Members of Parliament across the political divide have implored the commission appointed and mandated by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to review salaries of senior government officials and politicians, to be cognisant of the challenges faced by legislators in execution of their duties.
The legislators are said to have made their case clear at a general assembly meeting held last week Thursday. The agenda of the meeting was to give MPs an update on the review process. At the same assembly the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) was invited to update members on the low turnout of voters at election registration points.However, top of the agenda was the salary review with the voter registration issue given peripheral status.
Masisi appointed a commission to review salaries of senior government officials and politicians recently. The commission is led by Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe. Other members include Thebe Mogami, Ntshabele Manamela, Oduetse Motshidisi, Motlhagodi Molomo, Tsetsele Fantan and Alpheus Matlhaku.Last year the MPs were given a 4 percent salary increase which brought an MP’s monthly salary to P23, 786 per month which is P285, 432. 20 per annum. In addition constituency allowances were also hiked for the members to serve voters diligently. Before then in 2015 they were also given a 6 percent increase.
But the legislators’ demand for a hefty salary adjustment face backlash following their rejection of a motion by Jwaneng-Mabutsane representative Shaun Ntlhaile calling on Government to introduce a living wage. “I cannot say a definite figure because as MPs we have never reached a consensus on the matter but we want something meaningful. If we can have a 20 percent increment and hopefully 30 percent constituency allowance depending on the vastness of the area,” said one MP who attended the meeting.
The legislators are further arguing that they should be entitled to a driver and a vehicle just like ministers so their job could be easier. “We have travelled around the world and mingled with some peers just across the border from SADC parliamentary forum and we are getting peanuts as pay. So apart from the salary, there are other factors that the commission should bear in mind. We should have a driver and a car which takes an MP to his constituency as and when one needs to,” added another MP.
As it is currently, backbenchers use their personal vehicles when they visit their constituencies, while ministers while on official duty are entitled to ministerial vehicles.No one is bold to come out about the matter as it is said to be “sensitive and could cause ruckus.” This they say, it is because there is a structure created to look at the matter and it would seem they are too forward.
Botswana MPs reports have always maintained that they are one of the lowest paid in the continent and the world. Former MP David Magang indicated in one of his books that legislators’ salaries are just peanuts and that “peanuts attract monkeys.” Nigerian MPs are among the highest paid in the continent and the world.
In addition to basic salary, they get a string of allowances in the form of hardship allowance, constituency, furniture, newspaper, wardrobe, recess allowance, accommodation, utilities, domestic staff and entertainment allowances. Kenyan MPs, are the second highest paid in the world. Ghana is also cited as paying politicians well. South African MPs now earn R 1, 1 million a year excluding other benefits.
LEGISLATORS BLAME IEC OVER REGISTRATION
Meanwhile the legislators at the meeting are said to have told IEC representatives that they have a hand in the low numbers that registered to vote in next year’s elections. They argue that IEC failed to mobilise the public to vote by raising awareness in various platforms available. “We have had songs, billboards and posters everywhere in the past but this time around it was just quite, so somehow they had a hand on this. But we asked them if funds are not enough or what,” Gaborone North legislator Haskins Nkaigwa said.
It is further said that the decision by IEC, without consulting the MPs, to reduce registration stations also had effect. A number of constituencies according to legislators have registration centres cut forcing prospective voters to travel as long as 30km to register. The MPs have nonetheless requested the IEC to do a supplementary registration. IEC PRO Osupile Maropa has stated that approximately 750 000 have registered to vote.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.