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.
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.”
Events that recently unfolded in the athletics world locally point only to possibility – Letsile Tebogo and Maungo Matlhaku are well groomed to receive the baton from Isaac Makwala and Lydia Jele respectively.
The two athletes sprinted to new local track records, smashing those set by their seniors.
As it is the norm in athletics, the biggest mistake these two athletes could make is to drop the baton. The two youngsters must not look back, they must steeplechase – clear all the hurdles so they may surpass the feet achieved by their seniors.
Letsile Tebogo announced his arrival in scintillating fashion recently. Barely two years after smashing Thebe’s 200m national record of 21:25 during Gaborone Games in 2019, this past weekend the young lad obliterated yet another 100m national record of 10.20 seconds. For a long time the record was held by the country’s iconic athlete Isaac Makwala.
Tebogo set a new record, completing the race in 10.14 seconds. Tebogo, who is currently under Lefika Athletics Club, came into the meet, organised by Sports View Runners Club, with a personal best of 10.49 seconds.
However, the new national record was not good enough for Tebogo to qualify for the Olympic Games as he needed to clock 10.05 seconds; which is the Olympic qualifying entry under the 100meters category. For his efforts, he received P1 000 cash and a trophy.
Under the women’s category, Leungo Matlhaku also stole the show after clocking 11.24 seconds to replace Lydia Jele’s national record of 11.39 seconds which she set in May 2019.
When speaking to local media after the race, Matlhaku assured the nation to expect the best performance at the upcoming events as she aims to qualifying for Tokyo Olympics and World Championships.
The sensational 100m sprinter said: “Even though after almost nine months without training, performance was testimony of the fact that the best was yet to come.”
Matlhaku noted that setting new national records was an indication that athletes were at their peak performance and that the upcoming national meets would be appetizing with the positive performance.
This week WeekendSport caught up with Tebogo, who expressed his gratitude to the national team athletes as the pillar behind his strength since they encouraged him to work hard. He agrees that he needs to habituate himself to hard work.
He said Saturday’s performance helped him realise his dream of qualifying for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was postponed last year due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
“For me to qualify for the upcoming Olympics under 100 meters category, I will have to clock 10.05 seconds which is qualification entry while under 200meter is 20.24 seconds,” he shared.
When quizzed how Covid-19 has affected his preparation he said: “It has affected us badly as preparation training for the competition was halted, but the lockdown imposed was however useful as I used the period to work out on my strength which are necessary for a sprinter.”
Tebogo started seriously taking part in athletics in 2016 when he was still at primary school. At the time he was under the guidance of former national team coach, Mogomotsi Otsetswe.
In 2016 during Botswana Primary School Sports Association (BOPSSA) competitions, he won three gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays.
Despite not winning anything the previous year, 2018 saw him come back well prepared and went on to win two gold medals under the 200m category and 4X100m relays. He also won a silver medal after a sterling performance in the 100m race during the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) national finals.
Tebogo went on to win the gold medal after clocking an impressive time of 21:12, qualifying for under 20 World Athletics Championships which was to be held in Kenya last year but was postponed yet again due to corona virus.
Over the last 10 years, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has been famed for its consistency when it comes to producing the country’s top athletes, who are dominating and widening the competition gap with other sporting codes.
The code success expresses itself in elite talents the likes of Baboloki Thebe, Nigel Amos, Amantle Montsho and Karabo Sibanda to mention but a few.
These top talents made sure athletics remain at the top in this country.
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.