Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has come out with guns blazing over what they call is selfishness by Members of Parliament to seek salary increment for themselves. Addressing a press briefing this week BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said they wonder if MPs didn’t know that salaries of MPs were very low when they joined politics. “Last year they secretly increased their salaries while public sector workers are still earning peanuts,” said Motshegwa. BOFEPUSU Labour Secretary Johnson Motshwarakgole said that the only way to address the issue of wages in Botswana is to have National Salary Structure (NSS). “This will not only address the salaries of public service workers but even those in the private sector,” he said.
In a rare show of unity, Members of Parliament from both aisles sang in unison the poor working conditions they are subjected to. Debating on the budget for parliament MPs expressed their displeasure at the paltry salaries, non-independence of parliament, dilapidated flats and lack of official transport while at their constituency. Outspoken Member of Parliament for Boteti East Sethomo Lelatisitswe called for the independence of parliament as it will enable it to have research officers for MPs instead of depending on the clerk. An independent parliament, according to Lelatisitswe, will enable it to consider the conditions of service for MPs. “Since it is just one of the organs in the Office of the President, the salaries of MPs are just heart-breaking 50 years after the country has gained independence,” said Lelatisitswe, calling on Parliament to be removed from the Office of the President.
Due to public perception which thinks MPs are earning a lot, Lelatisitswe said that this has led to some in an effort to live up to societal expectations ending up drowning in debt. The MP for Molepolole South Mohammed Khan revealed that the houses they are staying in are dilapidated and said that sometimes they feel they are staying in prisons. He called for the installation of phones at their Parliamentary houses and improvement of Internet network which he said that is very poor. Khan said due to poor salaries they are forced to engage in other business to augment their salaries. “I am not alone in having small business, even MP for Francistown West Ignatius Moswaane is selling Somali cars,” he said, throwing the whole house into laughter. Comparing to the neighbouring South Africa, he said that they earn 19% of what South African MPs are earning. According to Khan, one of the reasons MPs and Ministers don’t have control over senior public service workers is because they earn more than them. “Even a cabinet minister is earning below his Permanent Secretary and their conditions of services are far much better than that of a minister,” said Khan.
The voluble MP for Nata/Gweta didn’t mince his words, stating categorically that he did not support the budget for Parliament as it was too small. “Even if we can stay for more than three months without payment it is okay we cannot have such a laughable budget for parliament,” hit out Majaga. Parliament as the pillar of government, according to Majaga, is being taken for granted, as some MPs are afraid to talk about their welfare, hence the poor working conditions. “The integrity of this Parliament is going down every day the reason being that MPs are not living well and have resorted to living a life of denial,” he said. Majaga said that other countries are laughing at Botswana on how they treat their MPs. “Rona fa re ile Inter-Parliamentary Bodies o rekelwa dijo ke mokaulengwe wa gago wa Namibia kana wa Zimbabwe (when we go to Inter-Parliamentary meetings we have MPs from Namibia or Zimbabwe buying us food),” he said throwing the house into laughter.
Botswana Parliament has regressed since the 10th Parliament, lamented the MP for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi insisting that the legislature is no longer independent from the executive. He said that Parliament is no longer playing an oversight role as the executive is the majority in Parliament especially within the ruling party. “This is not good for our country because no one is making the executive accountable and is literally running the show,” said Mmolotsi who is also the UDC chief whip. Last year Parliament passed the National Assembly Salaries and Allowances Amendment Bill of 2015 which led to their salaries being increased. The salaries of the President and his deputy by 26 percent, cabinet ministers’ salaries were increased by 38 percent, while those of the leader of opposition, Deputy Speaker and assistant ministers were increased by 39 percent. Ordinary MPs’ salaries were increased by 32 percent. Other allowances and benefits due to the MPs such as constituency, hospitality, communication and many others were also increased by six percent.