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Masisi cautioned on Cabinet selection

Publishing Date : 16 January, 2018


Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers have cautioned Vice President and party Chairman Mokgweetsi Masisi about his ministers who undermine them (backbenchers) particularly on issues of information sharing on government activities.

The backbenchers finally broke their silence and raised their concerns on the issues this week at a BDP meeting, also suggesting some amendments they wish could be applied within the cabinet to make it a resolute force. The backbenchers’ other gripe is that they do not have a cordial relationship with cabinet ministers, despite belonging to the same party. This, according to the backbenchers will do the party no good as they are supposed to be at the same level with ministers in terms of information so that at any time they will be able to debate any issue with opposition.

They told Masisi that whenever they want clarity on something from their counterparts, the ministers give out a vibe of feeling threatened or challenged. Chief whip, Liakat Kablay is of the view that, by sharing the issues with them, ministers would be doing good service to the party as they (backbenchers) would be able to voice them out, unlike ministers who cannot speak at free will. “But their positions censor them, we as backbenchers can talk, so they should share with us,” he revealed.

“If you ask how far with ESP or any developmental project in your area motho o a tenega (the person gets angry) such that you wonder if you said something wrong or what,” another legislator who spoke on condition of anonymity said. “Re a bona gore gare mmogo golo ha, (We get the sense that we are not one) the impending reshuffle has ministers positioning themselves for plum posts especially the Vice President position,” said the source.

The backbenchers hinted, as an example, the recent enquiries by Selibe Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse on government’s laxity in resuscitating the dilapidated BCL mine and on the welfare of its former employees.  “Keorapetse is always politicking about it, ministers were supposed to respond against what he was saying because they had the information but in vain. If they are to keep quiet then the opposition will also win debates in public fora. If they can give us information then we wouldn’t shy away from responding. We should defend our country, government and party,” one MP said at the party meeting.

Because of the ministers’ attitudes against them, the backbenchers now feel they have been rendered obsolete. The backbenchers are also concerned about the elevation of specially elected MPs to cabinet. According to the backbenchers, only those who have been democratically elected should be eligible for nomination in ministerial positions.

 “They don’t know the pains of campaigning and of being grilled by constituents for failing. When you call them to visit your constituency they are reluctant to come, some even tell you casually that there is no money?” the MP added. “So if cabinet is made up of people who know the twinge of politics, when you ask them to visit your constituency they would not hesitate because they know what it means.”

The disgruntled backbenchers submitted to Masisi that ministers are controlled by Permanent Secretaries whom too don’t know the struggle of politicking. Some names like that of former Army commander Tebogo Masire and Policy Specialist at Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Lawrence Ookeditse are reportedly earmarked for some ministerial portfolios.

Of the six specially elected MP’s, four of them are cabinet ministers being; Unity Dow, Kitso Mokaila, Eric Molale and Kenneth Mathambo. The other two are Mephato Reatile and Bogolo Kenewendo. “They are said to be bringing quality but, they should seat at the backbench so that they throw in suggestions to those occupying those seats [ministerial positions]. Ministers are not allowed to ask question or table motions but when those ‘intelligent’ additions are in the back-bench they will throw in some good suggestions that would eventually help this country,” said the MP.

Masisi’s nonverbal gestures at the meeting according to sources gave backbenchers hope that he might rethink his initial cabinet posts come April 1st next year. Furthermore Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Thapelo Olopeng and Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs Edwin Batshu warmed up to the idea. On the other side minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Eric Molale was reportedly restless at the time the agenda was discussed.  

It is not the first time ministers and MP’s quarrel, in August this year they were at loggerheads over salary increment. They went on to argue again at the party caucus over parliamentary standings amendments earlier this year. The democrats’ legislators further accused cabinet of being silent even in party meetings.



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