Members of Parliament this past week ditched their different political colours to jointly approve an increment of their own salaries and related benefits. Read the debate below:
MR MASISI: Thank you Mr Speaker. Let me from the outset make it very clear that I support the Bill as a matter of principle, in its entirety, but be quick to point out that much as a narrative in the last few years and lives of Parliament, has been a negative one with respect to perceptions concerning the earning capability of politicians in general and particularly Members of Parliament. A lot of that perception was fuelled by the means by which these awards are generated. I would only urge my colleagues to give due consideration to the methods by which any award or consideration is given because ours is a unique one. We are probably the only category of persons who process the Bill that affects us and are therefore conflicted. So, we must declare to all be conflicted, very openly. In being conflicted, I must also hasten to point out that in my knowledge and experience, Honourable Members of this House and past Parliaments of this Republic, have been very considerate and have been through a lot. They have tolerated an inadequate amount of remuneration for the work they do. For them it has been a selfless sacrifice of giving much more than what they earn. The challenges that they are up to irrespective of political party affiliation, ideology and inclination remain the same; it is to serve an electorate in this country. I wish to applaud them for the patience they have exercised, the resilience they have shown in that; the figures, the amounts, the entitlements and the benefits they have earned have always been very public and very transparent. It is the same process that we are going to go through now in terms of our consideration for an increment. In so doing, it is important to also point out that the work and scope of it, the nature of the work is completely different from a lot of those jobs with which it is compared. Honourable Lotlamoreng, it is very much unlike…, mo tsose foo. Honourable Salakae, re tsosetse Kgosi a re reetse foo. Honourable o robetse.
HONOURABLE MEMBER: Re a mmuelela kana, ga re ka ke ra buelela motho a robetse.
MR MASISI: Honourable Members have been very patient in tolerating the perceptions that their jobs can be and ought to be equated with other jobs. I would hope and cherish the time Honourable Minister, that you would consider re-designation or re-interrogation of the way these jobs are defined and rewarded. I want to underscore the very important principle of ensuring that people get rewarded to do the very job which they have been sent by the electorate and do it in places, or places they represent adequately with honesty and integrity. A Bill that seeks to make an adjustment following many years of self-induced suppression of incomes is most welcome. I would plead that we Honourable Members be supportive of this Bill and be dispassionately honest and sincere in debating every aspect of the Bill. Whatever amendments might be proposed, must be duly considered knowing fully well that we come from a background and a history of being known to be frugal, prudent, circumspect and above all to have been able to exercise restraint even in awards to ourselves. Let it not cross our minds that it maybe the time to open the floodgates for ostentatiousness and opulence, we cannot afford it, but reasonableness; yes, justification for it; yes, association with job not a human being or a person; it is absolutely welcome. So, yes Minister, I support this Bill Honourable Speaker. So let us hear the details. I thank you.
MR GUMA (TATI EAST): Mr Speaker, let me thank you very much. Before I do that, let me just correct what I saw in the media last week, that Members of Parliament have said they would not be debating Parliamentary business of the State of the Nation up until this Bill has come through. Just to put it for the record that we had re-arranged the business of Parliament in the last sitting, is it sitting or session? that we would prioritise Parliamentary business. The sole reason is that we want to speak and give this particular topic time to debate it openly, not to talk about this sensitive issue on the last day, as if it is not an important matter. We are the custodians of this country’s assets and as the Vice President has said, we are conflicted and we want to declare and talk about what we are looking after openly so that people get to know. We want to do this matter transparently and let the public hear us, critic us if they so wish, because we are talking about that which is theirs and we do not want to be talking in a hurry, as if to say it is not an important matter. Having said that Mr Speaker, this is my third term in Parliament. I must declare that ever since I became a Member of Parliament, my salary has been donated to the constituency and I am going to speak on behalf of the institution, not myself. It is important that when one is elected to an office or political office, he must first think of that institution and the people that serve in it and the public at large but not himself. Just because some of us can afford to finance and donate and do quite a number of things, it has nothing to do with the institution called Parliament. The institution itself must be looked after, it is a sensitive one, we are talking about people’s lives, we are in charge of huge budgets and also making sure that the values of this nation are within our customs. At no point in time should we be seen to be abusing those privileges. Mind you, we are only about 63. I have never seen in our culture a situation where, ga go nke go tlhokomelwa batsadi. These days we see a former Member of Parliament kana a Minister, walking around in poverty, what kind of culture and value are we supporting?
Our leaders that sacrificed so much end up being paupers, we are here not talking for them. What nation are we trying to create? We should not give ourselves something that we are not supposed to have. We are supposed to look after our leaders adequately, taking into consideration what this country can afford. I do not want to sit and make comparisons with other countries because no economies are the same. If we are going to use those variables to compare us and other economies, we are making a big mistake. We must look at what we can afford, what our country aspires to be and who we are. We started as a country at independence, it was okay in those days to pay that particular salary. Over the years, politics was joined by civil servants who had benefits, who had retired or shifted but also some of them had the benefit of taking something from the retirement and patching it up with what they have and it would look like it is okay. Let me just talk about a Councillor, a Councillor is one of the most abused human being I have seen serving in public. On a daily basis it is assumed that when a Councillor has been elected, he is supposed to take over the responsibility of the entire ward and he works for 24 hours. People do not even know that this poor Councillor does not have money. I can tell you some of the Councillors that I know, their net salaries are about P1, 200 because the bulk of the money has been taken by a vehicle. If a Councillor does not have a vehicle he cannot serve that ward. These people are not here to speak for themselves, and yet it is a service that has to be rendered. Let us tell the nation how they … we are aware that the salary structure and the pay structure of our people does not match with what the economy is all about. No, there is a huge disparity, that is an exercise for another day. I do not want somebody out there to say, “ga a re buelelela”. Today, I am speaking for Members of Parliament, they also have a voice. Somebody has to speak for them and I have to speak for myself as well.
MR MOREMI: On a point of clarification. Tanki Mr Speaker. Ke ne ke re ke botse Honourable Moyo Guma gore fa a re go na le disparity between dituelo le economy, a o e bua in the positive gore re duelwa go feta se economy e se supang, kana go negative re duelwa ka fa tlase ga se economy e se supang? MR GUMA: What I am basically saying is that, if you look at the paying structure generally, how we are paying the civil service, there is a huge disparity between the private sector and the civil service, understood, for various reasons. You cannot explain to me how somebody gets P300, 000 a month for doing X and you get P30, 000 a month. There is something that you need to check. You know, you can put that in a charter for the economist to start doing an analysis of it, but they will tell you, you need to do a little bit of a bad job. I think we can do better than what we are doing now. Our inflation is sitting at three per cent but I am not sure whether we need to talk about inflation when there are other variables to look into. What is the cost of building four bedroomed house and low cost house? If you look at the salary structure at which we are paying our people, even the middle income people at D1 or so, they cannot even build a house without going to a financial institution to borrow. There is a need for us to relook at different volumes. The starting point is that if you, yourself who is in charge the custodian, you are complaining, wena yo o apeileng o tshwerwe ke tlala, o tlaa tshola jang? Kgantele that is why there is a perception that we are enriching ourselves. We must actually pay Members of Parliament adequately. When I say MPs, I am including all of us who are in this House, not by category. Such that they do not even start to think otherwise, e re fa ba dira tiro ya bone Mr Speaker, they should not be conflicted in anyway. Mr Speaker, the Bill on Declaration of Assets is key because it assists us to tell people who we are. If I have come in with nothing, this is who I am, but if I have come in with what I have, this is who I am. It is key because re tshotse dilo tsa batho and we are speaking and doing this thing with the greatest humility, not because we are being arrogant out there. We want the nation to actually appreciate that we are doing this thing in pain, again humbling ourselves before them, but we are not being abusive. We are also doing this for the institution because we are not going to be here forever, others will come and others will go. We also have to attract people, the best in this society to come in and serve this nation. Sir, I support this Bill and I support it as it starts in that we are going to be broader and relook into all the sectors of the economy. We are going to do it in a calm manner and most probably we have to find a better way of addressing this particular issue which put us in conflict. I know Honourable Boko has said quite a number of times that we need to have our own, institution, committee or structure that looks independently at our remuneration. There have been commissions and they have come out with recommendations. What we are actually doing, I must say, there have been recommendations in the past to do exactly what we are doing. Looking at the resources at that time, Parliament found it proper to restrain itself. I do not think what we have actually done in here is adequate enough. I want to see Members of Parliament being paid pensions. In particular, those that have served a minimum term of two years. There are different ways in which you can do it, even if it means doing away with gratuity…
MR SPEAKER: Honourable Member, two years or two terms?
MR GUMA: Two terms, sorry. Even if it means us looking at the gratuity component and doing away with it because we cannot have it both. My preference is basically that the very same formula that we are giving to Heads of States, should actually trickle down proportionately. We must be open about this once, because we are open to talk about our salaries, remunerations and conditions of service. We must also be open about being transparent and people have to know who we are. The Bill for Declaration of Assets, Interests and Liabilities is key so that people should not even be thinking otherwise. Mr Speaker, I think there are a lot of us who want to speak. I think I have said my point. Let me sit down. Thank you very much.
ASSISTANT MINISTER OF BASIC EDUCATION (MR GOYA): Procedure. Ke a leboga Mr Speaker. Ke ne ke re ka re lebega re batla gore re latlhele la mmotlana mo kgannyeng e e fa pele e, ke e tle ke bone o tsaya ditshwetso tsa go re tobaganya five minutes each, gore re tle re kgone gore re bue re le bantsinyana. Ke a leboga Mr Speaker. MR SPEAKER: Nnyaa, gompieno ga ke tle go le tobaganya. Go tlaa tswa mo go lona gore le ntetlelele gore ke fologele kwa Committee Stage, mme ke tlaa bona go sena ope yo o batlang go bua. Fa le dira jalo, ke gone ke tlaa fologelang kwa Committee Stage, mme fa le ema ka dinao, ke tlile go le bitsa gore le bue.
MR MMOLOTSI (FRANCISTOWN SOUTH): Thank you very much Mr Speaker. I do not intend to speak for a long time because I am not too well today. I want to address the issue of principle with regard to this matter. What we have said in the past Mr Speaker is that it looks very ugly for Members of Parliament (MPs) to stand here and start talking about paying themselves. We have suggested in the past that it would be very nice to follow the examples that we see in other countries where they have what we call the Parliamentary Service Commission that looks at the conditions of service for Members of Parliament. When it is another body that is looking at our salaries, it would look very neat compared to a situation where we have to stand here and actually advocate for ourselves. That is why I am saying moving forward Minister, I think the best that we could have is a situation where we give this responsibility to an independent body. Like I have said, let us give it to a Parliamentary Service Commission so that it can do a proper job. The other way of doing this because Members of Parliament have not been paid well, I must agree with all of you that Members of Parliament have not been getting what they ought to be getting. Councillors do not get what they ought to be getting. In fact, Members of Parliament and Councillors do a lot of work which they are not paid. We know in other quarters it has been said that they are just doing voluntary service or they are volunteering but we must come to reality, face reality because these people are doing a lot for the society and the community. Indeed we are doing a lot for the communities that we represent. We sacrifice a lot. In fact, some of us who are not as rich as some of you here, find it very difficult to survive because we actually share the little money that we get with our electorates, whether it is during the time of funerals, weddings and whether you have to transport people from the constituency to some other places. We spend a lot of money announcing our own Kgotla meetings, using our vehicles, fuel and the people that we have to pay for doing that particular job because the Department of Information Services is unable to assist us full-time. For example, in the case of Francistown because we share the department with Honourable Moswaane, Honourable Buti Billy, Honourable Majaga, Honourable Olopeng and Honourable Guma Moyo, we find ourselves in a situation where the Department of Information Services will only help you address two meetings. The rest of the other meetings you have to fend for yourselves. We are saying that we use own personal resources to do Government job. Minister, that is why we appreciate that our salaries ought to improve and improve significantly because the type of work that we do actually requires that we get paid significantly. Look at the level of respect people want to give to their Members of Parliament and Councillors. In fact, we know that most of Batswana will give you respect if they think you have something. If they realize, like they have realized in some instances that MPs are paupers, the level of respect has actually gone down because they think we are destitutes. That is why I think if we want to preserve the dignity of this Parliament and Councillors, we ought to ensure that we at least pay them something that will make them deserve to be respected by the people they represent.
I also want to say, like we have always said, we belong to a system of governance which talks about the three Arms of Government or the three-tier system of Government where we have the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. What we are saying is that in future Minister, let us consider the fact that as Members of Parliament in this House, we ought to migrate towards earning salaries that are equivalent to those earned by other people in the other Arms of Government like the Judiciary for example. What is wrong with paying a Member of Parliament a salary that is equal to that which is paid to a Judge? There is nothing wrong because we are this side and they are that side and the Executive is in the other side. Our governance system is such that we are a threetier system. Minister, that is why I personally think that we should migrate towards that kind of system so that our Honourable Members of Parliament can also be respected, be able to do their job properly and be in a position to execute the functions of their job without any problems because they are appropriately paid. I know it is going to be very difficult to satisfy everybody but we must move towards at least giving MPs and Councillors something that can help them to also do other things for themselves. Having said that Mr Speaker, let me not take much of the time and say I support the Bill. MR KEORAPETSE (SELEBI PHIKWE WEST): Thank you Mr Speaker. Let me also rise to support the Bill presented by Honourable Molale. Let me start off with what Honourable Guma was saying about the media, in relation to recent reports that MPs threatened to boycott the State of the Nation Address. This Parliament has leaders. We have the Leader of the House, Leader of Opposition, Whips, Speaker and Deputy Speaker. These are the people the media should go to if they want official information on what MPs intend to do. If you want to know what the opposition is up to, here is the Opposition Whip or the Leader of the Opposition. If you want to know what the ruling party is up to, there is the Leader of the House and Government Whip. I think the inaccuracies that appear on the media need to be condemned. I think these journalists need to work hard on getting accurate information and facts. In fact, I want to give the assignment to investigative journalists to go and investigate what is meant by politically exposed persons and how they are affected when they go to commercial banks. This classification of politically exposed persons, they must go to the banks and find out what it means and how it affects politicians. Having said that Mr Speaker, I think we need to be frank when we debate this matter, in the sense that, one, it is desirable to have an independent Parliamentary Service Commission to look at conditions of service of Members of Parliament, but what is the position of the law now. The position of the law is that we will not be able to observe that principle of natural justice Honourable Maele, we call it nemo index in causa sua; no man may be a judge in a matter that we are interested in. That is the position of the law now, we have spoken for the workers, our constituents, but there is no one to speak for us except us, in terms of the law. Until and unless we change these laws to make sure that there is somebody who speaks for us, this is the situation that we have to deal with. I agree with Honourable Mmolotsi, let us equate Parliament with other Arms of Government. Why pay a Judge not equivalent to what you pay a Member of Parliament? When we say that there are three Arms of Government, equal in their jurisdictions, let us also see that reflecting in remuneration. You know, it is very sad. People who have spoken frankly and are quoted about Members of Parliament salaries, I know because it is on the record of the Hansard, I remember Satar Dada and also David Magang in his book, just go and read a chapter where he speaks about how former Members of Parliament are impoverished. Sometimes after leaving office they go to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to ask to be nominated as Specially Elected Councillors, because they have retired into poverty. It is a sad story. We do not want for people who sacrificed their lives and careers. When I was campaigning for this position in Selebi Phikwe, some were saying, “no, o batla go ja” and I had to bring my payslip from the university to say, this is what I am getting at the University of Botswana, and also the Act that you seek to amend today and said, look at what Members of Parliament are paid. So if anything, fa ke batla go ja I can remain at the university and not go to Parliament. These are the things that we need to educate our constituents on Honourable Members. Let me stop here and say that I support this Bill. We will discuss some amendments at the Committee Stage. Thank you.
MINISTER FOR PRESIDENTIAL AFFAIRS, GOVERNANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION (MR MOLALE): Thank you Mr Speaker. Let me also thank Honourable Members who have commented on this. I totally agree with the views expressed and I believe the adage that says,“modisa yo o molemo ke yo o tshwanetseng go tlhokomelwa” kgotsa “modisa yo o molemo o tshwanetse go tlhokomelwa”. Simply put, what Honourable Guma was saying is that, being the custodians of this nation’s assets and you are seen not to be taken care of is tantamount to saying that you do not value the contribution that this modisa is doing to take care of the flock. We know it all started and we will continue so, that we have to balance our interests, whether as a group or as individuals with the need to be frugal, prudent and transparent. For some time, the sentiments expressed have been this kind of seem imbalance where frugality, prudence has overweighed the interest of the members of the political family. I must say that as of now, we have 609 Councillors and 63 Members of Parliament, the total comes to 672. What has been happening is that, when we try to balance this, we have clubbed this political family’s salaries along with the salaries of the general public service. We have said the public service salaries need to be rationalised, because we are paying too much, but in the process we forget that the political family comprises only a small number. Therefore, we believe it is time we agree that we create this balance of frugality and prudence on the one hand, with taking care of this modisa. Therefore, this is the effort that has been made here. You would recall that re simolotse in 2014/15 where an ordinary MP was taken from a C1 level to D1 and we are now making an attempt to move them to somewhere. This is the balance that we are striving to create and we should not be seen to be a body that is just talking for itself. We are trying to show the transparency as accompanied by the justification of why we should be doing this. Having said that, I move that the National Assembly (Salaries and allowances) (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (No. 8 of 2017) be read a second time. I thank you Mr Speaker. [Hansard – August 8, 2017]