Sunday, May 29, 2022

BDP backbench defies Vice President

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members of Parliament this week rebelled against the party position and opposed the floor crossing bill believed to be a slight of hand to stem the tide of resignations against the ruling party.

Defying Vice President Mompati Merafhe’s call for them to rally behind the executive, the backbench was this week unwavering as one MP after another spoke strongly against the proposed law.

BDP chairperson and Member of Parliament for Molepolole, Daniel Kwelagobe, told parliament that he was against the clause on floor crossing arguing that, if anything, the electorate should be given power to recall their councilor.

He said legislating on floor crossing was unnecessary and that, instead, government should focus on service delivery. He said that there was need to decentralize and consider appointing executive mayors.

Concurring with Kwelagobe, Tonota North MP, Fidelis Molao, said that perhaps it was time to entrench local government authorities on the constitution.

For efficiency, Molao said that big local government authorities like Central District Councils should be off loaded.

He said that it was shocking that the proposed law also gives the minister the power to sack a councilor.

“How do you guard against malice?” he questioned. “If we still want to call ourselves a democracy let us empower the electorates…we are transferring too much power to party bosses.”

He said that the proposed law has no place in Botswana’s liberal democracy.

Meanwhile, Lobatse legislator Nehemiah Modubule accused the ruling BDP of being opportunistic by bringing the law at a time when the ruling party is losing many of its councilors to the opposition.

He said that, in the past, the ruling party had benefited from defections arguing that there was no need for alarm.

While debating the Local Government bill, Kweneng South East Member of Parliament, Mmoloki Raletobana, made a call for the minister to look for a national consensus on the topical issue of floor crossing.

Although the bill addresses a number of issues it wants councilors who defect to other political parties to relinquish their seats.

Raletobana came up against the idea of barring councilors from joining a party of their choice. He said that a minister being a politician cannot deliberate on the issue because he had an interest.

“Politicians cannot be judges; let’s throw it to a referendum…everyone is serving his interest,” said Raletobana. “We can’t take a decision on this issue.”

He said that the referendum should cover a variety of issues, such as whether there is a need for a constitutional review and a change of electoral arrangement.

He also expressed doubt about the consultation process carried out by minister Lebonaamang Mokalake. He singled out the Kgotla meetings that Mokalake addressed, adding that it was obvious that a number of Batswana did not have an input on the proposed law because many were at work when he took a tour to address them.

He said that, once elected, councilors pledge allegiance to serving the public not their political parties. He said that the law would be unfair for those electorates that vote for an individual instead of his political party.

The remarks were part of a wave of resentment by BDP backbenchers over the proposed law.

Like other MPs Modubule criticized the minister for failing to engage with law makers and members of the public on the proposed law. He threatened legal action if the bill is passed.

“If you pass this law, we will challenge it in a court of law,” said Modubule.

“Nobody has the right to take away my constitutional right to associate; if we want to change the electoral laws lets go for the Electoral Act.”

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