Irate Kgatleng councilors from across the political divide dragged the proposed local government bill to the gallows, arguing the document was more centered on bestowing unjust and unlimited powers to the minister than empowering the local authorities who have always been sidelined but expected to dance to every government tune.
Reacting to statements made on Thursday on behalf of the minister by Thatayaone Raphaka, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, the councilors made it clear they were against the bill because it gave too much power to the minister to dissolve council and suspend members of the council.
“This overture is a clear insult to the elected councilors,” thundered the ruling Botswana Democratic Party councilor, Wellington Mooketsi, as he fired the first salvo. “How can elected councilors, voted into positions of responsibility because of their loyalty and trustworthiness to the voters, be vetted out or be suspended by the minister who never took part in the elections? This decision is tantamount to demeaning the responsibility of both the councilor and most importantly the voters who braced the scorching summer heat to cast a vote for their beloved councilors. The minister can vet out or suspend those councilors he hand-picked as Specially Elected legislators.”
The clearly overwhelmed councilor slammed the government for inconsistency and discrimination, arguing there were too much imbalances of power applied by the government at the expense of the local authorities, citing the dissolution of parliament by the President, whilst “we are dissolved by someone whose performance is also questionable”.
For his part, the opposition Botswana National Front councilor, Maribe Morolong, also lambasted the proposal.
“This is a typical example of how a boastful government and its minister could go as far as belittling their stakeholders. I see this proposal as nothing else but a brag by the minister, revealing his job description which has nothing to do with paving the way for this nation’s development progress,” the Boseja ward councilor said.
Deputy Chairperson, Boyce Tladi, said that whilst the minister would have his parliamentary seat to fall back on if removed from cabinet, the councilor’s seat was their only lifeblood.
He sees the motive behind the bill as a BDP political agenda meant to settle scores against party members, citing an incident in the early 80s when a BDP councilor was stripped of his special nomination status because he jumped ship to join the opposition but would be reinstated upon rejoining the BDP.
“This document attracts more questions than answers. I would have given it a nod had it been made in good faith. But as it now stands, I can sense some elements of deceit and bad faith embedded in the document,” the Morwa ward councilor said, adding that “BDP’s factions should not be the agenda to propel the bill where opponents would be eliminated to accommodate friends”.
Regarding the rejection, variation or amendment of a council resolution by the minister, the councilors also unanimously knifed Raphaka’s defence, arguing the council was mature enough to come up with sound decisions without the intervention of the minister.
Whilst acknowledging the contributions made by councilors, Raphaka informed the councilors there was no malice about the bill, promising he would relay their grievances to the relevant offices.
“Such insinuations made by the councilors that the minister would abuse powers expelling so and so because they clashed over a certain girl or woman or political affiliations is not what this bill intends. It is meant to pave way for the smooth running of our local government,” he insisted.