The just-ended 2nd session of the 11th Parliament was full of drama, tension, intrigue and to some extent near physical confrontations. Amidst the chaos and the consistent absence of some cabinet ministers in Parliament, some MPs were able to tackle pertinent issues affecting not only the economy but also the social lives of ordinary Batswana. Here are some of those:
Ndaba Gaolathe - Economic vigilance
An economist by training, the MP for Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe is always vigilant when economic matters are discussed in parliament. Most of the time, Gaolathe keeps quiet and listen to other MPs debating but the moment he rises to contribute to parliamentary debates his contribution will be economically focused. When President Ian Khama presented Economic Stimulus Programme (ESP) some MPs could get a full grasp of what it stood for and showed mistrust for the programme without giving any alternatives. When it was Gaolathe’s turn he didn’t just throw the ESP out with dirty water, suspecting there was a major lapse with its internal coordination among key stakeholders within the executive.
President Khama had announced that ESP will be coordinated by the office of the Vice President, something that Gaolathe objected to on grounds that it was leaving out the main stakeholder, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. Showing his grasp on economic issues, Gaolathe punched holes on the programme wanting to know if Bank of Botswana has been informed on the ESP and how it will affect inflation, something that caught the Minister of Finance Kenneth Mathambo off guard. Matambo could only say it was premature to ask that. Gaolathe showed through his contribution that the ESP programme might not been well thought out as the President’s speech and the booklet failed to address the pertinent issues like how much would be spent on it cumulatively, when it will end and the number of companies that are likely to benefit from it.
As part of government to ensure that private sector plays a pivotal role in the country’s development, Public Private Partnership (PPP) was introduced in 2005 and cabinet approved its policy and implementation in 2009. If fully operational PPP was going to help address time and cost overruns in government projects, significantly improve delivery of public services, reduce waste due to overly conservative design which appears cheap in the short-run but is costly in the long run. PPPs unfortunately did not yield the desired results. A former speech writer to former President Festus Mogae during his tenure as head of state, Gaolathe – who most of the time plays an advisory role on economic matters – highlighted why most of government economic programmes fail.
With regard to PPPs failure to yield expected results, Gaolathe pointed to red tape within government and the complicated process and called on relevant stakeholders to unlock their processes. Proper framework must be developed to ensure that PPPs succeeded, said Gaolathe who in most cases receives compliments from the ruling party MPs even cabinet ministers.
Botlogile Tshireletso – Minority rights (abortion, legabibo, child marriages)
Politics has for long been a bastion of males and it’s not very easy for any woman to make her presence felt in Botswana’s political arena. In a country where it is a taboo to talk about homosexuality, transgender, child marriage and abortion, lest one loses elections, Botlogile Tshireletso has proven that one does not need to compromise their principles for political office. The Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, whose detractors have on many occasions have mocked her saying that she is not academically gifted, has remained resolute in breaking the societal ceilings by addressing issues which in most cases are discussed in hushed tones by politicians.
A self-made politician who started her political career as a councillor in Central District Council in 1979, becoming the first woman to be deputy council chairperson in the country’s largest district, Tshireletso is a strong willed politician. Ahead of the 2014 General Elections one of the burning issues that dominated the news was the lesbians, gays and bisexuals and whether they should be legalised. Many politicians avoided discussing the issue so as to ensure they did not anger the conservative voters. Tshireletso took a bold decision and became the only politician who not only openly talked about homosexuality, abortion and sex workers but advocated for them to be legalised.
This caused an uproar especially among some holier than thou pastors who waged a political war against the Mahalapye West legislator calling for voters to reject her at the polls as she was promoting evil deeds but she stood her ground. Many thought that she will lose steam on LEGABIBO issues after the General Elections but Tshireletso came more prepared than ever before and it seems the support she got from leader of opposition Duma Boko gave her more confidence.
In the 2nd session of the 11th Parliament Tshireletso spoke out against discrimination against transgender people, noting that even in government health facilities they are laughed at.
Phenyo Butale & Ignatius Moswaane – Water
One of the pertinent issues that dominated all the spheres of life was water and power crisis and while the civic society promised to take government to task about their reluctance to address the crisis, Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central Dr Phenyo Butale not only literally took the fight to government but made them to act swiftly. Early this year, Dr Butale was bungled out of parliament after he wanted to table an urgent motion calling on parliament to investigate the power and water crisis which were crippling the economy. The deputy speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi refused to allow the motion to be represented leading to some fracas inside the house which led to Butale being carried out by Parliament security officers.
The motion was later allowed to be tabled and this time by Member of Parliament for Gaborone North Haskins Nkaingwa. It was rejected by ruling party MPs but not the one to give up Butale took the concern to the public by organising a march from Mogoditshane to Gaborone. He petitioned President Khama to address the water and power crisis forcing the President to address the concerns during the commissioning of the Masama Wellfields. President Khama informed the nation on what his government was doing to try to address the water crisis. He spelt out his government’s long-term roadmap for the management as well as supply of water resources nationwide through National Water Master Plan (NWMP) which was finalised back in 1990 to address emerging trends in water shortages.
Realising that they might receive public backlash, government rushed to commission Masama Wellfields, with President Khama attacking the opposition for trying to politicise the water and power crisis. Francistown West MP Ignatius Moswaane is a theatric politician who knows how to make his views known and remembered. He took the water and power crisis to another level in the last session of 2015 parliament. He broke ranks with his party as he took on government on its failure to provide water to residents of the greater Gaborone. Some MPs felt that he was an attention seeker but Moswaane stood his ground and received support from the public. Though he comes from Francistown where water is in abundance, Moswaane rose to the level of national leader using every trick at his disposal, agitating for the people of Tlokweng, Mogoditshane and Mmopane to get their basic need, water.
He accused Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Kitso Mokaila for misleading the Parliament when he informed them that the completion of North South Water Carrier pipe and the commissioning of Masama wells would ease water shortage in and around Gaborone. Fed up with his militant and dramatic behaviour Parliament rejected his motion which called on government to appoint a task force to investigate the extent of water crisis around Gaborone and provide ways of ensuring improved supply. The Francistown West MP – who has on several occasions clashed with his government – wanted a state of emergency to be declared. Never the one to hide his feelings, Moswaane accused his fellow MPs of being childish when they rejected his motion.
The rebellious MP – who has on several occasions been threatened with disciplinary action by the party leadership due to his utterances – has threatened to defect to the opposition should government fail to provide residents of the greater Gaborone with water.