The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers who are returning to parliament, have this week drawn first blood following newly elected President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s cabinet appointments.
Masisi announced on Wednesday that he has elevated 18 Members of Parliament to the cabinet positions including 7 Assistant Ministers summing to 25 out of the 44 pool of ruling party legislators available at his disposal. The backbench is now left with a paltry 19 members in which those returning to parliament are Liakat Kablay, Ignatious Moswaane, Paulson Majaga and Mephato Reatile while opposition members from different parties are also 19.
Some of the returning backbenchers told Weekend Post this week that they have sharpened their ammunition ready to shake the current parliament. Former Chief Whip in the last parliament sitting and Letlhakeng/Lephephe Member of Parliament Liakat Kablay, has expressed disappointment for not making it to the new cabinet appointments, stating that it appears they have only been cut for the backbench.
“Clearly we belong to the backbench. We know it’s the President’s prerogative to appoint Ministers. So, if he doesn’t see us fit enough to be in cabinet, there is nothing we can do really, but just to go back to the backbench,” he fumed. The BDP MP further observed that they find solace in the fact that most Ministers in recent years have been losing elections either at primary elections or national level and therefore it’s also a blessing in disguise not to be in cabinet.
“Some of them lost because they ended up neglecting their constituencies in favour of cabinet responsibility. And some when they get there they don’t listen to both of us and the people especially constituents,” he lashed out. However, the Letlhakeng/Lephephe lawmaker continued: “it’s still fine as people elected us to be legislators anyway. We are not really sad because we are MP’s after all and we are happy to at least represent our constituents.”
Another backbencher, also returning to parliament, Francistown lawmaker Ignatious Moswaane, who also concurred with Kablay, stated that MPs in ministerial positions are conflicted. He observed: “I believe MPs should not be Ministers because they are conflicted. As we know the three Arms of Government are; Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary. An MP plays both roles of MP and that of the Executive, hence there is no separation of powers in our instance.”
That’s why, he added that he believes cabinet members must be appointed from outside parliament. In addition, the backbencher highlighted that cabinet Ministers must also be paid equal to their peers in the Executive to entice the Parliamentarians. “If you can realise the issue of salaries also divide the MPs and the Executives, because Ministers are paid P20 000 more than the Parliamentarians and so MPs see cabinet posts as promotion,” he pointed out.
Above all, Moswaane stated that Ministers in Botswana also outnumber the backbench and that’s not good for democracy. “If this happens, it will easily rubber stamp the decision of the Executive, since the Executive would overpower them in numerical strengths,” he asserted. According to the maverick lawmaker, this may make sense to other countries because their legislators are more than 200 with their MPs being in the region of 40 or so and this enables them to hold the Executive easily accountable.
His conviction is that: “I believe there must be a strong backbench to give oversight to the Executive and hold it accountable.” The Francistown West MP also made mention that not being in cabinet will also make him speak his mind as an independent parliamentarian. “So if am not cabinet, my role as a backbencher will give me mileage in politics,” he said.
‘My role and mandate is to be an MP and that is what the people have sent me to parliament for’, Moswaane explained, while stressing that he acknowledges that the President chooses those he thinks can assist him in delivering his mandate, so as MPs they should allow the President to elect a team that he believes in. Meanwhile, Nata/Gweta legislator Paulson Majaga, who is serving his second term in Parliament also highlighted that by being snubbed for cabinet appointment does not put them in good position/light at their constituencies.
“People and particularly our constituents, always wonder why we are never considered in cabinet while others always make it, even the new ones including Special Elected Members of Parliament,” the Nata/Gweta MP said. He continued: “I think I qualify to be in cabinet because of my vast experience and moreover I have been winning the constituency for the party for long now.”
According to the MP, being in cabinet gives one mileage and it is for this reason that at a BDP primary election, his contender Lawrence Ookeditse said he should be preferred because he is “cabinet material” and close to Masisi. Majaga is worried that despite winning the constituency in all elections, “since 1962 our constituents have not experienced a cabinet Minister except for Oliphant Mfa, who became an Assistant Minister of Local Government for six months and later ejected from the position and went back to the backbench.”
He emphasised that it was said that this crop of MP’s belong to the backbench but they don’t agree with them as they have built the government with all – under arduous circumstances. “So we do want those positions in cabinet too.” In addition Majaga said he thinks the President should involve them in the discussion for the appointment of his cabinet and assist him where they can.
The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.
Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.
US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.
Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.
“The founders of our Republic de-centralised authority significantly in creating our constitutional system, which means that they gave an enormous amount of independent power and authority to State and local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.
Unlike parliamentary democracies, like Botswana the United States does not have all of the national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where the entire federal government is elected all in one election cycle giving a “mandate” to a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.
The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators serve for six years and one third of the Senate is elected every two years.
For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice
President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.
An important facet of US electoral system to understand given the federalism nature of the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.
“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State is assigned a number of electors to our Electoral College and the candidate who wins the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.
“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”
Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to win a State by one vote to win a 100 percent of its electors, the margin does not matter.
“Donald Trump won many more States by smaller margins, hence he got an Electoral College majority.”
Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.
“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going to break with the popular vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.
“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”
There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.
If however there are more candidates, and this happens extremely rarely, and a third candidate got some electors to the Electoral College denying the two major party candidates, either one getting a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.
“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.
BLUE STATES vs RED STATES
Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.
Many states have populations that are so heavily concentrated in the Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.
California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.
However there are swing states, where there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.
“So it ends up making a national contest for the presidency actually look like several state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.