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  • Coordinator and junior minister say the programme has ran out of money
  • They urge Batswana to return to “normal lives” of fending for themselves

SESUPO RANTSIMAKO

Batswana may have to return to their normal lives of fending for themselves because continuity of the COVID-19 relief food programme has fallen into doubt due to depletion of funds allocated to it, the Coordinator of the programme, Gabriel Seeletso, has revealed.

When the country went into lockdown nearly two months ago, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Eric Molale, said the P114 million programme would run for three months. However, Seeletso said nothing about its continuation when he briefed the City Council of Francistown last week.

But he created doubt, albeit indirectly, when he said only the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning could determine whether the government would continue with the programme by allocating more funds to it. “You might be aware that the funds allocated to the programme have been depleted and that more funds are needed for its continuation,” he said. “We can continue with the programme provided the funds we requested from the Ministry of Finance are approved.”

Seeletso added that because the lockdown has been lifted, Batswana should start living their normal lives of fending for themselves. The Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Setlhabelo Modukanele, buttressed this point, adding weight to the prospect of the programme being discontinued. “Since the lockdown has been eased, this is an opportunity for Batswana to start fending for themselves, more so that there are budget constraints,” he told the same council meeting.

Seeletso and the junior minister were saying this against the backdrop of the programme falling into disrepute for alleged corruption of those running it that begins with allocation of tenders for the supply of the food to distribution of the food hampers in which some of the most deserving people have been omitted as powerful people hoarded the food for themselves and their kith and kin.

P114 million was allocated to the programme that was to run for three months. However, addressing a televised press conference recently, Molale said P18 million reserved for buying agricultural produce from local farmers was almost finished. A total of 487 047 had already been assessed countrywide out of whom 317 787 were assisted. “We thought that the budget was enough to cover the food relief for the entire three months but we need more funds to continue,” the junior minister noted.

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