President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has amid budget constraints thrown out of the window Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators’ electioneering plan to increase Constituency Fund budget which they believed was going to earn the party more votes in the October general elections.
The plea was made early this year and was emphasized before the national budget approval at a number of party meetings with Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane asked to relay the message to his superior, President Masisi. The appeal, according to its proponents – majority of MPs, would work wonders for the BDP in the October elections later this year. BDP MPs proposed that the fund be increased from P10 million to P20 million per constituency.
This, they said, will ensure that their constituencies push a number of developmental agendas and backlog projects. Have members succeeded in their request; the government was going to be forced to be spend a whooping P1.1 billion on the initiative from the current budget of P570 million.
The P570 million constituency fund was introduced during former President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s administration. Constituency Fund is modelled in such a way that it channels money from central government directly to electoral constituencies for local infrastructure projects. Initially, many, including BDP politicians were skeptical of the whole idea positing that it is a scheme vulnerable to corruption and abuse.
However, BDP members have somersaulted and now want it increased as it has proved popular among electorates. “We have discussed this issue and suggested to the leadership that funds permitting the government must look at this initiative and increase its budget,” said one party insider. “For now the suggestion was it should be increased from P10 to P20 million because since its inception a number of communal projects have been pushed. These are the developments that are not in the National Development Plans or that will take time to be included in the NDP in the near future.” These recommendations were among a litany of those were given to parliamentary representatives by electorates.
However at last week’s all BDP candidates retreat at the party’s Treasurer Satar Dada’s plush home in Mmokolodi, Masisi did not buy the idea saying they should use the available funds like money sourced from investors to advance their campaigns. He went on to advise candidates that with few months before the polls they should use P10 million for constituency fund to lure votes. “You have P570 million of constituency funds including opposition constituencies and what are you doing with that monies. You should use it strategically so that you can show tangible results to voters. You should have charm so that people are happy. Campaign is like menstrual cycle,” he said when responding to the calls of increasing the fund.
He continued; “Let’s make people happy, the BDP should make Batswana happy. There are many attributes to it. Let’s not shout, hate and critique people. You are not representing the party. If you do that Le jelwe, he said. “Polotiki gase maikgantsho, don’t come with your fancy car at rallies because it might depict you as motho yoo maikgantsho. Fancy cars belong somewhere. We are about people feeling good, not yourself. Many of you should become politicians.”
It is said ever since the idea was sold to him Masisi never entertained it as there are number of priorities the government should invest in. “He is very weary of the budget implications on this issue. In fact, he believes the government could rather invest or increase budget of the relevant authorities depending on the needs of the area so that they could curb the shortcomings because needs vary per constituency rather than increasing by 100% monies across all the constituencies. Because constituency fund will directly and diligently push those works especially water deficiency and or erection of fences separating wildlife and humans; but Water Utilities or Wildlife department could use the money much better,” revealed a source.
The other factor that Masisi’s advisors gave him according to those in the know was that, “after making a number of adjustments to the budget like increasing public servants salaries, de-linking members of the disciplined forces as well as increasing members of the National Assembly wages he could be seen as reckless when it comes to spending public money.” All these plus increasing constituency fund, sources and observers alike say it was going to attract publish backlash and negativity on Masisi’s presidency.
Legislators on the other hand were of the view that this initiative could make it easy for BDP even in constituencies that are considered opposition stronghold, “because this is the idea of BDP and not the opposition, the voters should be made aware of that fact to show them that as a party we care about them.” When appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last year, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), Boipolelo Khumomatlhare revealed that they are in the process of reviewing the initiative.
“It has been said in the past that programs like Ipelegeng and lately constituency fund should be reviewed. It is difficult to say, but, yes, they should be reviewed. But they can be coordinated in a manner that could help in the National Development Plan or District Development Plan,” he said.
The Constituency Fund focuses on seven areas: Environment (planting of trees, cleaning the environment and establishment of parks in open spaces); Public Health (public health seminars, mobile clinics and improvement of health infrastructure); Education (extra-lessons for struggling students and additional facilities for schools, students and teachers); Sports and the Arts (sports and arts training clinics for the youth, aiding access to sporting, arts and music facilities, coordination of events and development of sport fields); Community Safety and Security (coordination of neighborhood-watch initiatives, procurement of security cameras and others); Infrastructure (financing of backlogs in infrastructure projects, including sewerage, dilapidated schools, clinics, and roads); and Small, Medium Enterprise and Business Development (training of hawkers and business-people on management and facilitating business development by supporting initiatives for access to funding and markets).
The outgoing President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ian Kirby, shares his thoughts with us as he leaves the Bench at the end of this year.
WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?
Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.
Botswana’s civil society is one of the non-state actors that could save the country’s democracy from sliding into regression, a Germany based think tank has revealed. This is according to a discussion paper by researchers at the German Development Institute who analysed the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes In Botswana.
In the paper titled “E-government and democracy in Botswana: Observational and experimental evidence on the effects of e-government usage on political attitudes,” the researchers offer a strongly worded commentary on Botswana’s ‘flawed democracy.’ The authors noted that with Botswana’s Parliament structurally – and in practice – feeble, the potential for checks and balances on executive power rests with the judiciary.
Bangwato in Serowe — where Bamagwato Paramount Chief and former President Lt. Gen Ian Khama originates – disagree on whether they must send a delegation to dialogue with President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s family in Moshupa. Just last week, a meeting was called by the Regent of Bamagwato, Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane, at Serowe Kgotla to, among others, update the tribe on the whereabouts of their Kgosi (Khama).
Further, his state of health was also discussed, with Kgamane telling the attendees that all is well with Khama. The main reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the escalating tension between Khama and Masisi — a three-year bloodletting going unabated.