The Umbrella for Democratic Change Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando will soon revive an initiative of traversing the country addressing Kgotla meetings as the Leader Of Opposition (LOO) in Parliament after he was blocked by former president Ian Khama in 2013.
The plan, through which Saleshando was targeting to educate the nation about the mandate of his office and the role of the opposition in a democratic set up, was frustrated by the intolerant Khama administration. At the time neither the Government spokesperson, Presidential Affairs Minister nor the Clerk of National Assembly took responsibility for the decision to stop Saleshando in his tracks.
Seven years down the line Saleshando is back as the LOO and is determined to address the kgotla meetings. It remains to be seen if history will repeat itself even under the administration of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who has promised a good working relationship with all opposition political parties. Some believe the return of Saleshando’s proposal will test Masisi’s level of tolerance towards the opposition.
According to Saleshando, the past administration wanted him to first seek permission from the President if he wanted to address kgotla meetings as Leader of Opposition outside his constituency. The Maun West MP told The Patriot on Sunday that the requirement was even written in a Green Book which gives the seating President unlimited discretion.
“That requirement has not been amended it still there and it remain to be seen if the current administration will enforce it or not, if they do so it will then mean that they are not different from Khama’s administration which tried to manage and restrict the space of the Leader of Opposition to operate,” Saleshando told the Patriot on Sunday.
The MP is however adamant that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party is still the same and it has not changed even under Masisi’s administration. He argues that a lot of things which the new administration condemned under the past the past administration are still happening even when they are now the ones in charge. Saleshando highlighted that even though the current administration had claimed that the country’s huge military expenditure was caused by the Khama brothers’ interest in the military business the same, he argues is however still happening even under their leadership.
“So to ask if Masisi will allow to give opposition more space I say lets wait until that request comes through.” Saleshando says he certainly plans to visits other constituencies probably before the end of this year. He reiterated that the reason is to engage the public about understanding the role of the opposition in parliament and also informing them about their plan as opposition. “We have been voted to parliament just like those other members of the ruling party so we also needs to reach out to the larger society to inform them about what we are doing in parliament,” he argued.
Saleshando says it is only that for now he had to hit the ground running as the MP for the Maun West constituency hence the delay of his plan to visit other constituencies. “I represent a constituency which has insurmountable challenges more than many others so it has taken more of my time because I do need to give it more priority. But I can assure you that as time goes on I do intend to reach out to other constituencies,” he indicated.
Local Political Analyst, Lesole Machacha is confident that president Masisi will not have a problem with Saleshando ‘s intended plan to address kgotla meetings across the country as LOO . Speaking in an interview with him Machacha pointed out that Masisi has already proved himself as someone who highly values democracy. The analyst highlighted that Masisi showed his tolerance towards the opposition when he allowed for them to also be covered by the State Media during their campaigns ahead of the much heated 2019 general elections something he argues was not the case with the past administration. Machacha believes that President Masisi is different from his predecessor, Ian Khama whom he says seemed to have difficulties in upholding the principles of democracy. His view is that because of Khama’s background in the military he had a strict personality which made it difficult for the opposition to survive during his tenure. Meanwhile the analyst commended that Saleshando’s plan is a welcome initiative noting that Batswana are also eager to hear what the opposition has been doing.