Lobatse Town councillors have called for council and parliamentary candidates to have separate campaign tickets as well as hold elections on separate days.
The suggestion, which was made by Specially-Elected councilor, Malebogo Kruger, received bipartisan support from councillors attending a one-day workshop in the township’s council chamber.
“Members of parliament believe they are our bosses because we campaign on the same ticket with them but that is not the case. We are both politicians and have equal status but MPs think otherwise. They think they are our bosses, want to influence our work in the council and even want us to report to them. That can have the effect of derailing operations of the council,” Kruger said.
She added that in some instances the friction in the council chamber would have spilled over from the campaign ticket and that a councillor can be victimised by colleagues on account of being aligned with an unpopular MP.
Such interference, Woodhall councillor Molaudi Mantle said, was not in the least desirable because MPs tended to have an agenda not entirely in consonance with that of councillors.
“MPs are also not as close to the community as we as councillors are. I bet you that in the period of time that we have been in this workshop, people have been calling at our houses to ask for our assistance. They hardly ever go to MPs’ houses,” Mantle said.
Buttressing the latter point, Tefo Pule of Peleng West suggested that MPs’ exploit councillors’ closeness to communities by piggybacking their political campaigns on those of councillors.
“They are using us,” Pule said.
These comments came as councillors participated in a day’s workshop whose aim is to solicit input for a Botswana Councillors’ Handbook. The process is being undertaken by a consultancy firm called Human Capital Maximisers and sponsored by the Botswana Association of Local Authorities. The consultants’ remit is to visit all of Botswana’s 16 local authorities and hold extensive brainstorming sessions with councillors on what they feel should constitute their job description.
“When complete, this document will be used as a reference book at all times. The plan is that after next year’s general elections, it will be used as the primary document during the induction of councillors,” said Kgotlaetsho Morakanyane, one of the consultants.
Another consultant, Kruger Balosang, said that the confusion on what the roles of a councillor are with regard to those of an MP, was all the more reason why they had to be a document that spells out what the former’s duties are.
“It is not just MPs who have to be taught what councillors’ duties are but the public at large. Some people would think nothing of calling at your house at midnight to report their child missing when you are supposed to be having quality time with your own family,” Balosang said.