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‘Re jelwe!’ Tshekedi Khama speaks on plastic levy

Publishing Date : 10 April, 2018

Author : UTLWANANG GASENNELWE

In a fresh turn of events, the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama has this week made shocking revelations that the Botswana consumers have been swindled of their hard earned money through the controversial plastic levy.


Weekend Post has established that while it is not yet law, manufactures have been charging consumers the plastic levy since 2007 as they have included the fee in the total amount for the plastics. In return the retailers also charge buyers separately, both amassing huge profits in millions from the transactions.


“To be honest, re jelwe (we have been defrauded or fleeced). The manufacturers and retailers have found a loophole on dodging to pay government in the rolling out of the plastic levy.” Khama blames both the manufacturers and retailers for entering into the deal in bad faith and in the process ripping off the consumers from the incomplete (as the funds were not collected) yet consequential deal. Khama also admitted that as government, they also erred precisely by not being able to put appropriate systems in place to collect the said levy on time.


Khama, in 2017, told a parliamentary committee, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that due to government’s failure to regulate and collect the plastic levy, the initiative as such failed its purpose and retailers are taking advantage.  “Batswana are being overcharged by paying for plastics at the same time having to pay for a commodity that is included in the price of packaging. The value of your shopping from a retailer is further increased by the cost of a retailer that they are selling the plastic for,” he was quoted conceding at PAC.


Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry has since distanced themselves from the failed levy and could also not quantify the amount accumulated from the levy since its introduction in 2007 referring this publication to Ministry of Environment, Natural resources Conservation and Tourism. “The plastic levy falls under Tshekedi Khama’s Ministry. They are the ones responsible for collection of the levy,” Assistant Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry told this publication upon inquiries on the funds.


As far as he knows, he said, as government they have failed to collect the levy and that means as well that the general Botswana consumers are poorer as they have lost on the transaction. In this publication’s endeavor to put a figure on the amount accrued from the plastic levy business deal, both Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry as well as Ministry of Environment, Natural resources Conservation and Tourism could not shed some light into the amount.


Tshekedi Khama could only state in a short message sender (sms) conversation with this reporter that “I don’t have the statistics on that, maybe Statistics Botswana could help or the Ministry of Trade.”  However the Statistics Botswana officials insisted that they do not have such information as to how much was accrued from the levy.  The National Strategy Office which is also fingered in the collection of the levy washed their hands maintaining that they “are not the right office for those figures” and referring this publication back to Tshekedi Khama’s Ministry.


Tshekedi Khama hurriedly introduced the levy under controversial circumstances which has now milked the customers millions of pula for far too long. The levy was initially intended to discourage buying of plastics as were seen as an environmental hazard. As government has failed to implement and collect funds accrued from the levy, the plastic industry has this week curiously denied the existence of the said plastic levy. A Marketing Executive at Choppies, Tshego Molosiwa told Weekend Post when contacted for a comment that the said plastic levy could not materialize.


“We have noted your enquiry with regards to the Plastic Levy. There is currently no levy that retailers pay to government as no measures have been put in place for such a transaction to materialize,” she said. Another retail official for a multi-corporation supermarket who preferred speaking on condition of anonymity pointed a finger at the manufactures accusing them of collecting the levy at the expense of government and at the detrimental of consumers.


It is understood that this leads to retailers in turn being forced to charge extra charge and that they will continue to charge consumers as and when they buy the plastics. “We buy at the plastic manufacturers whom include the cost of levy in their price. Already there is levy in manufactures plastic levy. The manufactures then have to transfer to government the said levy because it’s already included when the manufacturers sell to the retailers,” he pointed out.


He said as retailers they do not get in contact with such funds just like it is the case with the controversial much talked about National Petroleum Funds (NPF) as the filling stations too do not get in contact with the NPF funds. For plastic levy the retail official pulled government’s leg sarcastically to say that she (government) “failed to collect the levy and maybe she saved us from stealing the money as it happened with the NPF.” More than 250 million pula, and the figure keeps up shooting, has been stolen from the NPF and the matter is currently being handled before the courts.


The retail official also stated that “but to be honest the plastic industry in Botswana at one point went to government with the intention to give it the plastic levy, but nobody wanted to collect it. Tshekedi said he is not interested. Meanwhile millions of pula has been collected. The money is there at the manufacturers. Supermarkets have a record.” He added that, now the government has taken a decision to cancel the plastics, and that Tshekedi cancelled the levy and as retailers they will obey the law. He continued “we will use the biodegradables.”


On his part the Director of plastic manufacturers, MW Packages and Mushtaq Plastics, Nadeem Symeed told Weekend Post separately that there is no such thing as plastic levy. He said this against the backdrop of information that manufactures nonetheless have been charging for the levy in their sales. “There is nothing as plastic levy as it has not been implemented. There is even no law to that effect,” he highlighted to this reporter when quizzed.


Introduced in 2007 as a mechanism to fund environmentally pleasant practices, the plastic levy now appears like is a lost dream with chunks of unstated funds accumulated falling in the wrong hands and not assisting in the purpose in which it was intended to do for the environment.


Collecting the levy has demonstrated to be, for government, a burdensome undertaking for the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, as the public’s hard earned cash remain uncollected, benefitting the business owners who are now, as it appears, disowning the levy funds.

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