Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MPs, among them Eric Molale, Unity Dow, Slumber Tsogwane took turns rejecting the amendments proposed by Gaborone Central MP Dr Phenyo Butale to the Whistleblowing Bill in Parliament this week. Among a raft of other amendments, which were accepted by MPs on both sides of the aisle, Dr Butale has proposed the extension of persons to whom disclosure of impropriety may be made to include media houses, the Law Society of Botswana and the Competition Authority and the Botswana Prison Services.
While Molale argued that the media is not a government institution and therefore cannot be regulated with the existing statutes, Dow insisted that the media and the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) would be misplaced if they are included as institutions to which disclosure of impropriety may be made. "The purpose of this Act is to cause an institution to whom a report is made to conduct an investigation and bring culprits to book. Beyond just writing stories, the media does not have any investigative powers vested on the police and other state agents.
The same with the LSB; they are not an investigating authority. The LSB would open floodgates with other associations like nurses and architects, who are regulated by different Acts demanding inclusion in the whistleblowing Act. The other challenge would be that not all lawyers belong to LSB," said Dow. Tsogwane's major gripe is that the media has often been criticised and sued for reporting information whose credibility is questionable.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) MPs Nkaigwa, Abram Kesupile and Wynter Mmolotsi had, on the other hand, supported the amendments, saying inclusion of the media will expand the scope of institutions who can receive information from whistleblowers. Further Nkaigwa said the media has over the years proved to conduct credible investigations and exposed corruption and other impropriety from different parts of the country. "Such exposure of corruption by the media has helped a lot to curb unbecoming conduct, which has in turn led to state agencies following up on such reports. The media, therefore, is an important stakeholder in investigating corruption and other wrong-doings and are rightly placed to receive information from informers who in some instances may be uncomfortable with approaching state agencies," said Mmolotsi.