Even after being told that MPs’ spouses cannot carry diplomatic passports because they are not government representatives, Robert Molefhabangwe is still not satisfied with the explanation.
Last Wednesday, the Gaborone West South MP asked the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration to explain why spouses of MPs are not entitled to diplomatic passports and also whether the minister would consider providing for such entitlement in the MPs’ conditions of service.
The response given by Lesego Motsumi (who was standing in for Daniel Kwelagobe) was that MPs’ spouses cannot be issued such passports because they are not government representatives “who in their duties are continually engaged in diplomatic work or the management of relations between Botswana and the international community”.
However, Molefhabangwe points to a double standard being applied by the government. Speaking to Sunday Standard, he said that he knows and has travelled with ministers’ spouses who carry diplomatic passports. Indeed it is so.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which is involved in the clearance process for issuance of such passports, confirms that spouses of cabinet ministers have such entitlement. According to the ministry’s spokesperson, Clifford Maribe, their role is to ascertain that applicants are entitled to carry the passport.
What is curious though is that what Motsumi said of MPs’ spouses is also true of spouses of cabinet ministers and that is Molefhabangwe’s point.
“Ministers’ spouses are also not civil servants.”
However, the government has no plans to issue MPs’ spouses with the passports. Motsumi told parliament that she does not consider it necessary to provide for such entitlement in MPs’ conditions of service.
MPs themselves are entitled to diplomatic passports and are not subjected to rigorous searches when they go through checkpoints at airports.
Molefhabangwe says that it is ever distressing to watch your wife being searched, sometimes by men.
“It is not right for your spouse to be treated differently when you are travelling together,” he says.
The MP also argues that their spouses should be given diplomatic passports because the government itself has made provision for MPs to travel abroad on official trips with their spouses at least once in a five-year parliamentary term.