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Dikgosi endorse Molale’s bid to increase MPs

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.

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