Boyce Sebetlela’s decision to resign from parliament and enter the corporate sector has taken the shine off Botswana’s much vaunted prestige of being a Member of Parliament.
What’s the point of being revered as a Member of Parliament if you cannot make as much money as the guys in the private sector?
But Sebetlela’s decision is bound to refuel the debate about the working conditions of MPs, most especially their perks.
Members of Parliament from across the political divide are united in calling for their salary hike.
Taking turns, our MPs have lately been talking like they are living in poverty.
That is not the truth.
They are perhaps the highest paid group of people who get most money for doing nothing beyond yawning and, in some instances, yelling at each other.
The MPs’ call for more money is however instructive in as far as it goes to show just how far detached they have become from reality.
If only they could reconnect people consumed by real poverty, the people they always claim to represent then they would have a tinker of what poverty means!
That said our MPs can rest assured that the recent figures in the media spelling out how much they want for themselves will find no sympathy with the public. If anything public disdain for politics will grow more endemic, more widespread and much more entrenched.
The situation is worsened by the fact that our MPs have decimally failed to cover themselves with glory.
Increasingly, and not altogether unfairly, our MPs are looked at as some of the country’s most unproductive group of people.
It will be extremely difficult for them to shed this unenviable and unhelpful badge of dishonour.
As every citizen would by now be so embarrassingly aware, the last few weeks have seen MPs in the news for all the wrong reasons.
The nation has been learning with shock that their honourable representatives are seldom attending the parliament sessions when they are expected to.
Week in week out, Parliament has had to adjourn for lack of a quorum.
May be their staying away is a strategy by MPs to register their unhappiness with what they collectively think are low salaries.
But a protest of such kind by people held in so high regard is as irresponsible as it could be counterproductive.
It only further estranges the voting public.
As it is, ordinary people feel strongly that MPs are already overpaid for doing little, including playing truant when they should be in parliament.
Ordinary people will be shocked to learn that their MPs now want to earn close to a thousand Pula sitting allowance to attend parliament for just a few hours or even dozing in the chamber.
An impression has been created that people become MPS so as to become rich.
That is grossly weird.
We should reverse a trend now entrenched in Botswana where people go into politics to make money.
Ordinary Batswana will be lost for words to learn that junior ministers, some of who are even unable to read answers written for them by officials, get P12000 every month just to stay in their houses.
This is over and above an array of other hefty perks.
Politics used to be a passion for the public spirited.
It used to be a profession for people with no interest in making wealth for themselves.
As it were, people who wanted to become rich went into business.
That is what happens in all other countries.
That is where our MPs, clamouring for higher salaries, should go.
We should restore that tradition.
That is also a place where Boyce Sebetlela, lustful for more money, has abandoned politics in favour of.
Carelessly increasing the salaries of MPs would lend us in a situation where we attract the less committed people, who would attend a few minutes of the parliamentary proceedings, well aware that their hefty packages are guaranteed.
As it is, the lure of money has attracted a different tribe of politicians to parliament.
Hence an increase of their salaries and allowances is the only thing they are united on.
They differ on almost everything else including on important and dignified issues such as establishing a register through which they would register their interests.
It is a sham and a disappointment.
Coming to think of it, I think the public should not give up in their call for the establishment of such a register.
In fact, the demand should be taken a step further to include a code, enforceable by law under which it will become mandatory for MPs to disclose the gifts and donations they receive.
This is particularly important as we approach elections as our politicians will be receiving all sorts of assistance from even the shadiest of characters, in the meantime selling our very souls as a nation.
We should do away with the current system where MPs and ministers can receive all kinds of presents and gifts.
It opens them to abuse and corruption.
It makes them susceptible to manipulation by the moneyed interests.
MPs have a choice, if they want money they can only follow Boyce Sebetlela’s path to the corporate sector.