MP for Gaborone Central, Dr Phenyo Butale's motion that sought to have government arrest escalating fuel prices following yet another increase on Wednesday night, was shot down by a majority on the floor of Parliament on Friday morning.
The motion, was defeated by 19 votes to 13. On Wednesday night retail price for unleaded petrol 93 and 95 increased by 23 thebe per litre while that of diesel 500ppm and 50ppm increased by 45 thebe per litre. Illuminating paraffin goes for 38 thebe more per litre.
Dr Butale wanted Parliament to consider alternative options to cushion fuel price hikes and their frequency, by authorizing funds to subsidise price hikes. He also proposed that Parliament use money from other Funds such as the Road Fund Levy to augment the depleted National Petroleum fund (NPF). He said the NPF currently only has P76 million, a far cry from the P1 billion that the country owes to multinational fuel suppliers.
Dr Butale had also proposed that the P1 billion debt could be sold to commercial institutions so as to alleviate the pressure from government. Lending support to his comrade was Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi who submitted that although the NPF was initially put in place to cushion the ever increasing cost of fuel to the end-user but due to despondency the funds have been squandered by a few elite, whom he closely associated with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). "The badly injured NPF was initially set up to curb expected and frequent fuel price hikes," said Mmolotsi, insisting that NPF has since been turned into a cash-cow.
BDP legislators were also accused of not taking into consideration the implications that the fuel increases have on people. "Petrol prices are very high in countries that do not have such measures as the NPF in place. This motion asks of us to look at other ways of ensuring that the fuel increases do not come as frequently as they seem to be. The NPF does not have enough funds to assist with the situation at this moment, therefore we should look to diverting a part of the Road Fund Levy to alleviate the situation," said Mmolotsi.
For his part, Leader of Opposition (LOO), Advocate Duma Boko said, before the motion got shot down through a 19-13 vote, the house should consider a number of options in curbing further price increases. He said this was with particular reference to the expected fuel increase to be effected in December this year. "If there is any increase that we might arrest or prevent, it will be the envisaged one of December (2018) if any emergency stop-gap funding mechanism is found. Is it reasonably possible to avert that in the time available?" he asked his counterparts.
He also said if the house considers selling the P1 billion debt it owes to the multinational fuel suppliers to commercial banks as Butale had recommended, in an effort to avert the December 2018 fuel hike, they would be "attempting to close the stables after the horses have bolted." He highlighted that the time frame between now and the next price increase would not allow for that.
Dismissing the motion, MP Eric Molale said the motion was not urgent and also redundant. He said what Dr Butale was suggesting has laways been in place. "Petroleum products have always been controlled (locally) to cushion Batswana from sharply increasing prices," he said. Molale also said the due such cushion Botswana fuel consumers continue to enjoy the lowest fuel prices in the Southern African region.