Some Maun residents have voiced concern at the absence of their MP, Tawana Moremi, from the constituency and accused him of not even attending kgotla meetings where even some cabinet ministers are in attendance.
This was said by some villager at a meeting at which residents of Maun embraced a Botswana Speaks project, which is an innovative parliament initiative co-funded by SIDA, the University of Stockholm as well as the Swedish trade council.
It is a newly introduced scheme geared at enabling members of the public to freely interact with their Members of Parliament at whatever time they find convenient.
In her brief presentation to people in the Maun West Constituency, currently led by MP Tawana Moremi, Chandapiwa Thebe of the Parliament Public Relations Unit said because MPs are constantly busy and at times held up by other government commitments, the project will simplify their way of communication, which also guarantees quick response, other than having to wait for their representative’s constituency trips which sometimes take long.
She said people will also be able to send through the internet, messages covering various views, concerns and complaints directly to their MPs via online portal, which will also be responded to in the same manner.
“With that in place, we also hope for the betterment of service delivery as Batswana will be accorded the chance to get involved in decision making, as well as to have a say in party debates and motions, while at the same time making MPs work unchallenged as they will be equipped with enough proof of their people’s concerns and be able to attend to them without delay,” she said.
Questioned on why the project was introduced in Maun West alone and not the rest of the district, Thebe said its piloting was done in Maun West, Nata/Gweta, and South East South, adding that it will only be rolled out to other districts soon, should the sponsors be convinced that it is doing well and more people are responding to it.
“This, therefore, means you must make use of this platform in good numbers, because the more people use it, the more our sponsors would want to see it grow. Those of you who are not computer literate should freely make use of the Maun West constituency office as officers have been deployed there to assist you in whatever you may want to know,” she added.
Though a commendable plan, it did not sit well with some people who felt it will, in a way, reduce MPs visits to the constituency even though the agreement prior to the elections was that MPs should, from time to time, avail themselves and interact with their people face to face.
One village elder, who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, told The Sunday Standard that MP Tawana, particularly, has been very scarce in his constituency for some time now and that he hardly ever visits.
“I don’t think their project will work for us. In fact, it will worsen the already bad situation at constituencies whereby MPs abscond and claim to be busy elsewhere, while their work should be where they left the people who voted them in. Tawana, particularly, also hardly ever avails himself at kgotla meetings even when cabinet ministers are in attendance, and for him I think this will be some kind of a blessing in disguise as he will use it as an excuse. What kind of leader is that? If he has issues with the cabinet, then it shouldn’t impact on us. He was voted in as a people’s representative and so should know what that means and what his job entails. I also feel the introduction of this project in Maun West alone was not fair from the onset. Maun is a small village, and so should have included Maun East and all these discussions held at the main kgotla, instead of this small classroom we are squeezed in if at all there is transparency.”
However, some of the people felt the arrangement should not be politicized as it might derail the focus of those who see it as good and want to gain from it. They said since it is a new thing, it should be left at that as it might benefit those who are never accorded the chance to air their grievances at kgotla meetings, which are usually very brief and never accommodate all who pose questions. They added that the project facilitators should at all costs ensure MPs adhere to response time and always give feedback whenever they are unable to find answers to the submitted queries.