MPs last chance is to comment during committee of supply
The Opposition in Parliament have been left trying to figure out their next move after the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) outsmarted them and closed debates on the 2015/2016 budget way ahead of schedule and before the opposition Members of Parliament could debate Minister Kenneth Matambo’s presentation.
Matambo told this publication that he is shocked at the poor quality of debate in Parliament in relation to the budget speech. However it is expected that the proposals contained in the line Ministry presentations will provide MPs with a further platform to debate and ultimately pass a final budget.
About P50 billion worth of public money is contained in this year’s budget and MPs are expected to ensure that it is distributed accordingly.
In a seemingly well planned numbers’ game, the BDP MPs would not debate the budget and the opposition feared that if they exhausted their arguments, the BDP would have the floor all to themselves in the following week and refuse to give them a chance to interject during proceedings.
“We were waiting for them to speak, they did not and the problem is the MPs of the BDP have started a new trend whereby they wait for the opposition to debate first and they attack us later when we have exhausted our numbers. It is now upon us as the opposition to decide on how we handle this issue going forward,” the Opposition Whip, Wynter Mmolotsi stated in an interview on Friday this week.
Mmolotsi of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) was the last MP to debate before the speaker called on Minister Matambo to respond and thus calling on the closure of the debate which was scheduled to continue until the 19th of this Month.
Six MPs in all had responded to Matambo’s speech and they include the leader of Opposition, Duma Boko and MP Tawana Moremi both of UDC and three BDP MPs, Guma Moyo, Liakat Kablay and Ignatius Moswaane.
There is no standard as to how the speaker balances the debate. MPs are called as they show their interest in debating by way of standing up as soon as the last speaker ends their debate. In the absence of such action, the speaker then calls on the Minister to respond so that the house can proceed to its next agenda.
However another opposition MP, Phenyo Butale also of the UDC faults the early closure of the budget debate on the Speaker whom he said should be seen to protect the integrity of Parliament. According to him the sudden closure of the debate was an ambush on opposition and the bigger loss is that “we are losing the quality of debate because some will have to speak when they are not prepared. It puts the very big question on the speakership. Why is he in haste to close the debate at every opportunity he gets as if it was a deliberate strategy? He nearly did the same with the State of the Nation Address.”
Minister Matambo who expressed disappointment at the quality of debate put on this year’s budget turned the tables on the opposition and says the lack of response shows that the government of the day has tabled such a good budget that the opposition failed to criticise it as it usually does.
“We, the government have submitted to the house and the nation. The speech belongs to the BDP and we cannot be the ones to speak first. The opposition had nothing to say about the economy of this country and the electorates have seen that. They have accepted the budget because we as the BDP government presented a well thought budget and distributed it fairly and that is why they had nothing to say to oppose it and I am happy.”
Although Matambo said he was happy, he admitted that when he was called to respond, he was not ready and he had to think on his feet.
“I am the one who was not ready. They cannot say they were not ready. They were given all the time until the 19th to express their views on the budget and come up with suggestions!” Matambo responded in a separate interview.
Nonetheless the opposition still have time to deliberate on the budget during the committee of supply session which is the next item on the agenda following the Minister’s response. According to Wynter Mmolotsi, who acts as Opposition Whip in Parliament, some MPs have not spoken because they could have wanted to zoom in at specific items during the committee of supply.
“This is unlike the state of the nation address where an Mp is given a single chance to debate. We still have time to debate at committee of supply stage. The BDP must really work on this issue and stop marking and frustrating the opposition. It happened in November (2014) during debates on the state of the nation address.
Each opportunity they got, they were ever keen to ask the Speaker to close the debate. That forced opposition MPs to debate before they were ready and the BDP had a field day afterwards, attacking us knowing very well that we have all used our slot,” Mmolotsi added. Of the fifty-seven Parliament seats, twenty are held by opposition with UDC having seventeen and Botswana Congress Party three.
The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.
Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.
US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.
Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.
“The founders of our Republic de-centralised authority significantly in creating our constitutional system, which means that they gave an enormous amount of independent power and authority to State and local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.
Unlike parliamentary democracies, like Botswana the United States does not have all of the national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where the entire federal government is elected all in one election cycle giving a “mandate” to a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.
The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators serve for six years and one third of the Senate is elected every two years.
For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice
President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.
An important facet of US electoral system to understand given the federalism nature of the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.
“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State is assigned a number of electors to our Electoral College and the candidate who wins the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.
“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”
Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to win a State by one vote to win a 100 percent of its electors, the margin does not matter.
“Donald Trump won many more States by smaller margins, hence he got an Electoral College majority.”
Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.
“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going to break with the popular vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.
“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”
There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.
If however there are more candidates, and this happens extremely rarely, and a third candidate got some electors to the Electoral College denying the two major party candidates, either one getting a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.
“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.
BLUE STATES vs RED STATES
Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.
Many states have populations that are so heavily concentrated in the Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.
California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.
However there are swing states, where there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.
“So it ends up making a national contest for the presidency actually look like several state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.
High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.
Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana. “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.
As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.
Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.
The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”
Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.
According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.
Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.
“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.
Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.
“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”
The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.
In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.