Of all the specially elected members of parliament, there is none that is not a cabinet minister. This is for the reason that constitutionally, for one to be a cabinet minister they first have to be a member of parliament. There is no law that says for one to be a member of cabinet, there should be from the ruling party; it has been Botswana’s culture and political history which remains sustained. And it does not look like it will end anytime soon. It is a game of partisan politics. Parliament has before it a bill that seeks to increase specially elected members of Parliament. Along this will be another step of increasing cabinet members and ministries thereof. Though the question of cost is important, perhaps it is not reason enough we need to interrogate this bill. Noting that whether we like it or not, the bill shall pass through numbers and not reason, we are still inclined to identify a position. And this position must be futuristic. The pertinent question should border around the reasons for such a bill. This is were the debate should focus. It is almost a given that of all the specially elected MPs who will be added to the current national assembly, shall be elevated to cabinet immediately after assuming office.
It is almost impossible that a new cabinet structure is not in place hidden somewhere in locked and secure safes. There is also a given possibility that whilst the bill is awaiting to be passed by Parliament, as shall be the case, the names of those who will be roped in as Members of Parliament have long been compiled and are safely tucked away from the scrutinising public eye. Though this exercise might also be used to balance scales of power within the ruling party, it is also intended to enhance the capacity of cabinet. As pointed out above, to enhance cabinet you first have to enhance parliament. This exercise cannot be left to voters alone. Voters have a tendency to vote with their heads cut out and left somewhere and later complain about service delivery. They tend to forget in the process that service delivery and effective representation can only come when the voter is careful in their choice of leaders. The voter here must blame himself. You can’t be bringing clowns to Parliament and expect them not to do what they do best; to entertain. We can’t get into the measuring of the parliamentary intellect capacity at this juncture. We have done it before. We know who qualifies to be brain fit and who is logically challenged. In thinking about the intellectually challenged, I am trying very hard not to think of the BDP chief whip in Parliament, Liaket Kably, who is also the Member of Parliament for Letlhakeng-Lephephe. This alone helps the President of the land and his advisors to choose a cabinet.
The question of loyalty cannot be divorced from this process for no one will want a cabinet disloyal to him. It is a given that, in the choice of specially elected MPs, the state president also deliberately not only considers capacity but loyalty. These people will end up in Cabinet and it is Cabinet that runs the country. Those idle minds sitting is Parliament can continue to joke, throw bottles, play with condoms, carry knives (okapi) and cabinet will continue to run the country; if need be, by directives. Besides, most of them deserve to be led and not to lead. Given that the voter continues to vote non–cabinet material, which then means any sitting president, at any point of the life of Botswana, shall for purposes of enhancing capacity appoint specially elected MPs so that he may escalate their standing to cabinet. This opens yet another possibility of having another bill brought to parliament to increase MPs for purposes of appointing them to cabinet. Of course we can’t ignore the cost of upkeep, the salaries and allowances, housing, school fees for their children, the maids and guards, their dog allowances, their drivers, office staff and many other things such as refrigerators that we are told can talk and be told what to serve the master, including mirrors that cost as much as your combined annual salaries.
It is upon this basic argument that the ruling party should seriously consider bringing a reasonable bill to Parliament that allows any sitting president to appoint cabinet ministers outside parliament. We are heading for a showdown. Democracy cannot function when cabinet ministers equal the number of back benchers. This is why anything that was ‘gossiped’ about at cabinet will surely pass in Parliament because the numbers of members of parliament who are cabinet members is so huge that out numbering them through the vote is close to impossible. Remember the concept of voting on grounds of loyalty to the state president! They vote because they have had a chance to discuss a matter in Cabinet and not because such a matter makes sense. There is not even a single reason to debate it. It has already been agreed to by loyalists at cabinet. Passing a law that allows a sitting President to appoint members of cabinet outside parliament will give him and his advisors a huge pool of possibilities and opportunity to thoroughly scrutinise. There are so many people willing to serve the country in cabinet positions yet not willing to be part of the the circus we call Parliament. They are not wrong to be viewing parliament as a waste of time. Besides, how can it not be a waste of time when the only time members of parliament get serious is when they are debating motions to review their allowances and salaries?
The other only such rare moment when they get serious is when they chose an outfit either for the budget speech or the state of the nation address. This motion is long overdue, but we all know it can only happen and become reality when the ruling party comes to their senses and see a need. It will also be irrational for the opposition not to support the bill unless they will be communicating that they don’t see themselves in power one of the good God given days. This law will come to save even the opposition once it assumes power as it shall give the sitting president the needed authority to appoint on merit, competency and literacy. In the case that the opposition gets into power under the same law that prohibits a sitting president to appoint cabinet outside parliament, then the opposition shall surely not be able to deliver. It shall be same old song sang in the same place to same audiences and hence boring. The voters have proven overtime that they are incapable of voting people of repute; they must be helped through the law to be able to get meaningful representation.
Simon Gabathuse is available at:
Facebook: Simon Gabathuse