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 a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.