The opposition BNF Member of Parliament for Gaborone South, Akanyang Magama, is demoralized and puzzled by the ruling BDP MPs’ support of other countries’ fundamental and constitutional reforms while they cannot afford to see the same transpiring in Botswana.
Responding to counter contributions advanced by the ruling BDP MPs in the previous weeks, Magama on Friday said the MPs were against the direct election of the president but at the same time supporting countries that practice the same governance.
“It is amazing and demoralizing that the BDP governance is anti-direct election of a president while simultaneously supporting African countries that practice the same.”
The BDP MPs’ contention during the debate was that the system is a recipe for chaos and instability and cited Lesotho and Kenya as visible and typical examples.
The two countries subscribe to the direct election of the president. “The Office of the President (Botswana) hastily went on record to congratulate president Mwai Kibaki of Kenya immediately after the elections despite world-wide claims the elections were saturated with violence,” charged Magama.
“Such immediate uncalled for response translates to that the office of the president and the government were in tandem with what is currently happening in Kenya, which includes the direct election of the president and violence. Lesotho today is currently in a relatively stable environment under the direct election of the president.
Kenya is currently under chaos and instability not because of the system but rather because of president Kibaki who does not want a change of the guard.”
Magama had moved a motion in parliament that sought to request the government to amend sections of the constitution to pave way for the direct election of the president and to abolish automatic succession to the presidency by the vice president on the death, resignation or ceasing to hold office by the president.
The motion attracted much furore and frenzy in parliament.
“We do not want adverse situation like that running supreme in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Kenya where there is lawlessness and disrespect of law. Such countries are running riot because of the system that is currently being proposed,” BDP Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East, Tshireletso Seretse, argued without indicating how the direct election of a president is responsible for the situation in those countries.
Specially-elected MP and minister of Local Government, Margaret Nasha, also weighed in and said, “We should not copy anything lest we run the country into troubles. In a neighbouring country, they copied the law that embraced the rights for lesbians and gays and the country is regretful today.” Again, she did not say how those two are connected.
Foreign Affairs minister, Mompati Merafhe, on Friday (not for the first time) distanced the Office of the President and the government of Botswana from the congratulatory letter to Kibaki. The office of the president squarely puts the blame on the shoulders of the Botswana ambassador’s office in Kenya.
Magama, however, was not convinced and poured scorn on Merafhe’s intervention.
“How could the ambassador in Kenya relay a congratulatory note to the country without your knowledge and the Botswana government’s sanction? Surely the explanation is irrelevant and improper.
“The current indirect electoral presidential system dictates the president to elect his successor, including the ministers. The evidence is bare for everybody to see and indicates that Specially Elected ministers and councilors are nominated out of farvour and largely because the individuals are BDP activists. They do not possess anything like skills and merit.”
Magama argued the 1997 constitutional amendment, which transformed the country to what it is today, was without principle as it allows the president to elect the vice president.
“The current system stifles ambition as indicated last week by Specially Elected MP Botsalo Ntuane,” Magama insisted.
At that juncture, Minister of Education, Jacob Nkate, interrupted to clarify that specially-elected MPs and councillors were elected owing to their skills and expertise.
Nkate cited the Minister of Health, Sheila Tlou, as one of the experts in the health institution.
Magama would not swallow the intervention and retorted by saying he knows a driver nominated to position of responsibility mainly because he was a BDP activist.
Opposition BNF Kgatleng East MP stood up to add substance to Magama’s argument and asked, “Out of all the specially-elected MPs in this House today, who can dispute the MPs were nominated because they were BDP activists”.
None stood to challenge Mabiletsa.
The specially-elected MPs in parliament include assistant education minister Moggie Mbaakanyi, Margaret Nasha, Sheila Tlou and Botsalo Ntuane.
Ntuane won credit from Magama who cited him as an honest BDP member who would not fold arms and let his party go astray.
“Though Ntuane ultimately toed the party line, at least at some point, he questioned the credibility of BDP’s stance when it comes to constitutional reforms.”
Magama reiterated the stance taken by the Gaborone South West and Gaborone South MPs, Robert Molefhabangwe and Dumelang Saleshando, respectively, who clamoured for a referendum during their contributions.
“Since inception BDP has being reluctant and resistant to change. They embrace electoral reforms very slowly. Our urgent proposals are all the time said to be of no use. No urgency …No urgency all the time. Next time a BDP MP comes with the same motion there will be complete approval by the same BDP MPs who today reject the motion. BDP MPs are against anything wise coming from the opposition.”
Magama believes the motion could have passed should the ruling BDP not been influenced by jealousy and hatred because the motion came from the opposition, a thing which he says drags the country to disaster and holds the country at ransom.
“The motion will be defeated purely because your party outnumbers the opposition. The motion has all the merits it takes.”
Thus, Magama succumbed to defeat and the uproar of the BDP MPs could be heard outside the hallowed halls of parliament as the MPs yelled ‘NO’ to the motion.