President Mokgweetsi Masisi has this week reportedly rejected a deal by Members of Parliament (MPs) to have their benefits reviewed to conform to contemporary demands. Weekend Post has established that the committee met with President Masisi on Friday at the Office of the President to seal the deal which became a no deal.
This notwithstanding that Masisi has all along been in contact with the MPs and agreed with them â€œin principleâ€ although he reneged at the last minute.Â Part of the deal was to increase the MPs ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP) backbenchers and opposition legislatorsâ€™ Housing Allowances by a whopping 100 percent from the current P11 000 to P22 000 monthly.Â It is understood that their line of argument is that they carried out research before and it indicates that the MPs housing allowance was too low for the calibre of the office they occupy and therefore needed to be increased to somewhere between P22 000 and P27 000.
In addition, as part of the agreement with Masisi, the MPs had in the deal settled for a 50 percent subsidy for cars instead of getting new constituency cars because they believe an MP job is 24 hours. The deal would have meant that they will buy private cars of their choice at any price, as a cost cutting measure instead of buying new ones, and that the government foots 50 percent of the total cost while the other part is taken care of by the legislators.
It is understood that when Masisi met the MP benefits and welfare committee led by Chairperson and Mmadinare legislator, Molebatsi Molebatsi last week in a meeting which did not last long â€“ he received more than he bargained for. Although Masisi had previously agreed with them in principle, he turned down their demands on grounds that government has insufficient money to take care of the MPs conditions of service and their needs due to the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic.
Masisi announced last week in a televised presser upon hearing that the government has spent P22 million so far in combating COVID-19 since the news of the deadly Virus broke out. Interestingly, the money has been spent although there is no known confirmed cases of Corona Virus in Botswana in which logic dictates that thereafter more money would be spent (if a case or more is confirmed).
Masisi stated that: â€œP22 million has already been spent thus far. Do we have money to fight this? No, we have no money lying around but this money we will find. At this moment we have not declared this a national disaster, however we still treat this as a state of emergency, even if we have no confirmed cases.â€ He continued: â€œThe initial budget allocated to deal with this virus was P31 million, of which P50 million had been requested.â€
When speaking to Weekend Post following the meeting, one MP who preferred anonymity said: â€œOur committee met with Masisi this morning but unfortunately he says there is no money because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.â€ The ruling party MP who said Masisiâ€™s response left him with an egg on the face, added that the matter was agreed in principle by both parties but later Masisi, after consulting with Accountant General reneged, citing COVID-19.
On his part government and ruling BDP Chief Whip in Parliament Liakat Kablay told this publication that it is disastrous that Masisi turned down their offer. â€œâ€Itâ€™s quite unfortunate,â€ he said. The Letlhakeng-Lephephe legislator continued to point out that MPs have been calling for their conditions of service to be improved especially with regard to constituency cars and housing allowances.
â€œWe do not have cars to utilise when addressing official kgotla meetings and as such we want constituency cars. As MPs we should be recognised, we should have cars at constituencies so that even when we host the President, Vice President at kgotla meetings, we use them,â€ he told Weekend Post.
â€œMinisters drive fancy cars,â€ he lashed out while adding that, â€œMinistersâ€™ cars should therefore be downsized to one. They should only have one official car. It is an utter waste of money. They use those cars to take their kids to school, what is that? Right now they have a Prado estimated at P1 million and a Mercedes Benz costing 1.2 million. As MPs we want those cars.â€Â He said it was unfortunate that they were turned down on the basis of corona, but it is a matter which is topical, serious and unavoidable.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.