Members of Parliament (MPs) have accused the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama of introducing the tourism act amendment bill to parliament without having done thorough consultations.
MPs last week rejected a motion to amend the bill which is intended to allow Botswana border officials to start collecting around P300 tourism development levy from non-SADC citizens upon entry into the country.
MPs were worried that Tshekedi wanted parliament to pass the bill into a law without consulting them or giving them an opportunity to look into suggested amendment of the tourism act. It has emerged that the minister also did not consult the Wildlife, Environment and Natural Resources Parliamentary Committee which was expected to have input on the amendment. “We were not given the opportunity to go through this bill, so it cannot just be tabled before parliament as matter of urgency. Furthermore, the minister has never explained this bill outside parliament, so my suggestion is that he should take it back to the general assembly where we would be able to discuss it and agree with him after his explanation,” said Pius Mokgware of Gabane/Mmankgodi.
Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi said the minister was supposed to consult the Wildlife, Environment and Natural Resources Committee of Parliament before proposing for the bill to be passed into law; “I was expecting to have come across a bill like this, at the Wildlife, Environment and Natural Resources Committee of Parliament, but it is unfortunate that the minister or even his staff never bothered to come and consult us on a bill that is likely to have very serious implications in the lives and businesses of our people.”
The MP stated that there was yet another fund which the ministry established many years ago called the Plastic Fund and expressed concern that even up to now while businesses collect that particular fund, government was not making any effort to recoup the money from it. “That is not the only levy in that ministry, there are other levies that are there which are not understood, some of which have caused havoc within the ministry. We cannot allow yet another levy to be imposed before we are thoroughly consulted,” said the legislator. He also suggested that the minister should go to the general assembly, where the bill can be explained and discussed before it is presented to parliament. “We will also be very grateful as the committee responsible, to be consulted thoroughly so that we can be in a position to come here and be of assistance to the minister.”
Figures provided by Statistics Botswana shows that through the tourism development levy, around P163 million can be raised. According to figures from the statistics agency out of around 2.6 million tourists who enter Botswana on annual basis, around 528 thousand of them are non-SADC countries and will be required to pay tourism development levy upon entry in the country. Tshekedi wanted parliament to urgently debate and pass the bill which requires the 528 000 non-SADC tourists to pay the levy.