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Ministers takes over parliament control

Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng

With many political observers already worried by the waning powers of parliament, State President Minister Kabo Morwaeng’s proposed changes to the parliamentary standing orders is set to further weaken the legislative house albeit handing more powers to the executive.

Following the increase of Ministers in 2016, parliament has been captured by the executive as the Ministers outnumber ordinary Members of Parliament (MPs), a development that led to parliament becoming a mere rubber stamp of executive orders.  It emerged this week that the Minister has proposed changes to the standing orders, although they have not been well received generally from democracy advocates and some MPs, it is likely that the majority rule in Parliament will see them pass.

One of the changes set to be debated by the Parliament in June/July meeting is that the Leader of the House be allowed more time when compared to other recognized leaders during all debates. This, according to Morwaeng is done so as to allow the VP to represent the government position. Ordinary MPs gets ten minutes to debate. It is also proposed that “there should be a new standing order to allow for elucidation by other Ministers/Leader of the House under pre-determined conditions especially given cross cutting nature of some questions.”

Individuals who intend to livestream parliamentary proceedings shall do so with the prior arrangements and permission of the Business Advisory Committee, another proposal reads. Leader of Opposition Dumelang Saleshando has been streaming parliament live on his Facebook page, this means he will have to engage with the business advisory committee.

Morwaeng also suggests that, “Unless in exception circumstances, urgent motions must be given a 48 hours’ notice period before presentation in parliament. The Speaker shall afford the mover and the portfolio minister an opportunity to appear before him in chambers before deciding on the urgency of the motion.” However, in the case the Speaker deems the motion to be urgent and worthy of presentation to parliament, while the Minister insists it is not urgent, a question of urgency shall be put to the General Assembly.

A portfolio Minister according to the proposed changes, must always be given priority to be the first to respond to any motion immediately following the mover’s presentation. In terms of the statements made in parliament, it is suggested that they must be given not less 48 hours notices and the portfolio ministers must be given a copy of the statement that has been submitted for consideration by the speaker. Further “the portfolio minister must as well be given an opportunity to respond at the end of the short questions and responses by the mover of the statement.”

The casual manner of MPs during voting of preceding of follow their votes with a comment will deem their vote spoil in the new dispensation. It is recommended that there shall be creation of another standing order which says ‘the name of the President shall not be used in a derogatory manner, disrespectfully or impute any improper motives in the person of the President in any parliamentary debate.”

OPPOSITION TRASHES AMMENDMENDS

Selibe Phikwe West legislator Dithapelo Keorapetse says the proposed standing orders which are akin to apartheid laws will be rejected and disobeyed. “The ruling party will abuse its majority to get their way and curtail parliamentary democracy by fraudulently and flagrantly overhauling the Standing Orders. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will vehemently and contemptuously reject all manner of attempts to violate democratic ethos and perpetuate tyranny of the majority in Parliament. If need be, the UDC will challenge the imposed Standing Orders by the ruling party in court to declare them unconstitutional. No laws or regulations comparable to apartheid will be tolerated.

The ruling party must get the message that Botswana parliament is not their House, Tsholetsa house, it belongs to Batswana. Like Christian legal philosophers St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas said that Lex iniusta non est lex, ‘an unjust law is not a law’, we will disobey any unjust, unreasonable and unconstitutional law imposed on MPs under the guise of instilling discipline. We will also reject and challenge all endeavors to STOP live broadcasting of Parliament.

We can only accept progressive suggestions to move forward towards democratic consolidation. Some provisions of the Standing Orders are obsolete and unconstitutional in a manner that suggests a democracy that’s regressing and not consolidating. Some sections of the Standing Orders limit freedom of speech including freedom to hold opinions protected by Section 12 of the Constitution. These Standing Orders stifle free parliamentary debates in that the Speaker is able to make some arbitrary decisions at times.

They give the executive more time and opportunity to have amplified voice in parliament more than ordinary MPs. Government Business dominates parliamentary proceedings compared to Private Members Business such as questions, motions and Bills among others. There is an attempt to make this worse!

There is a tradition by the President to address Parliament seated on a chair referred to as “State Chair” in the Standing Orders. The President after his delivery of the SONA leaves the House and seldom returns to hear MPs debate his speech and never responds to their deliberations. The response is done by the Leader of Government Business, being the Vice President or any Minister acting in that capacity.

This is despite the fact the President wields enormous powers; he has executive powers and can decide alone, prorogues Parliament or decides when its session can start and end and can dissolve it at any time for any reason. All this points to a crooked system that undermines and degrades Parliament. The system promotes disrespect of Parliament and non-accountability by the President. The special “State Chair”, placed permanently in the Chamber, must be abolished in the Parliament Standing Orders.

It has over the years become a symbol of domination or subjugation of Parliament by the President or the executive. The President should be purely primus inter pares among us his parliamentary colleagues, not some political leviathan of the House the system has created. The US President addresses Congress, especially on his presentation of the State of the Union and on other key addresses, like asking it to declare a state of war, while standing.

This also applies to the British Prime Minister and South African President as well as most Heads of State and Government. In the UK, the Prime Minister doesn’t have any special chair, even in the South African Parliament, there is no specially manufactured chair for the President.

Botswana Parliament Standing Orders and tradition don’t specifically permit African traditional or religious regalia, especially for male MPs, as only the colonial jacket and tie are allowed. Even smart casual wear on Fridays or any other day isn’t allowed. This archaic system belongs to the dustbin of history as it also interferes with the right wear what one wants. We need modern democratic Standing Orders.”

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Over 2 000 civil servants interdicted

6th December 2022

Over 2,000 civil servants in the public sector have been interdicted for a variety of reasons, the majority of which are criminal in nature.

According to reports, some officers have been under interdiction for more than two years because such matters are still being investigated. Information reaching WeekendPost shows that local government, particularly councils, has the highest number of suspended officers.

In its annual report, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) revealed that councils lead in corrupt activities throughout the country, and dozens of council employees are being investigated for alleged corrupt activities. It is also reported that disciplined forces, including the Botswana Defence Force (BDF), police, and prisons, and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have suspended a significant number of officers.

The Ministry of Education and Skills Development has also recorded a good number of teachers who have implicated in love relationships with students, while some are accused of impregnating students both in primary and secondary school. Regional education officers have been tasked to investigate such matters and are believed to be far from completion as some students are dragging their feet in assisting the investigations to be completed.

This year, Mmadinare Senior Secondary reportedly had the highest number of pregnancies, especially among form five students who were later forcibly expelled from school. Responding to this publication’s queries, Permanent Secretary to the Office of the President Emma Peloetletse said, “as you might be aware, I am currently addressing public servants across the length and breadth of our beautiful republic. Due to your detailed enquiry, I am not able to respond within your schedule,” she said.

She said some of the issues raised need verification of facts, some are still under investigation while some are still before the courts of law.

Meanwhile, it is close to six months since the Police Commissioner Keabetwe Makgophe, Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo and the Deputy Director of the DIS Tefo Kgothane were suspended from their official duties on various charges.

Efforts to solicit comment from trade unions were futile at the time of going to press.

Some suspended officers who opted for anonymity claimed that they have close to two years while on suspension. One stated that the investigations that led him to be suspended have not been completed.

“It is heartbreaking that at this time the investigations have not been completed,” he told WeekendPost, adding that “when a person is suspended, they get their salary fully without fail until the matter is resolved”.

Makgophe, Katlholo and Kgothane are the three most high-ranking government officials that are under interdiction.

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Masisi to dump Tsogwane?

28th November 2022

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and some senior government officials are abuzz with reports that President Mokgweetsi Masisi has requested his Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane not to contest the next general elections in 2024.

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African DFIs gear to combat climate change

25th November 2022

The impacts of climate change are increasing in frequency and intensity every year and this is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. African CEOs in the Global South are finally coming to the party on how to tackle the crisis.

Following the completion of COP27 in Egypt recently, CEOs of Africa DFIs converged in Botswana for the CEO Forum of the Association of African Development Finance Institutions. One of the key themes was on green financing and building partnerships for resource mobilization in financing SDGs in Africa

A report; “Weathering the storm; African Development Banks response to Covid-19” presented shocking findings during the seminar. Among them; African DFI’s have proven to be financially resilient, and they are fast shifting to a green transition and it’s financing.

COO, CEDA, James Moribame highlighted that; “Everyone needs food, shelter and all basic needs in general, but climate change is putting the achievement of this at bay. “It is expensive for businesses to do business, for instance; it is much challenging for the agricultural sector due to climate change, and the risks have gone up. If a famer plants crops, they should be ready for any potential natural disaster which will cost them their hard work.”

According to Moribame, Start-up businesses will forever require help if there is no change.

“There is no doubt that the Russia- Ukraine war disrupted supply chains. SMMEs have felt the most impact as some start-up businesses acquire their materials internationally, therefore as inflation peaks, this means the exchange rate rises which makes commodities expensive and challenging for SMMEs to progress. Basically, the cost of doing business has gone up. Governments are no longer able to support DFI’s.”

Moribame shared remedies to the situation, noting that; “What we need is leadership that will be able to address this. CEOs should ensure companies operate within a framework of responsible lending. They also ought to scout for opportunities that would be attractive to investors, this include investors who are willing to put money into green financing. Botswana is a prime spot for green financing due to the great opportunity that lies in solar projects. ”

Technology has been hailed as the economy of the future and thus needs to be embraced to drive operational efficiency both internally and externally.

Executive Director, bank of Industry Nigeria, Simon Aranou mentioned that for investors to pump money to climate financing in Africa, African states need to be in alignment with global standards.

“Do what meets world standards if you want money from international investors. Have a strong risk management system. Also be a good borrower, if you have a loan, honour the obligation of paying it back because this will ensure countries have a clean financial record which will then pave way for easier lending of money in the future. African states cannot just be demanding for mitigation from rich countries. Financing needs infrastructure to complement it, you cannot be seating on billions of dollars without the necessary support systems to make it work for you. Domestic resource mobilisation is key. Use public money to mobilise private money.” He said.

For his part, the Minster of Minister of Entrepreneurship, Karabo Gare enunciated that, over the past three years, governments across the world have had to readjust their priorities as the world dealt with the effects and impact of the COVID 19 pandemic both to human life and economic prosperity.

“The role of DFIs, during this tough period, which is to support governments through countercyclical measures, including funding of COVID-19 related development projects, has become more important than ever before. However, with the increasingly limited resources from governments, DFIs are now expected to mobilise resources to meet the fiscal gaps and continue to meet their developmental mandates across the various affected sectors of their economies.” Said Gare.

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