Although he rues the day he was anointed Specially-Elected Member of Parliament, Botsalo Ntuane is adamant his tenure in parliament was a blessing in disguise as he had the opportunity to unravel discrepancies and unfairness embedded in the special election dispensation.
Contributing to the bill Wednesday, just two days before parliament is dissolved for the national elections scheduled for October, the outspoken Ntuane poured cold water on the issue of expanding the number of specially-elected MPs, saying that it left a lot to be desired because the beneficiaries of the system are more often than not friends and cronies of the leadership in control of the government.
“I know there are some pointing fingers at me, accusing me of being a product of this dispensation and, as such, am obliged to give a lending hand,” he said.”However during my tenure, I have experienced the model is saturated with unfairness and discrepancies schemed to favour a selected few.”
Ntuane maintained that “if given a chance, which the constitution forbids, I would vehemently refuse the offer as the system is littered with ugly scenes”.
He added: “For decades, the beneficiaries of this dispensation have been the all time friends and cronies of the leadership in control of governance, at the expense of hard working and deserving individuals, let alone women.”
Ntuane is skeptical about any changes the bill would bring, insisting that things will end up the same.
“Lest I be painted in bad light, I would like to categorically mention publicly that I am not in any way against the empowerment of any disadvantaged groups in this country, let alone women, as the bill intends to achieve. But I am afraid the enactment would not bring any change…The same scenario is bound to take place … appointing women elites in town at the expense of grass-roots women in the rural constituencies who toil each and every day for the party only to be surpassed by a stranger who never deliberated at any forum, be it the local radio stations or the television,” noted the maverick former BDP publicity secretary, whose straightforward observations last year over the leadership’s decisions regarding alcohol consumption nearly cost him both his party membership and parliamentary candidacy in the hotly contested Gaborone South West constituency, where he is pitied against independent Robert Molefhabangwe and BCP’s Abbey Chengeta.
Worse still, Ntuane noted, no sooner would these privileged folks enter parliament under the artificial ticket than they usurp positions of power, with some becoming cabinet ministers and their wallets becoming fat in a day, when they never dropped a single drop of sweat to reach such plum positions.
“This system is a breeding ground of chaos and exacerbates intra- party instability, particularly when these privileged go straight to cabinet posts leaving the people’s choice voted in through the ballot box behind,” Ntuane insisted, arguing such a move distorts the voice of the ordinary voters.
Introduced since independence, the election of the Botswana Democratic Party members as Specially Elected MPs has been a hot potato over recent decades, with the dissenting voices, especially the opposition parties at the battle front, dismissing the ruling BDP suggestions that the selections were designed to bring in scarce skills and to elude a hung parliament.
Although he is diametrically opposed to most of the views of the opposition, Ntuane concurs the nomination of the specially elected members should not be partisan, but inclusive.
“I am an ardent member of BDP who cherishes the idea of the party’s prolonged rule. But, hey, nature dictates nothing is forever…Some day the opposition will be holding these fora. As a progressive party, such incidences should be envisaged. Do we want the opposition to do likewise…retribute,” Ntuane asked, urging the party MPs to bite the bullet as “what is good for the gander is good for the goose”.
While the country is still grappling with the economic crunch, which his own ruling party openly admitted and is calling for belt tightening, Ntuane is floored by this expensive adventure estimated to run into multi-millions of pula by the end of the five year tenure.
“People out there are not interested in this envisaged enlargement… they want real changes, say the abolishment of the fees, direct election of the present and the enactment of the passed motions, such as the declaration of assets and liabilities and the motion, which we passed in this House, dealing with MPs defecting to other parties,” Ntuane insists, adding that the proposed arrangement would only help in entrenching the public’s notion that politicians are only interested in lining their pockets.