The MP for Francistown East Buti Billy – one of the reserved legislators – broke his silence on the recently adopted constitutional amendments debated in parliament. Billy shocked his colleagues in the ruling party when he differed with the constitutional amendment which seeks to increase the number of specially elected MPs. Starting his debate on a high note, Billy said that the current amendments should not be divorced from the aspirations of the constituents they are representing. “The difference between my constituency and others is that it has well informed and educated people who advise me on several issues,” said Billy, adding that one of his great concern is that there is too much ambiguity on the bill as it does not clearly state which ministries need to be divided or which ones will be created.
He said that his constituents have informed him that enough consultation was not done and as such they want a referendum on the proposed amendments. Efforts by Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to remind him that he had a chance to consult his constituents during the parliamentary break did not bear any fruits as Billy informed him that he did but they advised him that it was not enough. One of his misgivings on the bill is that the executive has a lot of powers and if members of the executives are increased it will kill the back bench which is toothless. Billy, a former Mayor of Francistown, said that it won’t make sense to increase the number of specially elected MPs when the country is faced with lot of challenges especially financial ones. Driving his point home, the Francistown East MP said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised Botswana to reduce their wage bill but said he is shocked that they are now doing the opposite.
Instead of increasing ministries, Billy advised that government should consider decentralising power and give councils more autonomy rather than depending on the ministry of Local Government. “Mayors should be given executive powers so that they can fire and hire not what is currently happening now where they are just ceremonial,” advised Billy. He said another area that they need to consider is how they can help the struggling mines as way of creating employment as the ruling party promised ahead of the 2014 General Elections. Also opposing the bill was the MP for Gaborone Central Dr Phenyo Butale who argued the ruling party has enough personnel to beef up cabinet rather than looking outside Parliament. “You have Honourable Unity Dow who is a former high court judge and immediately after roping her in as specially elected MP she could have been appointed Minister of Defence, Justice and Security where her skills are needed,” said Butale, who added that Dow is currently lost at Ministry of Education and Skills Development and messing up things. Other people who he said could be an asset to government is the Member of Parliament for Mmadinare Kefentse Mzwinila, who has four degrees.
“And you wonder what Honourable Kgathi is doing in Cabinet with this kind of thinking? With this kind of thinking, honestly, there are glaring vacancies that I see in Cabinet and I do not know whether those with power to select and elect people to Cabinet cannot see,” hit out Butale throwing the whole parliament into laughter. The bill was passed by Parliament after members of opposition staged a walkout when the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Eric Molale responded to the debate.