In terms of the Westminster System that Botswana inherited from its old colonial master, members of parliamentary committees are collectively responsible for decisions that such committees make. However, Gaborone Bonnington South MP, Ndaba Gaolathe, is not too happy about the application of this convention regarding a recent issue that the Finance and Estimates Committee (that he is a member of) had to deal with.
The Committee met last month to consider (and later approved) supplementary estimates submitted to it by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. When Minister Kenneth Matambo subsequently presented these estimates to parliament, he expressed gratitude to this Committee for favourably considering his request. Contributing to a debate on Matambo’s request, the Committee’s chairperson, Ignatius Moswaane, said that representatives of ministries that are included in the supplementary estimates appeared before the Committee to explain why they needed additional funding.
“I would like to indicate that the reasons which were presented were valid and they were able to convince us to include them in the supplementary budget. That is what I got after the consultation. Before this consultation, we were shocked when we saw the supplementary estimates but after a lot of explaining, we realised that our officers did a good job,” said Moswaane who is Francistown West MP.
Although he was speaking on behalf of all Committee members, Gaolathe made a very strong hint that he didn’t agree with his colleagues.
“I … want to express a concern or rather I want to express a wound that I feel, particularly as a Member of the Finance and Estimates Committee. I do so fully realising that as a member of a committee, there is a concept and the idea of collective responsibility. I would like to be understood in the context of this collective responsibility, that it does not mean that when there is collective responsibility, one must turn their back on issues of moral necessity,” he said.
The moral necessity he expressed was that giving the Botswana Meat Commission P300 million “without the very basic parametres that anyone who hands out or who makes the request of that amount needs to make” was “a travesty.”
That statement prompted the Assistant Minister of Health, Dr. Alfred Madigele, to ask Gaolathe “to confirm to this house that he voted in the negative when they were voting in the Committee because he did not come out clear.” Gaolathe would probably have given a more direct answer but the Speaker advised him to ignore Madigele’s statement.
“The Speaker has constrained me. I understand him to be saying I should not be declaring how I voted but you are a medical doctor. You are a man of letters. You are a man who has spent years investing in knowledge and surely you would tell from my tone and from my language today, how I voted and what I voted for,” said Gaolathe in direct response to Madigele.