In a surprise turn of events Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale, is currently staying at the Parliamentary Village, a high-walled residential complex in an exclusive address in Gaborone where MPs are housed free of charge for their entire term of office.
His tenancy, as that of two ministers’ children and a controversial government consultant, has been approved by the House Committee which is chaired by Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane. According to Ntuane, Molale has been staying at the Parliamentary Village for “a couple of months” now and the reason for this is that his own house is being renovated. However, unlike MPs, he is not staying free of charge but pays P2000 a month as rent.
Traditional Leaders were sent packing from the flats a few years ago.
Ntuane says that there is nothing out of the ordinary with Molale being temporarily accommodated at the Parliamentary Village as that has happened before with other government officials who applied to be put up at the flats. While there are no hard and fast rules with regard to who can and cannot stay at the flats, a cleaner in the public service whose Old Naledi house is being renovated cannot apply to take up residence at Parliamentary Village. Ntuane says that tenancy for non-MPs is “privileged.”
It turns out those who are also benefiting from such privilege include children of the Minister of Presidential affairs and public administration, minister Daniel Kwelagobe and assistant Labour and Home Affairs minister, Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri. Nico Czypionka, the former chairperson of the Business Economic Advisory Council and lead negotiator in the failed and controversial bid to sell off Air Botswana, is also a privileged resident.
It has turned out that more than 10 years after the flats were built, there are still no rules that govern their use, particularly with regard to who qualifies to occupy them. That has been left to Ntuane’s committee which greenlighted the tenancy of the ministers’ children on grounds that it was not going to be easy for them to find accommodation after their fathers were promoted to cabinet and moved out of the Village. However, there are cases, such as Czypionka’s when Ntuane used his own discretion as children and did not have to consult with the committee. He says that the rent that non-MP residents pay is market-based.
Parliamentary Village has been dogged by controversy from Day One. There was uproar when the complex was built because they were seen as way too plush. When the flats were ready for occupation, opposition Botswana National Front MPs were reluctant to be associated with capitalist splendour, with the then Leader of opposition Kenneth Koma decidedly distancing himself and his party. But with time they managed to overcome their socialist guilt and moved in. In 2005, members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi were ordered out in a saga that at one point involved vice president Ian Khama intervening on behalf of those who wanted the chiefs out.
The main function of Ntuane’s committee is to consider “all matters connected with the comfort and convenience of members in the performance of their duties”. It advises the Speaker on matters connected with the management and general administration of members’ flats, parliament house, production of the Hansard, members lounge and bar as well as the parliament library.