The fight for turf between cabinet and Parliament, especially the Leader of Opposition, has taken a new turn as the two continue to fight as each party attempts to assert its authority.
Following a public outcry last month over government decision to deny Leader of Opposition, Dumelang Saleshando, the necessary instruments and authority to hold Kgotla meetings across the country, cabinet has moved swiftly to clip Saleshando’s wings by formally amending the Green Book.
The Green Book is an official schedule outlining privileges of various offices in government, including the President, Vice President, Ministers, Speaker of National Assembly as well as Leader of Opposition.
If there ever was any doubt about it, the amended Green Book comprehensively reflects the view of government on the extent to which the powers and privileges of Leader of Opposition should be reduced.
From now on, the Leader of Opposition will be at the mercy of the President if he wants to hold Kgotla meetings outside his own constituency.
While it was not always the case, the Schedule of the Green Book amended last month expressly states that “as a Member of Parliament, the role of the Leader of Opposition is confined to his or her constituency”.
This was not the case before Saleshando started addressing official kgotla meetings across the country in his capacity as Leader of Opposition, an initiative that not only caught cabinet unawares but also rubbed them the wrong way.
As yet another new departure from the old norm, the new Green Book indicates that “whenever the Leader of Opposition desires to leave his or her constituency in order to undertake an official tour on duty in Botswana, prior written request giving the purpose of the tour as well as detailed itinerary thereof shall be given to the Clerk of National Assembly as well as Secretary to Cabinet for the consideration by both the Speaker of the National Assembly and the President. The Leader of the Opposition shall not undertake any such travel unless the consent of both the Speaker and the President has been obtained in writing”.
There are fears that the President could delay or even deny the official travel of the Leader of Opposition.
Prior to a public spat over Saleshando’s aborted Kgotla meetings, there was no requirement in the Green Book for Leader of Opposition to await a written permission from the President before he could travel on duty across the country. The President was only notified out of courtesy.┬á
This is how the Green Book read before the furore; “When a Leader of Opposition leaves his or her headquarters in order to undertake an official tour on duty in Botswana prior written notification giving dates and details of the tour must be given to the secretary to the Cabinet for the information of the President.”
Clearly, the issue of requesting the President’s permission and authority did not arise.
In the old Green Book, the President’s authority was sought only for international travel.┬á It was clear from the old schedule that the President was consulted because his office had to authorize travel costs.