Parliament on Friday adopted a motion tabled by Member of Parliament (MP) for Okavango, Bagalatia Aarone requesting government to introduce political party funding.
Some Batswana have long called for the government to introduce political party funding, saying it was overdue.
Presenting his motion, Aarone said political party funding is an old debate in Botswana as many people have spoken about for long.
Rather than offering a formula for party funding, he said his intention was to persuade Parliament to agree on the principle while the model and formula can be left to experts and administrators.
Aarone said political parties are some of the most important components of a proper well functioning democracy.
“Political parties shape visions for how the country can best move forward, act as checks and balances on the ruling party, promote public political education on citizenry and promote public debate on national and international issues,” Aorone said.
“… democracy by definition requires the existence of a number of political parties which compete effectively for political power,” he added.
The Okavango MP said the funding of political parties should be seen in two respects, that is funding for the party organisation to maintain itself and funding for election campaigns.
“The cost of funding political parties has been accepted worldwide as a legitimate cost of democracy. Why should a few individuals be punished to bear the cost of funding our democracy alone?
Parties just like citizens pay the tax as such deserve to be supported by the State,” he argued.
Aarone said unequal access of political parties to financial resources has the potential to undermine the very competition for political power leading to lack of a level playing field.
“State or public funding will discourage overreliance of political parties on foreign funding that may be dangerous to our democracy as the money may come with conditions attached,” he warned.
He said Botswana has no excuse for not introduce public party funding as there are case studies to look at to ensure that government comes up with a more transparent and accountable model of party funding.
He however cautioned that State support should be limited to reasonable contributions to ensure that political parties do not rely on State funding to the extent of interfering with the independence of political parties and candidates.
Aarone said excessive reliance on state funding may lead to weakening of links between political parties and their electorates.
Debating the motion, MP for Kanye North, Kentse Rammidi, said he had long called for party funding even during his days as member of BDP.
He said many of BDP MPs in safe constituencies do not see the need for this motion while those in marginal constituencies are the ones who are feeling the pinch of lack of party funding.
MP for Kgatleng West, Gilbert Mangole, said strong allegations that BDP is funded by DIS are an indication of the need for political party funding. He said if this motion is not given the urgency it deserves, opposition parties will collapse along the way.
The majority of MPs across the political divide who debated the motion were in favour of the motion except MP for Gaborone South, Kagiso Molatlhegi, who said the motion was not a priority for him and his constituents.
He said he cannot support the motion because none of his constituents has ever called for funding of political parties therefore it would be unfair for him to support an issue he has not been authorised to advocate for.
Molatlhegi said by funding political parties with public money, government will be compelling Batswana to fund political parties they do not support.
“My constituents are worried by unemployment, poverty. Funding of political parties is the least of their concern,” he said.