Just like their predecessors, members of the 12th parliament have renewed their quest for improved conditions of service and are pushing President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his assistant, Slumber Tsogwane against the wall to accede to their demands as a matter of urgency.
The request comes as a follow-up from last year, when the legislators got a 4 percent salary hike, delinking members of the National Assembly from the public service structure, hence increasing their earnings by 11 percent. Legislators made sharp demands to the president’s appointed commission that was intended to review legislators’ salaries and conditions of service. Among the demands, apart from salary hike, Members of Parliament wanted to be given P500 000 each at the beginning of their parliamentary term. This they say was going to avert dependency on donors and will enable them to service electorates.
The MPs demand to be given P500 000 each at the beginning of their parliamentary term was shot down by President Masisi, and the second demand (car scheme) was deferred thus it has now resurfaced with much dynamism. The legislators now want the government to ensure that they have vehicles to use at their respective constituencies.
The proposal is in such a way that the government pays 50 percent of the cost of the vehicle and the remaining 50 percent is settled by the MP. The lawmakers say, this is practiced in many countries including Zambia and Kenya. This week the BDP backbenchers gathered again to fine-tune the proposal before handing it to Tsogwane and Masisi next week.
“We have discussed it and we agreed, but for now we are only waiting to submit it to the leadership. It is not the first time, we discussed this in the past parliament and we hope our request will not fall on deaf ears,” BDP’s Liakat Kablay who was in the MPs welfare committee told this publication. The legislators’ contention is motivated by the fact that Ministers are given two cars to use on official duties, while MPs are only availed a car transporting them from their residences to parliament. They also want an official car to discharge their duties with ease.
“We are only pinning our hopes on BDP members and its leadership especially a general assembly so that we can demonstrate how this is key to us. But honestly speaking we need the cars, we are struggling at our constituencies. It is always disheartening when the President visits us and we have to do patch up jobs transport wise. But we are very optimistic that the request will see the light of day,” said Pono Moatlhodi, who is UDC Parliamentary Reforms and Cultural Sector Spokesperson.
The proposal is welcomed by MPs from both sides of the aisle. They are of the view that apart from Ministers, they are rendered subordinates to Mayors and Council leaders who are given official cars. Meanwhile Maun East legislator Goretetse Kekgonegile, said law makers should look this demand from a broader and long term perspective.
“We should be far-sighted with this. To me it should not be about the car being mine, but rather I would advocate for a constituency office car, that would stay there and continues to do the work even when I am attending parliament business,” he said. “To be honest, we are struggling as we use our own cars and fuel them as you may know our terrain is very hard, it needs special cars.” The legislators, especially ring-leaders from the BDP, are spirited and confident that they will emerge victorious at the end of the day.
The MPs are resolute to an extent that they are prepared to push the President against the wall using their numbers. “We might be forced to also come up with a motion to slash president’s benefits and or luxury that he enjoys and that of his Vice, because they would be failing to put themselves in our shoes, though they know the struggle,” one BDP legislator said this week.
“We have a very big problem especially during consultative Kgotla meetings, council leadership and other officials will be in their official cars while an MP, you would be stranded in your not so honourable car and it is not right. The conditions in our constituencies are so bad and with the little we get it is difficult to afford those cars,” lamented Serowe North MP, Baratiwa Mathoothe in an interview.
Last year the BDP MPs had the privilege to discuss this in the presence of President Masisi. Apart from the 50-50 vehicle scheme, MPs also want the government to implement the agreed decision to give former MPs 20 percent of the current lawmakers’ salary as living allowance. This however appears to be a pie in the sky as senior government officials have repeatedly said, this would be double-dipping. Calculations were done in such a manner that the former legislators will get P8000 a month for a life time.
“We are told that the public pay structure does not cater for us, thus we will get the incentive only after the law has been passed by parliament which will be the next session. This is to also create a scale for us, that is what we have been told anyway,” Association of Former MPs Vice President, David Magang told this publication when this was deferred.
He continued; “Of course we are disappointed as former legislators because we anticipated that by now we will be getting something so that we can live a dignified life as you might know that most of us are struggling. We will wait for government to create that structure in the public system and we are adamant that the 12th parliament will address that because our numbers keep on increasing. Some will not be returning back after the elections,” he said.
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.