At a poorly attended Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) weekly caucus and lobbying meeting on Tuesday, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi used the absence of President Lt Gen Ian Khama to smitten himself with Members of Parliament and released his anti-venom against opposition motions which in his view are aimed at winning the hearts of civil servants.
A particular target this week was Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse, who has tabled three bills aimed improving the conditions of service for Police Officers, Soldiers and Prison Warders by amending the Acts establishing their employers. Keorapetse’s motion became a subject of discussion for most of the Tuesday morning meeting. “We discussed that at length, although some supported Keorapetse’s motion, it was resolved that we should shot the motion down during voting.
This is so because, the Minister (Kgathi) is also looking at the issue of improving the conditions of service of police officers and it wouldn’t look good for an opposition member to become such a darling to the public servants while the Minister is still cooking something for them. This is politics remember,” one Member of Parliament from the BDP corner shared. The Weekendpost mole couldn’t clearly reveal what exactly is in the pipeline from the Minister’s side, to offer police officers what Keorapetse’s Bill amendment was proposing. As per the spirit of the caucus, the amendment bill from the Selibe Phikwe West MP was shot down a two days later after it received 12 votes in support with 20 opposing it.
Keorapetse’s proposed Police amendment bill, BDF amendment Bill and Prisons amendment bill had sought to improve the conditions of service for the police, BDF and Prisons officers. However, according to sources, this was seen by the BDP caucus as a political gimmick aimed at winning the hearts of public servants. The Minister of Defence Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi led the chorus that called for castration of the proposed amendments. Kgathi was unapologetic that this is a fight for the vote of public servants and his view is that the BDP is in power and it should bring laws to parliament and should not be outshined by the opposition. Kgathi comes from the same village as Keorapetse and the latter’s party, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is the closest rival at every election since 2004.
Easy going Masisi makes promises
The meeting which Masisi chaired and was seen as easy-going when compared to the usual chairperson, President Khama, resolved on other issues which had concerned the BDP legislators for some time. This publication gathered that the BDP backbenchers told Masisi that there is need to align the standing orders to move with the times. “The Standing Orders effectively say Ministers are not under any pressure to answer questions from us backbenchers because they can tell half-truths, distort information, refuse to answer, waste time with unnecessary information and even totally refuse to answer questions,” said one frustrated backbencher. He indicated that Kgathi has on numerous occasions been labelled as the ‘stubborn’ Minister because he never adequately respond to questions from Members of Parliament especially those from the opposition. He always treat them with contempt.
Another standing order which the MPs want changed is that which deals with powers of the Speaker of the National Assembly. They argued that this will reduce executive dominance as it is the case today. “We also want to reduce secrecy especially from top civil servants like Directors and Permanent Secretaries who are not allowed to update us about anything on behalf of the government without permission, but we are their custodians so we want this to be changed,” said another MP.
With the charming Masisi chairing the meeting, the BDP MPs were promised that very soon the orders will be visited. “Actually it could have been aligned in July but the passing on of Sir Ketumile Masire changed everything, so we will soon address those issues according to the leadership.” Given this rare opportunity to express themselves freely without hurry and the pressure of time as is normally the case with the strict President Khama, BDP MPs who spoke to this publication are of the view that they addressed a number of issues efficiently.
With only four parliamentary sessions left before the general elections, the Members of Parliament also spoke against the idea of piling motions. There currently mountains of motions which are yet to be presented by MPs from across the political divide. BDP MPs are worried that some motions will not get the chance to be debated because the 2019 general elections are fast approaching. “There is literally a truck-load of motions and bills that are yet to be put on the floor and some were lamenting they might never see the light of the day. So we suggested that we should push them especially on days where we finish debates early then we can look and push the motions. But it was promising because it appears it is also a concern on many of the democrats.”
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.