those living in abject poverty.

Mthimkhulu was responding to questions raised by Maun West Member of Parliament (MP), Dumelang Saleshando, who wanted to know the total number of beneficiaries and graduates of the programme, as well as the value of the packages extended to the beneficiaries.

In response, Mthimkhulu revealed a total of 41,075 beneficiaries have been sponsored for both individual and group projects. Additionally, as of the end of March last year, 3,114 beneficiaries have graduated from the programme.

UNIMPRESSED: Saleshando

Mthimkhulu told parliament that the total value of the projects cost P660 million, which is part of the P1.4 billion forked out by government.

The remaining balance, roughly P713 million, was for mobilisation, assessment, and training of beneficiaries and salaries for support staff.

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“To date, 21,284 projects are operational throughout the country while 2,679 have collapsed,” revealed the Assistant Minister, adding projects that collapsed include: backyard gardening, tent hire, entertainment, catering, and services that are auxiliary to the tourism sector.

An unimpressed Saleshando voiced concern that while government has spent huge amounts of money on the programme, poverty levels in the country are increasing.

However, Mthimkhulu, who is MP for Gaborone South, disputed this claim, insisting poverty has in fact decreased.

Meanwhile, in a recent study by Statistics Botswana, titled ‘Perceptions on well-being’, 3,240 families were asked to rank their well-being.

The study found that 51.2 percent of the households rated themselves as ‘middle class’, followed by those who ranked themselves as ‘poor’ at 33.9 percent. Those who regarded themselves as ‘very poor’ stood at 13.4 percent while on the other end of the scale, only 0.9 percent rated themselves ‘rich’.

The Poverty Eradication Programme

In 2011, government revamped its effort and commitment to addressing poverty and came up with Poverty Eradication Programme (PEP) to economically empower and capacitate current and prospective beneficiaries to lead a dignified life.

PEP is meant to assist individuals and or groups to graduate from extreme poverty or abject poverty through:

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– Sustainable income generation and employment initiatives

– Capacity building and skills development

– Organised individuals or groups and provide funds in order to promote micro and small scale entrepreneurship

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