Members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi have passed a constitutional amendment by cabinet to increase specially elected legislators, ministers and Assistant ministers.
Following a flammable debate in the proposed constitutional amendment to increase the said threshold of nominated legislators from 4 to 6, the house agreed to pass the amendments.
The voting exercise saw 16 giving the move a thumbs up while 14 voted against it. Some also queried the model of voting which is not secret citing intimidation by authorities who oversee dikgosi.
There is wide belief that some of the dikgosi may have been feeling intimidated with the presence of Minister of Local Government and Rural Government, Botlogile Tshireletso as well as Assistant Minister in the Office of the President, Phillip Makgalemele.
However according to the Chairman of Ntlo ya dikgosi, Kgosi Puso Gaborone of Tlokweng the voting exercise went well though it was not through secret ballot. He said it has been their tradition as the law allows for such arrangement.
Conversely, Kgosi Thabo Maruje said the way they debate and vote in Ntlo ya Dikgosi leaves a lot to be desired.
“We believe that voting should be secret because some don’t have the confidence and rather fear that if they vote in a certain way it might affect them somehow negatively going forward.”
The Minister of local Government and Rural development has the power to de-recognise a kgosi.
Meanwhile, in the amendment debate in the house to increase legislators Maruje set the context to say that politically, Botswana is going through a transitional process. He said the political competition has become very tight and competitive and he therefore does not support the Bill in the political context.
He also maintained that the minister should say what impact it is going to bring in terms of value chain desired and cost implications, and also how it will increase democracy.
He observed that government through the World Bank has advised Botswana government to decrease public service but at the same time it wants to increase the burden by 2 more specially elected legislators.
He was also concerned that almost 98% of Bills passed at parliament do not go through proper consultation particularly at the kgotla.
“We need to seriously introspect, we can’t increase MP’s, time will come, we have just come to the end of vision 2016, which is also our golden jubilee of 50 years of independence so let us not pre-empt what is coming.”
According to Kgosi Sekgoma Moipolai of North East region the increase of SEMP may lead to erosion of our core values of democracy. “It may be used to apply desired interest of those applying it and therefore affecting the essence of democracy,” he claimed.
He added that at least the government should be thinking of increasing constituencies as they will be increasing representation of the people. “I have a fear that instead of strengthening democracy they are weakening it. Therefore I am unable to support it.”
Kgosi Tshipe Tshipe of Mahalapye region who supported the amendments said he agrees with the Bill but cautioned that it should be done and executed as the reasons it was designed for.
On the other hand Kgosi Moeti Monyamane of Kgalagadi North sustained that what Batswana are asking for is a thorough constitutional review so it is what he calls for as well and therefore “I cannot agree with the Bill”.
He asked where the money will be coming from to pay the 2 SEMP and highlighted that where there is no political will government likes to use the phrase “when funds permit” but seems it is not using it this time as they are determined to pass the Bill no matter what.
Another Ntlo Ya Dikgosi member Kgosi Galeakanye Modise of Tswapong opposed the Bill citing that they are not convinced by reasons given by government to increase numbers as all “skills and expertise” are there in parliament, like Judges, lawyers, teachers, economists etc.
He said if anything the minister could be coming with a Bill to “abolish” the SEMP altogether. He said as Ntlo Ya Dikgosi they are mere advisors to government as it appears the government has already decided to pass the Bill.
“Taking into consideration that public servants salaries were not increased because there is no money, so now why increase SEMP as there will be financial implications or burden as well?” he rhetorically asked.
Bakwena paramount chief, Kgosi Kgari Sechele urged government to bring trust to the people by doing as they say. “We should see those skills and expertise that is deficient in parliament and society should see as such. If it doesn’t happen, we will use it to gauge if we continue to vote for them.”
When presenting the Bill at Ntlo Ya Dikgosi Assistant Minister in the Office of the President, Phillip Makgalemele stated that the economy of Botswana continues to grow in size and complexity.
“Therefore, the increase in number of specially elected members will provide a window of opportunity for the National Assembly, and by extension cabinet, to increase the number of members with the necessary expertise and skills to manage a modern and complex economy.”
He also said over the years, the constitution has been amended to increase the number of elected legislators and the number has started at 1 specially elected MP.
Some of the notable politicians who have benefitted from the special nomination dispensation include former presidents, Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae. The first woman to enter parliament, Gaositwe Chiepe was also specially elected.
According to Makgalemele, ministers have a burden and it may hurt the economy and thus the need to increase SEMP, but he reiterated government employment freeze will continue.
He asserted that the intentions of the Bill are good and government remains open minded.
WeekendPost has it on good authority that the constitutional amendment Bill was hatched by the Shoshong legislator who then convinced his colleagues at a ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary caucus towards the close of last year and they gave the move thumbs up.
The Bill was later published on the government gazette dated 5 February 2016 by Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Eric Molale.
The Bill is expected to pass into amended law without any hinges as the ruling BDP which banks on its majority in parliament looks determined. Already few names have been dropped for possible special nomination dispensation including BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane and maverick ex-legislator, Robert Masitara amongst others.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.