For the ruling Botswana Democratic Party councilors in Francistown, something is stirring up.
Hardly a week passes without at least one from their ranks spending a night in jail or a police cell.
A good number of them, unable to settle their debts, are playing hide and seek with the sheriffs.
This has turned the BDP dominated Francistown City Council into a comedy troupe.
And the Botswana National Front members are savoring every moment of it.
BNF members are exhorting their political rivals to resign, the same devices the BDP used against the BNF leader, Otsweletse Moupo, when he was in trouble ÔÇô both in London and in his subsequent financial embarrassments.
First to eat the dirt within the BDP ranks was Itekeng councilor Sam Masunga.
Masunga was arrested while relaxing at his Area W home on a Sunday afternoon.
He did not know that a warrant of civil imprisonment had been issued against him for his failure to pay a P 3000 debt to one Nnewe.
Masunga’s debt had accrued while he was an employee with Duncan Morotsi Attorneys where he worked as a Deputy Sheriff.
The facts of the case are that Nnewe had contracted Masunga to recover a debt for him. Masunga recovered the money, but instead of passing it to the rightful owner, he pocketed it.
Nnewe’s efforts to recover his money proved futile until he was forced to seek the intervention of the courts.
Masunga sighed with relief that his family and friends had managed to raise the money to release him.
But that was not to be.
As he was on his way out of the prison doors, another lawyer, Miriro Furusa, pounced on him with yet another warrant of civil arrest.
This time around for P 15,000 rental arrears.
Facts are that Masunga’s rental arrears accrued while renting a house in area A.
Masunga was forced to hit a U-turn and go back to his cell while his family once again frantically engaged new efforts to raise more money to get him out of jail.
Following closely on Masunga’s saga was former Mayor and Monarch South councilor Ignatius Moswaane.
Moswaane spent all of last week in prison over a P 41 000 debt he owed Palapye businessman R.A. Bailey.
The debt has been outstanding since 1999. In December 2000 High court Judge John Mosojane granted a civil imprisonment order against Moswaane.
The order was suspended after he promised to pay back all the money in three installments.
But on release, Moswaane started to play a game of hide and seek with deputy sheriff Augustine Mokalake, a game that ran on for six years until the long arms of law caught up with him last Friday.
After he was released from prison with the help of his BDP friends, Moswaane appeared before Justice Singh Walia for yet another P 15, 000 debt owed to a prominent Francistown businessman.
As in the previous instances, Moswaane managed to salvage his freedom by promising to pay back P5000 by October 20th and subsequent monthly installments of P 1000. He will also cover the costs of the application.
Whether Moswaane will be able to keep his promises remains to be seen.
The same week that Moswaane was in trouble, another BDP councilor Phillip Butale of Somerset East was seen running helter-skelter trying to raise funds to help himself avoid the fate of his colleagues – jail.
Butale’s problems were not only financial but also political as they put him at direct loggerheads with his constituents.
Butale was found out to have accessed P4 000 from the Council Ward treasurer for Development Committee.
Apparently, this was without the knowledge of other committee members. The money was meant to buy building materials for the community cr├¿che.
On finding out what Butale had done, the committee members, led by Chairman Jabu Makhia, reported the matter to the police and the treasurer, Gaolebe Nkarabang, was charged with petty theft.
Though they could not reveal who had paid the money, sources have informed Sunday Standard that the said P 4000 had since been handed over to the police.
General consensus among the people of Somerset Extension though is that Butale is the one who should have been charged with common theft.
The argument holds that as an ex-officio leader of the WDC, Butale unduly used his political status and influence to coerce a helpless old woman, who held him in awe, to lend him the public money.
As things now stand, hardly a month passes without a member of the city council appearing before the courts over unpaid debts.
Across the political divide, Francistowners are raising strong concerns about what they feel is a lack of responsibility and accountability to the electorate by the councilors.
Jacob Mazhani, a civil servant in Francistown, said that it is about time the electorate brought the councilors to book to explain how they will be able to effectively represent their interests if they are continuously incarcerated over unpaid debts.
“No wonder one councilor once tabled a motion to the effect that they should be immune from approaches by deputy sheriffs once they are in the council premises.
They wanted to turn the council premises into a refuge from prosecution,” he said.
Others argue that the whole city council should be overhauled and by-elections declared so that Francistowners can elect more respectable people into office.
“Politics of hunger!” These were the first words that were uttered by BPP councilor Motlatsi Molapisi when asked to comment on the issue. He said that the recent developments prove that the BDP councilors did not join the city council to protect the interests of the people but rather to enrich themselves.
Molapisi added that apart from Moswaane, the implicated councilors are ineffective and they do not add any meaningful value to the council proceedings.
He reminded Sunday Standard of a motion that was once tabled by Masunga to the effect that the council chambers should also have a bar like the National Assembly
Molapisi said that it was very irresponsible of Masunga to say that especially when the public had been unanimous in condemning the parliamentary pub saying it promotes truancy and dereliction among MPs.
Molapisi did not spare Butale for what he called a tendency to table irresponsible and ill advised motions. The councilor, who also happens to be a reverend, once tabled a motion calling for councilors to be accorded special treatment in hospitals and other public areas.
“We have a problem of space at Nyangabwe hospital especially in these times of HIV/AIDS and this privileged man wants special treatment while the voiceless are suffering. What is that?” charged a visibly angry Molapisi.
A prominent BDP member in Francistown, who preferred anonymity, said that the present state of affairs is proof enough of the political immaturity in Botswana’s democracy.
He said that unlike in other countries, politicians in Botswana are not accountable to their electorate and they do very little to enhance and safeguard their integrity.
“At the same time our electorate is docile and do not hold the politicians accountable for their actions,” he said. This, he claimed, caused most people to join politics not to serve the nation but, rather, to serve their interests.