Botswana Democratic Party members of parliament last week stood in unison to fight a motion in which Gaborone Central MP, Dumelang Saleshando, is seeking permission from parliament to table a motion calling on all national leaders to declare their assets and liabilities to parliament.
Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi last week refused to support Saleshando’s motion, saying that Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Minister Lesego Motsumi is better resourced to come up with a more resourced bill. He, however, went on to challenge Motsumi to formulate a comprehensive bill that will cover national leaders and their spouses.
Saleshando had submitted a request to parliament to table a bill on disclosure of assets and liabilities by all national leaders.
Mmolotsi said that he could not support Saleshando’s request because Motsumi had made an assurance that she will table a similar bill in future. He said that the law on disclosure of assets and liabilities should not only apply to MPs, cabinet ministers, heads of parastatals and top government officials, but should be extended to their spouses.
He added that it is common knowledge that some leaders register their assets through their spouses and relatives. He gave an example of a Nigerian city, where about 30 % of the individual residents are richer than the federal government. He said that almost all of them are either former national leaders or practicing public officials. In another example, Mmolotsi said that a former African head of State amassed wealth to an extent that he ended up loaning his government money.
Mmolotsi also gave an example of a former Commissioner of Police in Nigeria, who also became richer than the federal government after giving his brothers and cousins all the tenders from his department.
He said that Botswana must pass a law that will deter leaders from using their positions to amass wealth.
“We may say the system is different but we know that our ministers have indirect influence,” he said.
He said that public disclosure will also exonerate those minsters suspected of enriching themselves through public office.
Responding to Saleshando’s motion, Assistant Minister of Trade and Industry Maxwell Motowane said that as much as national leaders are expected to be above board, they are also entitled to benefit from the country’s economic activities.
“It must be accepted that individuals have a right to benefit from economic activities,” said Motowane.
He said that opposition MP’s have perfected the art of labelling BDP MPs as a corrupt lot, adding that it has not been proven that Botswana’s existing laws are inadequate to tackle the perceived corruption.
Motowane added that politicians like to make themselves look good before the electorate by accusing others of corruption. He said that it is altogether unfair to impute improper motives against members of the executive arm of government.
“Opposition politicians spend most of their time alleging corruption. People have been tried, convicted and abused by other politicians,” said Motowane.
Meanwhile Maun West MP Tawana Moremi II says that there is no justification for a law on declaration of assets and liabilities.Tawana said that he does not see any reason why MP’s should move to pass a bill that will fight a perception. He said that the bill on the declaration of assets and liabilities is more of an over regulation on the part of government.