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.
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.
CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”
Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.
About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.
For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.