Every five years, a cohort of newly elected Members of Parliament (MPs) gather at parliament buildings to take a symbolic oath to assume new role as rarefied individuals who make Botswana’s laws — as prescribed in the constitution — for the good governance of Botswana. Staff Writer ALFRED MASOKOLA observes an abdication of responsibility that has become a new normal in the business of parliament.
Few days before President Sir Ketumile Masire cleared his desk at Office of the President to end an eventful and successful 18 year presidency, his apparent heir, Festus Mogae was reaching out to opposition legislators in a bid to solicit for support for his choice for Vice President.
Since 1997 constitutional amendments, parliament has been mandated with the responsibility of endorsing the Vice President before assuming office.
Mogae was scheduled to ascend to the highest position in the land in wake of series of events in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) that made him the only viable candidate. Beleaguered by factions, Mogae could not count on his polarised party.
As many noted, Mogae was relatively a new entrant in the BDP politics. Though he was an accomplished technocrat, he was not a political power horse and was without the charisma that the likes of Daniel Kwelagobe, Ponatshego Kedikilwe and the late Lt General Merafhe had.
Luckily for Mogae, his choice for Vice President was a likeable figure — Lt Gen Ian Khama — and accepted across factional divide, and even more remarkably, by some in opposition ranks. The name was endorsed by all BDP MPs, and the cherry on top; by additional two opposition MPs.
The build-up to this accomplishment however highlighted one major thing that Mogae never took for granted — the legitimate power of MPs.
Even in his presidency, Mogae sought to use parliament caucus for the purpose of achieving consensus rather than imposing his own will. Throughout his presidency, Mogae had to navigate through the hostile factions that kept him on his toes.
In 2003, Mogae in what proved to be naďve, publicly endorsed his Vice President- Khama, in the party chairmanship race against Kedikilwe, the co-leader of what was then known as Kwelagobe/Kedikilwe faction, and later Barataphathi.
Inevitably, Khama won the chairmanship — a development that saw Barataphathi losing control of the Central Committee, for the first time since 1981. With victory in 2003, emerged a rebranded faction called A-Team, led by Merafhe and Jacob Nkate.
The faction will come to dominate both the Central Committee and cabinet after 2004 general elections. Mogae had left out Kwelagobe, Kedikilwe, and GUS Matlhabaphiri out of cabinet after 2004 general elections, inadvertently strengthening the backbench which closed ranks with opposition MPs to subject the executive to scrutiny.
At the height of exercising their power, the backbench blocked and rejected government policies and other pieces of legislation brought before parliament.
By 2006, cabinet found it difficult to pass bills, including the Judges Pension Bill and the crucial intelligence bill which created the DIS in 2007.
Faced with a rigid backbench, Mogae reshuffled his cabinet in 2007 restructuring ministries to accommodate members of rival faction in cabinet. Thereafter, the relationship between cabinet and backbench became cordial.
“I am fully aware that the MPs, both the former ministers, the cabal of some new MPs and the rest of the House, can make and unmake me politically,” Mogae famously said at 2001 BDP Congress in Palapye, as he deliberated on some of the demands brought forward by MPs.
Like anywhere else in democratic dispensations, MPs hold their own and are not pushovers, even in instances where the executive belongs to the same political party that controls the legislative house.
Mogae had accepted that MPs have their own responsibility and that their power was legitimate. Throughout his presidency, his modus operandi was to consult MPs through caucus whenever an important decision was to be made in parliament.
The approach was also the tradition during the presidency of Masire, the founding father of both the BDP and the nation. Masire considered therisanyo paramount prior to any decision making and was described by Mogae during his memorial as, “consultative, collaborative and patient.”
In 2008, things started to change. In recent years, BDP caucus has become increasingly powerful. Unlike in the past, instead of seeking consensus, MPs have been forced to support decisions of the cabinet, even when MPs are not in agreement.
“Caucus has always been there and it is part and parcel of parliament in democracy. Caucus can be flexible depending on leadership. Some issues are allowed conscience debate if caucus cannot reach consensus,” said a high ranking BDP member who served as MP under both Mogae and Khama.
“Mogae was liberal and allowed MPs to use their conscience when there was no consensus. Caucus only became a contentious issue during Khama [Ian] presidency and today.”
In 2011, weeks after civil servants called off strikes that lasted nearly three months, and crippled the economy, then junior minister in the ministry of Local Government, Kentse Rammidi resigned from the cabinet amid a position taken by the party.
In trying to deal with power of civil servants, cabinet brought before parliament a Bill that sought to prevent a number of cadres in the civil service including teachers from participating in industrial action by making them essential service.
Rammidi, who had sympathised with workers during the strike chose to quit the party after BDP caucus forced MPs to support the bill which was to be brought to parliament by then Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Peter Siele.
The development set had ushered in a new era in the governance of BDP, with the Executive effectively rendering Parliament — which by all intent and purpose is meant to prove checks on it — a rubber stamp.
The BDP caucus effectively derives its mandate from President as the head of executive.
The latest victim of the domineering caucus is Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Reggie Reatile.
Two months ago, the maverick MP was slapped with suspension for abstaining instead of voting alongside agreed party caucus positions.
In the build-up to his suspension, Reatile had on numerous occasions voted against the BDP on the Parliament floor. Reatile also abstained when voting was called on the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) Amendment Bill meant to create the position of Judge Advocate General.
Reatile was also the BDP black sheep that voted against Speaker of Parliament, Phandu Skelemani’s decision to suspend Leader of Opposition (LOO) Dumelang Saleshando, from parliament last month.
Prior to Reatile, maverick Ignatius Moswaane, Francistown West legislator, was also suspended. Moswaane has also proved to be a thorn in the flesh of the ruling party as he consistently refused to toe the party line, instead following his conscience.
Moswaane has since resigned from the BDP in favour of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
The insistence on block voting have seen parliament being ultra-polarised, and inadvertently at the expense of the public and good governance.
Despite the country grappled with rising incidence of Gender Based Violence (GBV), the ruling MPs rejected a motion tabled by Mahalapye East MP, Yandani Boko, following a caucus decision.
Boko had tabled a motion on urgency calling for parliament to request President Mokgweetsi Masisi to set-up a Commission of Inquiry on Gender Based Violence (GBV) and other Sexual Offences.
During the BDP caucus, it was agreed that the motion should not be agreed upon, but instead be countered with a suggestion that the duty be referred to an Inter-Ministerial Committee.
Commissions of Inquiry Act empowers the President to set-up a commission and to set its terms of reference.
The motion was however withdrawn by the mover following lack of support from BDP majority.
The rejection of the motion is part of many that have not survived the might of BDP caucus.
In the run-up to 2019 general election, Masisi promised to repeal the infamous Media Practitioners Act passed during his predecessor’s administration. The promise was buttressed in the BDP 2019 election manifesto.
However, when Selibe Phikwe West lawmaker, Dithapelo Keorapetse, brought before parliament the same bill, the ruling party caucus tore it apart. In brief; it was rejected.
The constitution of Botswana, adopted in 1966 following independence, vests legislative powers in parliament. Parliament, through its committees is empowered to provide oversight.
Parliament, indirectly elects the President and also has power to dissolve parliament through a pass of motion of no confidence on government supported by simple majority.
Parliament also approves national spending and also entitled to amend certain provisions of the constitution, save for entrenched provisions.
In giving parliament the legislative duties, the constitution also gives the President the power to ascent to bills passed by parliament or return them to parliament if not satisfied. Nevertheless, if parliament insists on not making any amendments, the President is compelled to ascent to the Bill failing which parliament will lead to the dissolution of parliament, necessitating new elections.
With so much power at its disposal why is parliament abdicating its true responsibility?
A squabble has broken out between Pule Mosala Funeral Parlour and the Botswana Police Service (BPS) over the remains of a South African national who has been in the Mosala mortuary for more than nineteen months. The deceased was one of 10 suspects who were controversially shot dead during a lengthy shootout with law enforcement authorities in Gaborone’s Phase 2 early last year.
The deceased individual’s family based in Soweto, has encountered difficulties in repatriating the body which has been in the care of Mosala Mortuary Services. Following the incident, it has emerged that all 10 bodies were transported to PFG mortuary in Lobatse for a brief period while the police attempted to locate their next of kin. Â It is reported that the families of the deceased were eventually identified and informed to come and identify their loved ones, including other South African nationals who were part of the criminal group. These families also witnessed the autopsy procedures conducted at Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone.
Except for the family from Soweto, nine of the bodies were claimed and taken by their separate relatives. The Soweto family claims they lack the resources to bring the body back to South Africa and has made it known that they are looking for money. To end the supposed verbal agreement over the body’s storage for repatriation, Mosala Funeral Service has filed a case against the police atÂ the Lobatse High Court.
According to Keakantse Mmotlhana, the company’s Sales and Marketing Manager, 10 people who were killed in Phase 2 by gunfire were all temporarily transferred to one of PFG’s branches in Lobatse by the police while efforts were made to find their next of kin. She expressed outrage at the statement made by the Minister of Defense and Security, recently.
After Assistant Police Commissioner Dipheko Motube called her office to apologize for giving the Minister wrong information during a news conference, she confirmed that they had accepted the apologies. He made it clear that one of the victims was still at Pule Mortuary in Lobatse.
Bushie Mosala, the director and owner of Mosala Funeral Services, confirmed that the body of a South African national has been in his mortuary for the past nineteen months. He expressed his desire for the police to remove the corpse from the mortuary, characterising the situation as a “nightmare.” He has instructed his legal team to file a lawsuit against the police in the Lobatse High Court concerning the body.
Mosala urged the acting Police Commissioner to come forward and apologize to the nation for the situation, asserting that the public has the right to know the truth regarding the body of the South African national, w
C -002Bhich was preserved by the police as evidence.
The South African High Commission in Gaborone had not responded to queries from Weekend Post at the time going of going to press.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) has expressed alarm over a troubling trend by the government. Tobokani Rari, Secretary General of the BOSETU, stated that it appears that these days, whenever there is a dispute between workers and the government, the administration is fast to run to the courts to attempt and muffle unions.
â€śThis is quite disturbing development, we have seen it with the Botswana Doctors Union, there was a disagreement over the shift allowance, government rushed to court, they indeed got order that was saying the doctors should go and do the work. We have seen it with the nurses, they rushed to court they got the order, we are now seeing it with the teachers, they rushed to the court and they got what they wanted,â€ť said Rari, who also served as the Secretary General of BOFEPUSU.
Rari raised concerns that the governmentâ€™s enforcement of teacherâ€™s work, through a court order will result in reduced classroom productivity and morale. Rari added that this situation would negatively impact labour relations and teachers emotional wellbeing due to dissatisfaction in their work places leading to persistently poor academic outcomes.
â€śYou can get an order that forces people to work, but what happens at work, it heightens emotions, it destroys relationships and the morale goes down and productivity does. Courts and judgments donâ€™t solve productivity issues. Productivity only comes when people are satisfied at the workplace, so if you force them to work through a court order then you may not get the maximum out of the working population,â€ť said Rari
MESD vs BOSETU COURT CASE
â€śAs you are aware, the Ministry of Education approached courts and they were demanding three things from the court in this case between BOSETU and the ministry. First, they were demanding that the joint letter that was written by BOSETU and Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) asking members to stop doing course work because there was no agreement be declared unlawfully and BOSETU should write to its members and withdraw that letter within 24hrs. The second thing that they were looking for, was to interdict BOSETU from further issuing any instructions to that effect going forward. Lastly was that court should hold BOSETU to pay the cost of the lawsuit on a punitive scale,â€ť Rari said.
Rari stated that the court decided to rule in favour of the Ministry of Education on all three relieves sought, that the savingram should be declared unlawful, that BOSETU should withdraw the contents savingram within 24hrs.
Court also said BOSETU should not issue any of such instructions going forward up until the case of contempt that BOSETU has taken to court, the contempt of the 2009 judgment has been decided. Court also awarded cost to the ministry on a punitive scale.
â€śBOSETU is a law abiding citizen and therefore we are bound by any laws and judgments that are there in Botswana and arise on the courts of Botswana hence we have complied with the order. On the 31st after the court case, we wrote to all our members and told them that the contents of that savingram as far as coursework is concerned has been withdrawn,â€ť said Rari.
Rari said what happened in this case is that the judge decided to listen to the urgency without the responding affidavits of the opposing party, BOSETU, and went on to rule the merit of the case, which surprised the union.
â€śHowever we have been in discussion with our lawyers because if we leave things like this, we feel like we cannot leave that unchallenged. We have taken a decision to appeal the judgment,â€ť Rari confirmed.
2023 COURSEWORK AND INVIGILATION AGREEMENT
â€śWe would like to make our members aware that the following day after the judgment, we were able to meet the Ministry of Education and we have arrived at a conclusion that we signed an agreement that coursework rates will be increased by 5%. If court had ruled that coursework is the duty of the teachersâ€™ means it wouldnâ€™t have been any agreement after the court case, it tells you that the issue is still open and it is on the table. We have arrived at an agreement that there is going to be an increment on all components of coursework and invigilation,â€ť Rari pointed out.
Rari further explained that Article 2 says union party is to submit detailed proposals on the intensity of the coursework for further engagement. Intensity of coursework means where the coursework payment starts in terms of varying from different subjects. He said the outcome based subject that are taught Maun Senior Secondary School and Moeng college which are agriculture and hotel and tourism is that ministry have agreed and acknowledgeÂ that there are some peculiarity in their coursework andÂ Â therefore should be paid in line with the peculiarities that are contained in their coursework.
Rari pointed out the resolutions taken at the conference where the issue of application of corporal punishment was addressed. Â â€śBOSETU will issue out a memo to their members to advise them that they should not apply corporal punishment, they should leave it to be applied in line with the Education Act.â€ť
The Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) which had struck a deal with the Ministry of Education to supply some schools in the northern part of the country is counting losses as mass migration of buffalos jeopardize the Commissionâ€™s plans.Â
Information reaching this publication shows that the beef exporter was recently given the greenlight to supply government schools with beef. According to documents seen by this publication, as a result BMC had scheduled to buy and collect cattle in the Nata-Gweta and Boteti constituencies from 11 to 17 September.
This was after BMC and the Ministry of Education struck a deal for the former to supply government schools with beef. Letters exchanged between Ministry officials state that it has been recommended to the ministry to support BMC by allowing it to supply schools with beef products.
The Ministry indicated that it was aware that some schools have contracts that are currently running with suppliers such as local butcheries.
The Ministry revealed that at the same time BMC has 256 tins of frozen quality meat at its Maun Plant.
The Ministry requested the Director-Regional Operations to appoint an officer to manage the procurement of meat for schools that do not currently have running contracts. The Ministry further stated that Modalities of collection will be arranged between the region and the schools identified.
According to the Ministry, a list of schools including the condition of their cold rooms and their number of deliveries and kilograms per week they buy should be compiled. The Ministry also requested its officials to share the list with headquarters and the acting director-Basic Education, and engage BMC accordingly to procure.
But this plan ran into trouble after it emerged that between 300 to 500 buffalos migrated from the buffalo fence area to Nata, Dukwi and Mosetse areas.
The Department of Veterinary Services sprang into acting by revising movement protocol for cloven-hoofed animals with immediate effect following buffalo sightings in zone 3b which covers Nata/Sowa, zone 3c which is around the Dukwi areas as well as zone 6a, which covers the Mosetse area, which fall under zones, 3b, 3c, 5,6a and 8.
The Department of Veterinary Services indicated that as a result, movement of live cloven-hoofed animals and their products out of zones 3b, 3c, 5, 6a and 8 were prohibited and that movement of live cloven-hoofed animals within and into these zones is only allowed for direct slaughter at licensed slaughter facilities under veterinary movement permit issued through BAITS.
The department also indicated that the movement of fresh products derived from cloven-hoofed animals such as raw milk, skins and fresh meat into these zones is also only allowed under a similar arrangement.
Movement of live cloven-hoofed animals into these zones for rearing and other purposes will not be allowed, and farmers and the general public is requested to continue being vigilant and report any buffalo sightings to the nearest veterinary office, the police or the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, the department said.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture has stated that following the press release on prohibition of movement of live cloven-hooved animals and their products in and out of Zones 3b, 3c, 5, 6a & 8, the acting Minister of Agriculture Karabo Gare, his counterpart Acting Minister of Environment, Wildlife &Â Tourism Mabuse Pule, acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Mr. Joshua Moloi, Director of Veterinary Services Dr Kefentse Motshegwa and other government officials visited the areas of Sepako and Dukwi respectively on a mission to consult with communities regarding the invasion of the places by buffalos.
Minister Gare alluded that they have been sent by the President of Botswana, who is equally worried by the current situation. He noted that the affected areas have a total of around 300000 cattle and if the situation goes unchecked, there might be detrimental effects on the economy of this country.
He encouraged the communities to help government going forward by reporting any spotted buffalos in their areas, emphasizing that buffalos are dangerous and can kill people and that care should be exercised at all times.
The Director of Veterinary Services mentioned that they closed the above mentioned zones to allow for testing of buffalos & cattle for foot & mouth disease. The wildlife department’s Director Mr. Moremi Batshabang assured farmers and the community that they will eliminate small clusters of buffalos found within communities and translocate larger clusters to ensure their safety.