Tati East Member of Parliament, Samson Guma this week challenged the norm in parliament, asking fellow MPs to adopt the law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities to prove to the public that indeed they are not hiding anything from them.
Responding to President Dr Lt Gen Ian Khama’s State of the Nation Address, the outspoken Guma said the law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities is ‘urgent’ and should be adopted as soon as possible. He further warned that failure to do so will vindicate the public which views MPs as corrupt heads looting public money.
The one time Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning said it is important that the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities bill is brought before parliament so that MPs study it carefully with the view of enacting it immediately. “It is in the interest of the MPs to adopt this law since it will assist them (MPs) gain public confidence,” he asserted.
Guma told the house that he declared his business interests to President Khama in 2008, however he was quick to add that it is still not enough. “The perception out there is that we (MPs) are corrupt, hence the need to enact this law to instil public confidence in us,” he said. “I do not know what we are hiding.”
Considered one of the wealthiest men in the country, the maverick Guma went on to take pride in his wealth, insisting that it was acquired through hard work not corruption or unholy means. “I was working hard years back when some of you were out there drinking [alcohol],” he said. “I will not apologise for it.”
The general principle of Declaration of Assets and Liabilities is to increase transparency and the trust of citizens in public administration, disclosing information about assets of politicians and public servants would show they have nothing to hide.
The Declaration of Assets and Liabilities law has its opponents within the ruling party and it is a subject they have avoided for almost two decades. It was first coined by then Minister of Health and former Francistown East MP Joy Phumaphi but the bill has not seen the light of the day despite opposition legislators advocating for it for the better part of the last decade. Institutions such as Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have also said that such a law will make it easier to investigate economic crime involving pubic officials.
Guma who got his bank accounts frozen as a result of an investigation by Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the DCEC for crimes relating to tax evasion has expressed his innocence. The case is currently before the courts but Guma told fellow MPs that, “you can hold my money as long as you want, but the money is mine.”
The Tati East legislator whose relationship with the ruling party has been “hot and cold” accused his party colleagues of sabotaging him for political expediency. Guma stated that since 2014, no minister has visited his constituency but the situation of the people he represents is dire. “People are starving, there is no water and people are asking me what did they voted me for,” said Guma to the raptures of opposition MPs.
Guma narrated how Minister Tshekedi Khama mocked his constituents last week when he failed to show up for a Kgotla meeting he was supposed to address. “We waited for him to arrive at the airport, and back home the Kgotla was filled with people, waiting for him. But he was nowhere to be seen. One old woman came to me crying and asking; "Why are we being treated like this," he said.
A few months ago, a frustrated Guma announced that he was quitting politics after he fell off with his business partner Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Thapelo Olopeng. Guma has since somersaulted on his decision and affirmed his loyalty to the ruling party.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.