President Lt Gen Ian Khama was willing to increase constituency allowance by 35 percent in the last Parliament but these efforts were shot down by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) heavyweights who wanted Members of Parliament’s salaries to be addressed holistically.
MPs had complained that their travelling expenses were shooting through the ceiling hence sent a delegation to meet the President on the issue of constituency allowance. They indicated that Ministers were given two vehicles, Prado and the black ministerial vehicles whereas MPs got nothing. They had asked that the Prados be availed to them, but the President was of the view that increasing the constituency allowance could help.
The MPs had pointed out that Ministers are provided with two vehicles, a Toyota Prado Land Cruiser and a BMW to use on official business, therefore raising the need for such privileges to MPs when they go to address their constituents.
Long-time serving legislators, like Daniel Kwelagobe did not support the piecemeal approach to adjusting MPs salaries and they shot down Khama’s proposal. In a brief interview Kwelagobe confirmed that he was against the approach and preferred a holistic review of Members of Parliament’s welfare especially salaries.
During the current session of Parliament, scores of Members of Parliament (MPs) will in the few coming weeks furnish the new Speaker of the National with a litany of welfare concerns they want addressed during the 11th parliament.
Some of the concerns that will be brought forward to the attention of Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe are understood to be legendary, and were brought before former Speaker Dr Margaret Nasha.
Among the issues which MPs wants to be resolved is the increment of constituency allowances especially for MPs who come from constituencies which are wide in area and require a lot of travelling to cover while addressing constituents.
Constituencies like Okavango, Ngami, Boteti West and Boteti East, Kgalagadi South, Kgalagadi North are amongst those which are not densely populated but are made up of widely dispersed settlements and villages.
In an interview MP for Okavango Bagalatia Arone have been vocal on the matter, says there is need to make improvements to the welfare of MPs in order to allow them to perform their duties effectively and efficiently.
Arone says at the moment the difference between his (Okavango) constituency allowance and a constituency allowance for MPs representing Gaborone constituencies is about P1000, yet as an MP he is expected to drive over 1000 kilometres from Gaborone to reach his constituency, and in addition to that distance he has to traverse the constituency in order to reach out to his constituents.
“We raised these issues to the Speaker of the National Assembly during the 10th parliament and a proposal was sent to Office of the President to make a decision but nothing has materialized yet,” said Arone.
Arone contend that an MP for a nearer and small constituency in terms of area like those in Gaborone will not have to through taxing expenses for him or her to address his or her constituents. The Okavango MP says in their proposal sent to the Office of the President during the last parliament, they made few requests including the option of being given a government vehicle to address their constituents.
“We are still to meet with the new Speaker because we do not know her commitment towards these issues. Addressing these concerns will depend on her good will and her attitude towards the issue of an independent parliament.”
Arone says under the current circumstances it is imperative that parliament is given its independence so that it can deliberate on issues of MPs welfare effectively. “We want parliament to prepare its own budget, presented by the Speaker of the National Assembly to parliament and approved by MPs,” stated Arone. Currently parliament budget is prepared by Office of the President and presented before parliament by Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration.
Meanwhile, former Nata/Gweta MP, Reiner Makosha, who was part of the delegation that went to see President Khama over the issue of MPs salaries, said he is aware that the President was willing to help on constituency allowances but other MPs wanted the entire perks reviewed.
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.