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Insurrection looms at BDP

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers in parliament appear to have usurped the role of the opposition in the left of the political spectrum, going against both the grain of BDP tradition and desires of the establishment, by tabling a salvo of left leaning motions.

When parliament resumes for the third session in November, it will debate motions left behind from the previous session. Most of them, from BDP legislators such as the likes of Member of Parliament (MP) for Nata-Gweta, Polson Majaga are poised to rattle BDP establishment to the core. Majaga has tabled a motion calling for government to carry out a referendum for the direct election of the president.

Botswana uses the first-past-the-post electoral system and the sitting Vice President automatically succeeds to Presidency once the presidential seat is vacant. Majaga explained that in his eyes there seems to be a fault line in the country’s system which confers a raft of sweeping powers on an individual who is not directly elected by the people.

Majaga contends that, that is not his idea of a democratic dispensation and that the country has already been surpassed by its neighbours including Zambia, where he recently was an election observer when Edgar Lungu was elected directly by Zambians.

The next motion in parliamentary order paper, still by Majaga asks government to make provisions that will see the president of the republic appointing cabinet ministers from individuals who are not sitting parliamentarians to allow them more time to do administrative work.

In regards to disentangling MP’s from ministerial posts, Majaga said that the arrangement he proposes will stem situations where ministers’ treat visits to constituencies as favours to fellow friends in cabinet. He explained that ministers currently exchange visits to one another’s constituency, leaving ordinary MP’s out in the cold.

“MP’s should be MPs and ministers should be ministers.” said Majaga.

He further said that this will also encourage the spirit of accountability as currently ministers are either busy or claim to be busy when it comes to expediting visits to Batswana.

Majaga said that his motions have not yet passed through BDP caucus but he remains hopeful.

Another raft of ‘disloyal’ motions on the BDP is by Tati West MP, Biggie Butale.

Butale has noticed a motion calling for an introduction of other indigenous languages in the education curriculum. Butale had tabled the same motion in parliament early last year before his party went for the Mmadinare elective congress in which he was candidate for the chairmanship and the motion never saw the light of day.

The proposal to introduce other indigenous languages in the education curriculum has previously been rejected in the ruling party quarters, with BDP head honchos crushing it as a divisive, costly and impractical move.

The current Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi once described the idea as akin to the reintroduction of a Bantu form of education, as he shot down the motion then tabled by former Selibi Phikwe West MP, Gilson Saleshando.

Before the 2014 general election, the now BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane constantly waded into the contentious topic. Speaking at former party strong man, Daniel Kelagobe’s candidacy launch in Molepolole, Ntuane who described himself as a nationalist, shot down the idea, labelling it as a plot to divide the country along tribal lines. He had also spoken about it three weeks earlier at Odirile Motlhale’s candidacy launch in Ramotswa.

In Molepolole, he was quoted as saying: “We are just two years away from celebrating our golden jubilee and are we going to allow some people to divide us along tribal lines? We should identify ourselves first as Batswana and not along any ethnic grouping.”

Butale has also tabled another motion even more despised in ruling party quarters. He has tabled a motion calling for the establishment of community radio and television stations. Previously, BDP MP’s have also trashed the idea, advancing reasoning that the same have fuelled ethnic divisions in Rwanda. The current Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi shot down the idea on that basis when she was still Minister for Communications, Science and Technology.

Butale said this week that it does not mean that if the ruling party rejected similar motions in the past, it will continue to do the same at other times.

“Times change, it doesn’t mean that they will continue to reject them”

He further said that he continues to bring them up because he feels these are motions that can help the needy Batswana. He further said that he is confident that the motions will pass because BDP parliamentary caucus has already given them its blessings.

Butale further said that the motions are not in any way pro-opposition but serve to demonstrate that BDP is responsible to the needs of the larger population.

Another of his motion which will be received possibly with mixed reactions in the sluggish quarters of the ruling party concerns citizen economic empowerment.

While younger generations of Batswana appear unanimous on a citizen economic empowerment deal that forces foreign companies to partner with Batswana in businesses, President Khama seem to hold a divergent view.

At BDP’s first special congress in October 2015, Khama broke ranks with party SG Botsalo Ntuane concerning a law that forces foreign joint ventures with Batswana. Ntuane advocated before the BDP faithful that there should be a law that forces foreign companies to partner with Batswana as the foreigners immediately repatriate profits in chunks, offshore without leaving any major benefits for the natives.

Moments after Ntuane received a rapturous applause, Khama immediately moved to crush his argument stating that he does not want Batswana to be “cry-babies and piggy back on foreign companies.”

However, Ntuane warned this week that: “You cannot be a BDP MP only when it suits you and not when it doesn’t. In BDP we work as collective.”

He said that party policy is that all motions have to go to the caucus which will halt or green light the concerned motions.

Butale is a known liberal among conservatives who once advocated for increased media freedom, declaration of assets, closer ties with the labour movement, devolution of powers from central to local government and political party funding among others; topics that the ruling party has continuously shied away from.

He also at some point noticed a motion in parliament calling for the immortalisation of late Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader, Gomolemo Motswaledi through naming one major government institution in his honour, but was stopped in his tracks by his party as the move would have amounted to an immense propaganda coup for the opposition.

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Seretse, Kgosi may walk free

30th October 2020
BAKANG SERETSE

The P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga that has been before court since 2017 seems to be losing its momentum with a high possibility of it being thrown out as defence lawyers unmask incompetency on the part of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP).

The Gaborone High Court this week ruled that the decision by the State to prosecute Justice Zein Kebonang and his twin brother, Sadique Kebonang has been reviewed and set aside. The two brothers have now been cleared of the charges that where laid against them three years ago.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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