If service was the only determinant for success in political party politics Botsalo Ntuane would no doubt be highly ranked in the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). But, it is obvious that in party politics it is not only service which determines your destiny. The BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane, is a living example of this.
Before we attempt to answer the question: ‘What sin has Ntuane committed in the BDP?’, it is apposite that we give a cursory view of Ntuane’s service to the BDP. Ntuane, or ‘Bots’ as he is affectionately called by his supporters, literally grew up in the BDP and spent his formative years serving the BDP. While at the University of Botswana (UB) he was a sizzling leader of the BDP student wing movement, GS 26.
Immediately after graduating from UB he, during former president Sir Ketumile Masire’s tenure, became BDP Executive Secretary, making history by becoming the youngest ever Executive Secretary in the history of the party. He also made history by becoming the longest serving BDP Executive Secretary.
Ntuane has also served as Specially Elected Member of Parliament, and during that period he brought the Executive to account by asking revealing questions and moving motions on pertinent issues. Because of his popularity, especially among the youth and across the political party divide, Ntuane wrestled a Botswana National Front (BNF) stronghold, Gaborone West constituency, from a then BNF strongman, Robert Molefhabangwe.
It was around that time that Ntuane, perhaps because of his opposition to such of President Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s policies as the alcohol levy and closing hours for alcohol outlets, fell out of favour with President Khama.
Frustrated, Ntuane defected from the BDP and became one of the founders of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which he served as Vice President. He also served as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.
As it is common cause, Ntuane later left the BMD and rejoined his political home, the BDP. At the time, many thought that Ntuane, like some of his colleagues who retraced their steps to the BDP after defecting to the BMD, would be pardoned and rewarded.
Honourable Dikgang Phillip Makgalemele and Patrick Masimolole, for example, were appointed Assistant Ministers after returning to the BDP. Honourable Guma Moyo became party Chairman, albeit for the shortest time in the history of the BDP. Though the three are cadres in their own right, it is incontrovertible that Ntuane’s curriculum vitae in the BDP far exceeds theirs.
It is almost unbelievable that Ntuane, despite his service and loyalty to the BDP, has never been appointed as Assistant Minister. Political novices, some of whom have never held any position in the party, even at ward level, and are in fact Ntuane’s protégés, have been appointed cabinet ministers.
In July 2015 Ntuane was elected BDP Secretary General, but his position has been undermined by the party leadership. The party Chairman, His Honour the Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, runs most party activities, including the recruitment drive, not with the Secretary General as it should be the case, but with the Communications Chairperson, Thapelo Pabalinga.
This is unprecedented in the history of the BDP. The Secretary General, as the political head of the Secretariat who supervises the Executive Secretary, has always been at the heart of the party’s operations.
In the run up to the party’s elective congress, Ntuane campaigned on the basis of a reform agenda which included establishment of a strong Central Committee (CC) which would reclaim authority from the government; and increasing the CC from 18 members to 30 members through inclusion of all 12 Regional Chairpersons to ensure better oversight and supervision of structures.
The reform agenda also included strengthening the Policy Forum to vet and report to the CC all government Bills ahead of tabling them before Parliament; and a minimal presence of one administrative office in each of the BDP’s 12 Regions plus a vehicle.
These proposed reforms no doubt endeared Ntuane to the democrats. No wonder he attained the highest votes for all positions contested for during the elective congress. Many thought that after the congress Ntuane will indeed run the party as his predecessors, especially his mentor, Daniel Kwelagobe, did.
That was not to be. On the contrary, he has been sidelined and humiliated. In the few instances he sat next to his Chairman, HH Masisi, during press conferences it was clear, even from his facial expressions, that he did not belong.
Recently, Ntuane was snubbed once again when President Khama did not nominate him for one of the two Specially Elected Member of Parliament positions which became available after the BDP-dominated Parliament amended the Constitution to that effect.
It has been painful listening to Ntuane giving excuses for the lack of respect visited upon his office. This he obviously does for the sake of party unity or perhaps for fear of suffering the tribulations suffered by the late Gomolemo Motswaledi when he tried to fight for the respect of the Office of the Secretary General after his election in 2009.
The questions are: What sin has Ntuane committed in the BDP for which he cannot be forgiven? Who has he offended? Is Ntuane a victim of his own success? It is my view that Ntuane’s main ‘sin’ was publicly challenging President Khama’s policies, especially the alcohol levy policy.
His other ‘sin’ is his allegiance to his mentor, Daniel Kwelagobe, who, towards the end of his dominance in the BDP, was also relegated to obscurity by President Khama. There are those who have stated that allowing Ntuane to be dominant in the BDP will effectively be allowing Kwelagobe to rule from the grave.
There are also those in the BDP who argue that Ntuane had his time under Masire and Mogae. It is their claim that Ntuane did not deserve some of the appointments he got and he got them because he was favored by Masire. Consequently, they argue, talent was ignored for political expediency.
The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.
The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent. That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.
Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed
Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.
Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.
The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.
In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.
However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.
The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.
The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.
What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.
Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.
Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.
They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.
There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.
The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.
Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.
Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.
Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.
To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.
The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.