President Lt Gen Ian Khama is uncompromising on his stance on the show of hands – instead of secret ballot – for Parliament to endorse his next Vice President and elect the Speaker of the National Assembly.
Pundits and party insiders are of the view that the President has little doubt his Vice President choice will go through, but his main concern is over the choice of Speaker of the National Assembly. There is a case for Margaret Nasha and another for Gladys Kokorwe, who have both declared interest in the post.
The current impasse relating to the endorsement of the Vice President as well as election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker has got people wondering whether it has anything to do with succession or not.
Parliament was on Thursday this week informed that the election of the country’s next Vice President and the Speaker will only be held after the High Court has finalised the matter.
The Attorney General, Athalia Molokomme has served all parties in Parliament, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) with court papers.
Molokomme is challenging the parliamentary Standing Orders which she insists are unconstitutional and do not allow for such elections to be conducted through a secret ballot. She wants it done by show of hands.
To strengthen their case, President Khama has roped in his private lawyers into the matter.
However, suggestions are that President Khama, who lost many of his former Cabinet Ministers and right-hand men in the just-ended general election, is trying to create favourable Standing Orders to his favour as he is allegedly unsure whether his newly elected MPs would support his nominees.
However, Thursday’s Cabinet appointments could also alter the picture, with a weakened Backbench; BDP MPs are likely to agree with all caucus decisions.
Information reaching this publication suggests that the President is trying to block the immediate former Speaker of the House (Dr Nasha) from retaining the position through the support of opposition members and some of the ruling party legislators.
The combined opposition, which holds 20 seats in Parliament against BDP’s 37, is planning to nominate Nasha as the Speaker at the expense of Khama’s favourite Gladys Kokorwe, the former Kweneng South East MP, who recently returned to Botswana after serving as the country’s ambassador to Zimbabwe.
“The President is trying to block Nasha from Parliament however the President’s other concern is that his MPs may refuse to endorse the Vice President of his choice. Whoever his choice is, it is obvious that a lot of the MPs would not be happy with it,” said one of the newly elected MPs.
But most BDP insiders are quick to admit that the Thursday Cabinet appointment may change the game altogether. Of the 16 or so BDP legislators who are not in Cabinet, it is difficult to pick one who could be a rebel. The most experienced backbenchers include Kagiso Molatlhegi and Samson Guma Moyo.
Therefore, President Khama’s decision to appoint Cabinet could help to get the compact 37 votes of BDP MPs to endorse his choices if the ballot is done by show of hand and not by secret ballot.
“The Attorney General drafted the Standing Orders, which she is challenging before court today. When she drafted them, where was the Constitution? Why now? This shows that she is being used,” charged another MP.
MPs sworn-in on Thursday afternoon will be undergoing orientation in the coming week while the issue at hand returns to the courts on November 6.
MASIRE BLASTS AUTOMATIC SUCCESSION
Meanwhile, former President Sir Ketumile Masire insists that Parliament is an independent body empowered to change its Standing Orders as and when the need arises.
Masire gave the example with President of Botswana’s term of Office which he says is erroneous in that it leads to a situation where the Vice President automatically becomes President before taking a party to elections.
“I admit the blunder on our part. It has already been done, Mogae (Festus) set a precedent and served 10 years in office and so Khama has to,” he said.
The former President is of the view that President Khama could solve the problem by serving his full term, adding the other two years to ensure that the next Vice President takes his party through to the 2019 general election and only becomes President upon winning. Standing Orders are viewed as subsidiary dispensation that aids the operations of the National Assembly in accordance with the Botswana Constitution.
PRECEDENT – Khama, Merafhe, Balopi and Kedikilwe
Despite an impression that has been created suggesting that towards the end of the 10th Parliament, the Standing Orders were amended to introduce a secret ballot for the election of Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the endorsement of the VP, it has emerged that this is not correct.
Records indicate that the clause on secret ballot for these elections was part of the Standing Orders. In 2004 former Tonota MP Patrick Balopi was elected Speaker and Kokorwe Deputy Speaker through secret balloting. President Khama himself was endorsed as VP by secret ballot and so were Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe in 2008 and Ponatshego Kedikilwe later.
STANDING ORDERS COMMITTEE – Saleshando’s view
According to a former member of the Standing Orders Committee, former Gaborone Central MP, Dumelang Saleshando, the Standing Orders were amended in 2014 to introduce a voting booth in Parliament to facilitate for the holding of a secret ballot.
Saleshando indicated that previously, MPs would complete their ballot papers to endorse the VP and elect both Speaker and Deputy from their seats.
“Those who have been to Parliament will know that the seating arrangement is not most conducive for the conduct of a secret ballot. The introduction of a voting booth, in our view, was necessary to allow for a truly secret ballot,” he said.
“It appears to me that the issue before the courts is as to whether there should ever have been provision for a secret ballot. Standing Orders are rules of Parliament meant to give guidance and order to the conduct of parliamentary business.
“They are crafted so as to facilitate the conduct of business in the House. The Constitution is the parent law and where it refers to the endorsement of the VP as well as election of Speaker, it does not state how that process should be carried out. It is normal for subsidiary legislation (the standing orders are subsidiary legislation) to add meat to the provisions of the Constitution or a parent law,” said Saleshando.
He went on: “The issue, as I understand it, seems to be that since the Constitution does not state that the ballot shall be secret, it should therefore be by show of hands. It is not being suggested that the Constitution directs that the voting be by show of hand. As I indicated above, voting has never been by show of hands in the last 10 years.”
In an era where the advocacy for the rights and inclusion of marginal groups, especially individuals beset with profound and multiple impairments, grows more fervent, the Ministry of Education and Skills Development is actively devising schemes to integrate these individuals comprehensively.
Embarking on a pioneering venture, heralded by the Minister Douglas Letsholathebe, the establishment of a novel facility designated for individuals faced with disabilities is on the horizon, set to inaugurate in Maun by mid-2024.
This forthcoming entity, bestowed with the title “Maun Center for Learners with Severe and Multiple Disabilities,” is set to emerge as a sanctuary for those grappling with intense and diverse disabilities in the expanse of the Ngamiland District. Its mission extends beyond serving as a haven; it aims to elevate educational standards and secure outstanding scholastic achievements for this special cohort.
With palpable optimism, Dr. Letsholathebe heralds that this sanctuary, a collective effort of the ministry’s allies, is constructed and awaits its ceremonial launch in the June of 2024, marking a significant epoch in the winter season.
“Construction of the Maun Center for Learners with Severe and Multiple Disabilities has concluded, now in the stewardship of my Ministry. We are poised for its operational unveiling come June 2024,” Dr. Letsholathebe revealed, signaling a new chapter of assurance.
The Government of the Republic of Botswana is steadfast in elevating the status of individuals with disabilities, fostering an environment where their rights are fervently protected and upheld.
Echoing this commitment, the recent adoption of the Persons Living with Disabilities Act marks a historic stride. Its foremost objective is the establishment of the National Disability Coordinating Office alongside the National Disability Council, aligning with the mandates of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This movement is expected to significantly influence the integration of disability-centric issues.
Moreover, this legislative framework is set to fortify ongoing initiatives, increasing the economic participation of disabled individuals, thereby enhancing their living conditions and steering them towards securing a life marked by dignity and fulfillment.
In light of historical evidence, individuals bearing disabilities have consistently encountered significant obstacles in securing employment, often finding themselves at the margins of the workforce. Constraints to equitable employment opportunities compared to their non-disabled counterparts were a common plight.
A substantial portion of employers harbor reservations about integrating people with disabilities into their workplaces, fearing potential complications. Only a select few are open to the idea of employing individuals with disabilities. Consequently, these individuals face heightened unemployment rates and a lack of social support, exacerbating their vulnerability to economic hardship. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), along with the nation of Botswana, champions the cause of workplace inclusion for people with disabilities.
Statistics from Botswana’s multi-topic survey for the fourth quarter of 2021 underscore the situation. The labor force comprising individuals with disabilities saw an uptick to 11,553 from 8,649 in just a year. Among these, 4,313 were males and 7,240 were females. The unemployed tally stood at 2,195, against 9,358 who were employed. A notable majority resided in Urban Villages, with the remainder spread across rural locales and cities.
During this quarter, individuals with disabilities accounted for approximately 1.3 percent (9,358 persons) of the overall 717,418 employed populace, marking a significant increase from the previous year. The distribution of employed persons with disabilities across various areas also saw changes, with urban regions employing a majority, followed by rural areas and cities.
The report further delves into the occupational landscape for people with disabilities, noting a predominant employment in service/sales roles over elementary positions – a contrast to the broader employment data.
Despite a reduction in unemployment figures for individuals with disabilities from the preceding year, the unemployment rate stands at a worrying 19.0 percent, with disparities between genders. Urban areas house the majority of the unemployed, with rural areas and cities following suit.
Unemployment across different age groups reveals a balanced distribution, highlighting a widespread issue across the demographic spectrum. This paints a vivid picture of the ongoing challenges and gradual progress within the sphere of employment for people with disabilities.
Majority of employers are still hesitant to employ people with disabilities because they believe they may bring problems in the workplace. Only a few employers are willing to hire workers with disabilities. This as a result makes people living with disability to be affected by high unemployment and insufficient social protection which then further increases their risk of poverty. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is advocating for the inclusion of people with disability in the world of work and Botswana as a country too is advocating for their inclusion in the workplaces.
According to statistics Botswana, multi-topic survey quarter 4, 2021 labour force module report, the total labour force for people with disability was estimated at 11,553 persons, an increase of 2,904 persons over a period of twelve months (from 8,649 persons recorded in Q4 2020). From this total, 4,313 persons were males while 7,240 were females. In addition, 2,195 persons were unemployed whereas 9,358 persons were employed. Furthermore, the data showed the majority of labour force with disability were in Urban Villages (6,185), 3,708 were in rural areas and 1,661 in Cities & Towns.
The essence of community and local flair reigns supreme as St Louis Lager takes a bold step with its ambitious “Hype the Homegrown” Initiative, designed to bolster the visibility and support for local artists and home-based brands, weaving them into the fabric of mainstream success through revolutionary partnerships.
The launchpad for this endeavor has been set with a plethora of creative projects. Among them, a musical odyssey titled “The Journey,” featuring the fusion of local House and Pop virtuoso Hanceford Magapatona, widely celebrated as Han C. Enriching the project further are talents like the visionary Producer Flex the Ninja and the RnB Phenom, Priscilla K, whose track “Away” has captured hearts. This six-track EP, ripe with local genius, is up for grabs across all streaming services, inviting listeners to a world of Botswana’s finest.
But “Hype the Homegrown” transcends the bounds of musical exploration, delving into the realms of fashion and lifestyle, stitching a dynamic collaboration with Collections by B.K. Proctor. This venture, rooted in 100% local ownership by the trailblazing Rapper and Entrepreneur Bokang βBKβ Proctor alongside Digital Maverick, Fifi Wale, showcases a vibrant melding of St Louis Lager and Collections by BK Proctor insignias across a series of street-savvy sneakers and tees. These exclusive pieces have hit the shelves at the Collections by BK Proctor boutiques within the bustling hubs of Gaborone Fairgrounds Mall, Grand Palm, and Toro Junction Mall in Francistown.
Unveiled by the marketing maestro of Kgalagadi Breweries Limited, Gaamanngwe Ramokgothwane, this initiative not only shines a spotlight on KBL’s enduring commitment to the arts but also underscores the wealth of creativity brewing within Botswana, deserving of grand stages and accolades. Ramokgothwane passionately advocates for a collective embrace of this homegrown brilliance, positioning “Hype the Homegrown” as not merely a campaign but a clarion call to action for institutions far and wide to champion and elevate local talent.
Echoing this sentiment, KBL’s steward Carlos Bernitt envisions a future where these artisans not only sparkle locally but also etch their mark on the global canvas, all through the unified backing of Batswana. With “Hype the Homegrown,” a legacy of innovation, creativity, and inspiration is in the making.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Seipati Olweny, acknowledged this campaign as a turning point for the creative community. She stressed the indispensable role of local talent in crafting Botswana’s cultural tapestry and stimulating economic diversification, pledging unwavering support from the ministry towards this collective journey of uplifting local flair.