Thursday, April 25, 2024

In addition to other freebies, MPs get iPads from National Assembly

From free housing at the Parliamentary Village which a bar that sells drinks at heavily-subsidised prices to a generous car scheme, MPs also get free iPads from the government.


The Speaker, Gladys Kokorwe, should probably have kept the latter detail under wraps so that MPs who felt the need to showboat with those gadgets at public events in their constituencies could happily do so without the knowledge of members of the public. However, that little secret came out when, just as proceedings were about to start, one MP complained that he didn’t have a hard copy of the order paper ÔÇô a  list which shows the order in which parliamentary business will be discussed on a particular  day. That prompted the Gaborone South MP, Kagiso Molatlhegi, to alert the Speaker to the fact that members had been emailed a soft copy of the order paper.  The latter shut some demurring that followed by revealing that interesting detail.


“You have agreed to utilise the iPads that you have been given and I have reliably been informed that even the corrigendum has been sent. Therefore, let us proceed,” said Kokorwe, referring by ‘corrigendum’ to a revision of a published document. 


When a probably IT-illiterate MP asked where he could find the order paper, the Speaker just had to rub in the freebee detail with her response: “In your iPads that you have been given.”


Despite the half-free cars and drinks as well as the free iPads and housing, Botswana MPs are among the least well-taken-care-of on the continent and in the Commonwealth. While a study by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) in the British House of Commons found that four out of five of the highest paid MPs in the world are African, Botswana’s are not on that list. The Top Five list is made up of Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Indonesia and South Africa.   


Through his column in Mmegi, Selebi Phikwe  West MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse, has lamented Botswana’s situation by stating: “Some retired MPs ended up as street vendors, small subsistence farmers and some resorted to alcohol to drown their sorrows while others were buried as paupers with sympathisers contributing towards their burial. Some former MPs had their property auctioned by creditors for failing to service their loans; it has been reported that some families broke down consequently. Some former MPs have been reduced to beggars. Others, including former ministers whose re-election attempts failed, are said to have begged the appointing authorities to nominate them as specially elected MPs or councillors or deploy them to diplomatic missions.”


An even more dramatic account was provided by the former Deputy Speaker and Tonota South MP, Pono Moatlhodi, who claimed that some former MPs keep body and soul together by crawling from one bereaved homestead to the next in order that they can score free food.


However, MPs themselves haven’t been able to get a proper handle on this issue. To a large extent, the current salary structure in the public service is a replication of that which was inherited from a colonial government which racially discriminated between employees. Where they can recommend an across-the-board review of salaries for everyone, MPs have tabled motions about their own remuneration package. 


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