The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando, has expressed shock at President Ian Khama’s recent warning that councillors must desist from passing motions of no confidence in chairpersons and mayors of councils as an affront to democracy.
President Khama has warned councillors countrywide that the passing of motions of no confidence “are a cause for serious concern as they do not in any way promote governance”.
“I wish to remind all Councils in Botswana that the purpose of their existence is to provide services to Batswana and what is happening in some Councils is unacceptable. Both the Townships Act and the District Councils Act are very clear on elections of the political leadership of Councils and the period after which elections must be held,” Khama said.
“I want to remind all Councils to focus on issues of developing their communities and desist from things that do not add value to their mandate,” the President warned councillors at a meeting with the South East District councillors in Ramotswa recently.
Saleshando said he is dismayed that the Head of State does not know that motions of no confidence are normal in a democracy and wonders whether the President has been deliberately ill-advised or that he has no patience for the intricate processes that are associated with democracy.
“The standing orders of all local authorities as well as those of Parliament make provision for a motion of no confidence. The Constitution of the country also allows for the tabling of a motion of no confidence. In all other democratic countries, there are provisions for such a motion, sometimes referred to as a censure motion,” says Saleshando.
He says the principle behind such a motion is a simple one and needs not be based on the performance of the incumbent.
“It (motion of no confidence) can justifiably be on the basis of changes in the numbers of parties in the house. Any leader who ceases to enjoy the support of the majority of people they lead has no legitimate claim to continue occupying the leadership position. There have been a number of defections in a number of councils in the country. When the balance of power in terms of councillors that support you changes as a mayor or chairperson, the proper thing to do is to step down and allow the majority party to propose a leader. Failure to step down will attract a motion of no confidence,” says Saleshando.
The Gaborone Central Member of Parliament says Khama has to appreciate the political basis of motions of no confidence.
“They are not an unfortunate development but rather a function of a democratic dispensation.
Motions of no confidence are similar to cabinet reshuffles. The President need not be concerned with matters of delivery to effect a reshuffle. A case in point is that of the decision by President Khama to drop Daniel Kwelagobe from cabinet. The decision was not based on DK’s performance, it was based on purely political considerations,” argues Saleshando.
“Daniel Kwelagobe differed with President Khama on a matter relating to the party and for that he was dropped from the cabinet. Should he have been told to just keep DK in cabinet because the key consideration is service delivery to the public? The President must show some consistency of thought; if he can’t tolerate his own party members in cabinet who differ with him, why should councillors put up with mayors who do not have majority support?” wonders Saleshando.