Saturday, October 24, 2020

MPs expose Ombudsman’s powerlessness

Members of Parliament on Thursday took turns to argue and expose how “toothless” the Ombudsman is as it is unable to use its powers to hold top government officials accountable. 

They said it is only using its powers to investigate and prosecute members of society’s low classes.

Members of Parliament say that is why when the former Ombudsman Lethebe Maine pronounced that the then Vice President Ian Khama had no right to fly Botswana Defence Force (BDF) aircrafts he continued flying them. Maine’s recommendation to reprimand Khama was thrown out of the window as former President Festus Mogae gave Khama permission to fly BDF aircrafts.

Francistown Member of Parliament Wynter Mmolotsi told Parliament that initially when the Ombudsman was established Batswana expected a lot from the Office, unfortunately it is clear that the office is toothless, this organisation has no powers to implement their findings.

“We request the Minister to bring a law to Parliament as a way of finding ways to give powers to this organisation so that they are able to carry out their mandate,” said Mmolotsi

However the Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the former Ombudsman’s findings that the then Vice President Khama had no right to fly BDF aircrafts was just an opinion of his at the time.

But Mmolotsi does not see it that way. “The former Ombudsman did not act beyond the jurisdiction of his office. He was right. I do not believe there is anyone who would want to see the President of this country flying BDF aircrafts as they wish. Even if the former Ombudsman didn’t make that pronouncement it was wrong and it is still wrong for President to fly BDF aircrafts,” insisted Mmolotsi.

Masisi went to Khama’s defence and accused Mmolotsi of misleading Batswana and Parliament.

“Khama was given a green light by President Festus Mogae to fly the BDF aircrafts. Khama did not act beyond the boundary of the law he was within the parameters of the law,” said Masisi.

He said it was unconstitutional that the former Ombudsman found it fit to poke his nose in the affairs he had no mandate on and gave his own opinion concerning BDF aircrafts.

“It was just his opinion it was not a judgment that is why it carried no weight. The power is vested on the President. If I have Pilot license and allowed by the President to fly I too will be flying BDF aircrafts,” said Masisi. 

Mmolotsi said it didn’t matter where Khama got permission to fly the BDF aircrafts adding that it is wrong for a State President to Fly BDF aircrafts.

“We still believe that it is wrong for the President of this Republic to fly BDF aircrafts. The Ombudsman has made a pronouncement that it is wrong,” said Mmolotsi

Masisi said opposition members must stop using the name of the President disrespectfully.
Mmolotsi argued that in Botswana some institutions were established to take ordinary members of the public to task and not those who wield power in the society.  

“This organisation must be given powers. Top officials undermine the Ombudsman,” said Mmolotsi.

For his part, Tati East MP, Samson Guma said currently the office was underutilised of the Ombudsman’s restricted powers, arguing that the office did not enjoy public support because of the way it was currently working.

According to Moyo,  in countries such as Sweden  such a department was highly respected, and that the decision of the Ombudsman carried the same weight as that of a high court judge because it too could issue a warrant of arrest to non-compliant officers.

In Botswana the Office of the Ombudsman investigatory powers are highly restricted. The Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over matters certified by President or Ministers which affect relations and dealings of government of Botswana and other governments or any international organization.

The office of the Ombudsman does not have jurisdiction over issues relating to Botswana Defence Force and the Botswana Police and Ombudsman cannot investigate decisions taken by the President or Ministers.

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