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MPs demand salary raise

Liakat Kablay, MP for Letlhakeng/ Lephephe

Members of Parliament from across the political divide have expressed frustration and vexation at what they termed deplorable, appalling and atrocious working conditions.

They are very clear on their demands – a salary increase, and improved conditions of service.

More than a dozen Members of Parliament told this publication on the side lines of the ongoing Budget session that they were not at all pleased and satisfied with their conditions of service. But they are up against it because President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama is the final arbitrator on this matter regardless of how much they lobby their line minister in Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Minister, Eric Molale.

In this debate, both the opposition and the ruling party are singing from the same hymn book. Four ministers who also spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity said they want a salary increase. One actually suggested that Ministers should be earning P100 000 a month, if regional trends were anything to go by. He said MPs should at least earn in the region of P45 000 a month.

Ninety percent of my salary spent on constituency – Salakae

Noah Salakae of Ghanzi North has a strong opinion on the subject. He said legislators are not happy with the fact that they are not provided with official transport when addressing kgotla meetings. To add salt to injury, he said, they are expected to hire public address system at their own expense.

“I am a proponent of salary increment and I am unapologetic about it. I am representing a vast constituency which is a size of Sweden and Switzerland combined. Ghanzi has poor road network and I dig deep into my pocket to hire suitable vehicles to traverse the constituency,” lamented Salakae.

The Ghanzi legislator further observed that he spends ninety per cent of his monthly salary on the constituency.

“Our salaries, benefits and allowances must be reviewed and should be comparable with other countries in the region. An MP in South Africa earns a basic salary of R120 000, meaning that his single salary can pay about five Botswana legislators but our GDP per capita income exceed that of South Africa. Some of us we have quit our plum posts because we were driven by passion   and desire to serve our people. As Parliamentarians our salaries must be augmented and we be barred from making any business. Today most legislators are tenderpreneurs and that is a breeding ground for corruption as they end up abusing their powers,” he further stated.

MINISTERS ARE ABUSING THE GREEN BOOK – KABLAY

Liakat Kablay of Letlhakeng/ Lephephe said conditions of service for legislators are a disgrace and shaming the name of Botswana.

“Being an MP is an esteemed and high profile job which the general public hold in high regard. I spend a lot of money on my constituency and the party. I use my own private car to attend party events and demands of the constituency. Senior government officials are provided with transport but that is not extended to us,” bemoaned Kablay who is also the ruling party chief whip.

He noted that some former MPs died as paupers while majority of those who are still alive are impoverished and bankrupt. He proposed that their gratuity be increased from the current P300 000 to at least P1.2 million.

Kablay further complained about the disparity of benefits between ordinary MPs and ministers alleging that ministers can amend the Green Book to their own advantage as and when they want.

I COULD BE ATTRACTING 70 PERCENT SCARCE SKILL IN PUBLIC SERVICE – MZWINILA

Mmadinare legislator, Kefentse Mzwinila also complained about his salary and benefits. He said he was among highly qualified legislators with experience and expertise.

“Some of us we are well educated. I am a graduate of Yale University, while Duma Boko and Ndaba Gaolathe earned their masters’ degrees at Harvard and Wharton respectively. I don’t understand the criterion that was used to determine our salaries because what I get is not commensurate with my qualification,” he asserted.

Mzwinila said that if he was a civil servant, he would be at least a Permanent Secretary. “I am a qualified economist and psychologist and if I was working for government, I would be the highest paid civil servant because I would be having seventy per cent scarce skill allowance for psychology and economics,” he contended. He said the days when being an MP was regarded as volunteerism were long gone by.

An ordinary MP earns a basic monthly salary of P22 000, constituency allowance worth P7 500 per month, P2 000 hospitality allowance, P2 000 for telephone bills and sitting allowance of P320 per day. MPs are also given free housing and free tablets.

MPS MUST BE PAID MORE THAN PERMANENT SECRETARIES – LELATISITSWE

Setlhomo Lelatisitswe of Boteti East said none of the legislators is satisfied with their conditions of service. He said even though an MP is a high profile person in the society he earns less than the Deputy Permanent Secretary and Managing Directors of parastatals.

“I don’t care what people will say, being an MP is more of sitting in a board of directors because we craft laws to be implemented by civil servants but they earn more than us and to me that is totally unacceptable,” he avowed.

Lelatisitswe said it was disheartening that his constituents expect him to sponsor events such as prize giving at schools yet he is paid peanuts. Lelatisitswe suggested that an MP’s salary should we at par with that of a high court judge.

Lelatisitswe is to table a motion in Parliament requesting government to provide legislators with executive types of vehicle and a driver.

Sharing the same sentiments was Ramotswa legislator, Samuel Rantuana who complained that they had too much workload yet they are poorly paid. He lamented that they are not equipped with professionals at their constituency offices yet they are expected to have vast knowledge about lots of issues including budget and labour issues.

He also said they fund democracy due to lack of political party funding. Rantuana said each month on top of his low salary; he has to pay monthly subscriptions of P800 to his party, opposition Botswana Congress Party, in order to rescue it from bankruptcy.

“The free housing provided for us is not habitable as we can go for days without water. Some of us are still battling to pay debts we incurred during the 2014 general election campaign,” he charged.

Rantuana said Parliament does not have incentives to attract people who possess different skills and expertise hence politics will forever remain a hobby that the youth may difficult to join.

PAY POLITICIANS MORE TO AVOID CORRUPTION – GUMA

Another law maker, Samson Moyo Guma told this publication that being a Parliamentarian is a very sensitive job as they are custodians of the country’s assets.

“We were supposed to declare our assets first before being in charge of the public purse because failure to do so will lead to temptation for corruption. It is so unfortunate that Parliament rejected a motion on the declaration of assets,” he said.

Guma observed that there was no job security for an MP explaining that the public should not expect a lot from them because if the government decides to pay them peanuts, in return people will get junk.

“It is not wrong for us to advocate for our welfare, my colleagues have told me that they will lose elections should they table a motion concerning their conditions of service. A Minister is responsible for his ministry’s budget including projects worth million of Pula yet he is paid less than P50 000, does that make sense?” he asked rhetorically.

Guma, who doubles as a businessman made a shocking revelation that ever since he was elected MP in 2004, he has donated his salary to his constituents. He called on the government to pay councillors and legislators adequately and advised that the privileges extended to former presidents should be extended to former legislators and councillors.

Meanwhile, another outspoken legislator who spoke on condition of anonymity said he will table a motion in Parliament requesting government to come up with a comprehensive package for legislators and increase basic salaries of councillors to at least P17 000 per month.

However the Chairman of rights and privileges of MPs committee, Haskins Nkaigwa said he is yet to present a recommendation to the minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration on how the conditions of service for legislators can be improved. This publication understands that Nkaigwa went for a benchmarking exercise on welfare of MPs at Uganda, Kenya and South Africa.

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No end in sight for Nam, Botswana borderline feud

27th July 2021
Namibian-report

Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.

Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.

“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.

Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.

The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.

The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River.  They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).

His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.

The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.

Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.

37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far

Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.

“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.

It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.

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Masisi gives KBL the “middle finger”

27th July 2021
President Masisi

Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.

This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.

In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.

“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.

Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.

Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”

Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.

He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”

According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.

Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.

“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.

He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.

Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.

“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.

He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”

Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.

However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.

In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.

“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.

Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.

“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.

Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.

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Gov’t gives parallel statements on COVAX

27th July 2021
COVAX---lelatisitswe

In  an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.

The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.

“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.

According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.

“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more  money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.

“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.

“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.

Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).

On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.

Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.

President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.

“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.

On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.

In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.

Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.

Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.

As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.

This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.

The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.

As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.

“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.

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