Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Minister’s intervention at Francistown City Council fuels tension

Following the on-going tensions at the Francistown City Council over a trip to Belgium by the Francistown Mayor, Isaac Nyeku, and his delegation, last week issues turned out for the worst as a war of words erupted among council members.

Although the Assistant Minister of Local Government, Kentse Rammidi, had come in to try and resolve the conflict in an emergency meeting, some council members pointed a finger at him, but further blamed the mayor for being an autocrat who does not consult them during decision making.
They accused the mayor of never consulting them over the trip to Belgium and also accused him of trying to swindle the trip for his self interest.

The members also attacked the mayor for keeping a lot of issues that are of the council’s interest to himself indicating that he bases his decisions on political favouritism.
Issues took a dramatic turn when some of the council members mentioned that they are not surprised, especially considering the list of people that the mayor included in his delegation to Belgium, intimating that there was never a full council meeting in place to democratically choose the delegation.

They also took issue with the fact that although the council members have tried in vain to advice Nyeku on decision-making procedures, it seems the mayor is neglecting them.
The councilor member for Monarch South, Ignatius Moswaane also lambasted Nyeku, saying that the mayor had a personal interest in the trip.

“The mayor decided to exclude the members of council in choosing his delegation and we are very much concerned because this trip involves public funds,” Moswaane remarked.

One of the council members of Satellite Ward, James Kgalajwe, also took swipe at the mayor, complaining that they only heard about the preparation for the trip to Belgium in the media and were never consulted because a full council meeting was never called.

Kgalajwe mentioned that the ministry should also realize that as council members they have the right to take part in decision making because they represent the wishes of their electorate.
“The ministries have taken all powers from the council members and the whole country needs to be alert on this,” Kgalajwe said.

He attacked the minister and warned him never to try and intimidate the members of council as they are also vested with the powers of representing the wishes of their people.

However Nyeku pointed out to the session that a proper procedure was followed when electing the delegation to visit Genk City in Belgium and he tried the most possible methods to involve the council members. He stated that when the delegation from Genk in Belgium visited Francistown early this year, a twinning committee was elected in order to decide on a list of delegates to visit Belgium “and the council members are very much aware of it”.

“After the committee we decided that the council members should be informed so that we do not leave them in the dark and indeed we agreed for a special full council that we attended this week,” the mayor said.

However Rammidi refuted the allegations by some of the council members that his visit to try and intervene was based on his political interests, saying that he felt it is in his ministry’s interest to try and intervene on issues of this nature because they are part of the mandate of the Ministry of Local Government.

“The trip to Belgium is of utmost importance because the relationship between the Francistown City Council and the City of Genk in Belgium has been very vital to the development of the citizens of the two countries ever since their twinning initiative expedition,” he added.

He highlighted that it is very important for the council members to realize that trips of international interest have a bearing on the image of the country, adding that the reason for his intervention at the meeting was because the Permanent Secretary, having been aware of the tension at the FCC, decided that there is such need to resolve the matter in order to retain the image of the country.

“The ministry is accountable for the budget at the national assembly with regard to all councils in Botswana, therefore the ministry should be very much involved.”
Although a the majority of the council members indicated that there is a need for the trip to be postponed, Rammidi pointed out that his ministry would further look into the issue and come up with a resolution to settle the matter.

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