The Ministry of Trade and Industry, has joined the growing chorus for a law on Citizen Economic Empowerment and has come up with a draft law that will be tabled in Parliament as it resumes in two weeks time.
However, the news of the draft law came as a shock to members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) who say that the ministry has not consulted legislators, and therefore cannot take to draft law to the National Assembly.
“How can you say you are going to table a CEE Bill in Parliament when you have not consulted us the people’s representatives? Have you come up with a new consultation process that excludes us from making inputs and taking inputs from our constituents,” said Francistown West legislator, Ignatius Moswaane.
The legislators also wanted to know whether the ministry followed all laid down procedures before even thinking about gazetting the draft Bill, or taking it to Parliament.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Keganele Malikongwa, said that her ministry has consulted as many stakeholders as possible but due to outbreak of COVID19 and the subsequent lockdown, they were not able to engage legislators for their input.
“We have consulted the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development who then engaged councilors on the matter. We also held virtual meetings to solicit ideas on what the law should entail”.
The excuse was not enough to convince the MPs that the draft law should even qualify to be referred to as a Bill.
Pushed into a tight corner, Malikongwa then rephrased her statement to say it is just a document, before once again saying it is a draft Bill.
“I understand the concerns of the Honourable members, at this point I cannot say it is a Bill, it is a document that will be drafted into a Bill. But we have engaged the Attorney General for drafting and we can say it is a draft Bill”.
The MP for Gantsi South, Johan Thiite had asked the Permanent Secretary on why the government had allowed big retail stores and wholesalers to sell almost everything to disadvantage Batswana-owned businesses such as butcheries, general dealers, and poultry.
Malikongwa said that the government had resolved to make CEE a law to make it compelling to procurement officers to buy from locals and small businesses.
She said that currently, there is only a policy which is not binding.