Saturday, September 26, 2020

Gaborone mayoral elections marred by row over standing orders

The election of the mayor of Gaborone last week was mired in controversy as councilors argued over standing orders governing the council, with some saying that the regulations that were used were obsolete and therefore not in tandem with the recently instituted Township Act.

Parliament recently amended the Township and City Act to be incorporated into the council standing orders as soon as the new council sitting resumes business.

But presiding officers who were conducting last week’s mayoral elections did not use the new legislation, to the chagrin of Botswana Congress Party councilors.

The new Act primarily extends the tenure of both the mayor and the deputy from the traditional one year period to two and half years. Opposition councilors were of the view that the new act should be incorporated and endorsed before the councilors cast their vote for the mayor and deputy mayor.

Segoditshane councilor Ephraim Mabengane felt that the new legislation is important and should be endorsed before the new councilors assume office, especially as it has a direct bearing on their tenure.

“I think it will be improper to carry out the elections without announcing of such landmark amendments. I am afraid that by so doing, this honourable House will be out of order,” he said.

Immediate past Gaborone mayor, Harry Mothei, held a different view, saying that only the elected mayor and the deputy mayor have the prerogative to introduce such amendments and incorporate them into the standing orders.

“It has always been the case that the election of the leaders of the house is conducted first before any other business is tackled. To do otherwise would be out of order,” he said.
Another BCP councilor, Seabelo Thekiso, argued that the presiding officers were wrong not to have enlightened the councilors about the amendments.

But the BCP councilors’ arguments were in vain as the presiding officers went ahead and elected the new mayor.
BDP’s Tsogang ward councilor Unami Veronica Lesole was elected the new mayoress of Gaborone, garnering 21 votes ahead of BCP’s Florence Shagwa, who got seven votes.

Mothei also followed the new act, barring nominated councilors from voting, which has not been the normal practice in the past.

“We have been erroneously allowing nominated councilors to vote. But the new act does not allow that. Even specially elected members of parliament are not allowed to vote,” he said.
Councilors who were contesting the mayoral and deputy mayoral seats were also not allowed to vote for themselves.

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