The general membership of the national assembly is expected to deliberate on whether or not to strip the leader of the minority, Ndaba Gaolathe some powers which are somehow similar to that of president and leader of opposition.
The constitution of Botswana grants parliament “the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Botswana” and further grants parliament the power to regulate its own procedure. It is through Standing Orders that parliament guides its own procedure. Ever since the standing orders were first adopted by the assembly on October 1966, they have been amended 18 times and they will continue to as and when need arises.
Chairman of Standing Orders Committee Samson Moyo Guma was cagey to share details instead saying “the matter is still being discussed, so let the legislators deliberate on it, finish it off then that is when we will discuss more about it,” he said when asked about the looming revision of the parliamentary guiding tools bordering on the leader of the minority.
This publication was nonetheless informed that the committee, which has in the past tried to curtail the leader of AP powers and failed are hell-bent on the matter and are pushing for it to once more be debated by the members. The issue will be debated by members of the national assembly in the upcoming winter session. The powers bestowed to the leader of minority, who in the current parliament is AP leader Gaolathe, have been the supremacy to bring speeches while responding to the State of Nation Address (SONA), Budget Speech or any other Government Policy Statement and are akin to that of president Mokgweetsi Masisi, leader of opposition Duma Boko and Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Mathambo.
Furthermore in the standing order no 9.4 which were revised last year, Gaolathe has been “allotted a longer speaking time than ordinary members but lesser time than that of leader of opposition” while responding to some of the government statements. These are the only notable significances that distinguish him from legislators. While the AP approves the status quo, antagonists say, the minority party is catered for by the leader of opposition hence there is no need to have two opposition leaders speaking at one point against one voice of the ruling party/President.
The AP leader who is highly regarded as one of the country’s finest in the economic fora has degrees in Mathematics and Economics. He is also a graduate of the Wharton School, where he earned an MBA in Finance. He has worked in various capacities including as CEO of a private equity firm, and consulted widely in strategy, finance, management and restructuring across sectors and geographies.
“This power has allowed him to critically dissect the issues of bread and butter in-depth and analytically especially the budget speech. This, in a democratic dispensation like Botswana where opposition parties are seen as advisors to the ruling party not enemies will be a regressive step in the socio-economic development,” according to AP Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale.
“We know there was attempt to do away with this, but as AP we thought it would curtail the powers of leader of minority. We stood our ground as that is the standard practice. Plurality of views should be allowed in a democratic set-up and we are opposed to what was planned as we believe it will be improper and democratic,” said Butale.
It will be seen as to whether the members of parliament will vote against or for Ndaba to continue enjoying the current privileges. The winter session of parliament will start on the 4th of next month until July. This is the session mostly focused in making laws, unlike the other two sittings of February-April (the longest-focused on budget speech) and October-December which is focused on the state of the nation address.
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.