Monday, June 5, 2023

Specially Elected dispensation has served its course, it is now used to undercut democracy

Four Specially Elected Members of Parliament have been sworn. In the near future tens of councilors will be announced under the same arrangement. We note with disdain that two of the four are people who had been rejected by their constituencies at the polls. Just as we were beginning to believe that the ruling party had disabused itself of the tradition to use this dispensation as part of patronage infrastructure to reward loyal but failed politicians, we note with disappointment that such a practice is back again ÔÇô and in full force.

Our view, and this has corroborated people who participated in the drafting of the national constitution is that the specially elected dispensation, at both national and local levels was meant to allow parliament and indeed councils to access specialized skills otherwise not available through regular elections.

The special dispensation, we have also learnt from some of the founding fathers was meant to allow representation for the marginalized segments of our society like women, people with disabilities and indeed the marginalized tribes. That unfortunately is not what is happening. We continue to see people who have not made it at the polls being ushered in using this system. Kitso Mokaila lost in Barolong whole Unity Dow lost in Kgatleng, yet the leadership of the Botswana Democratic Party still found it not reprehensible to bring these people into parliament against the will of the voter. While we blame those that suggested the names of these individuals, we also hold that by agreeing to be nominated these individuals also demonstrate in a way the lack of psychological commitment of the beneficiaries to regular democracy.

If they were people worth taking seriously these individuals should have declined nomination. Additionally an impression is being created that the electorate is not wise enough which is why they rejected these two. And that somebody has to show the electorate what is good for them. Our view is that this is tantamount to spiting and indeed insulting the electorate. Another impression is being created that the country should actually be grateful to both Dow and Mokaila for offering themselves to the nation. We do not subscribe to that nonsense. We are aware of the precious role that Mokaila played in the previous cabinet as a minister.

But we do not think he is indispensable. We are however not aware of Dow’s value as a politician especially since she could not on her own and when given the chance to do so convince the people who know her best in her constituency to vote for her. Our view regarding the decision by yet another Specially Elected MP, Unity to leave the judiciary and join politics was that it was silly. We however respected her choice after it became clear to us that all she really sought was personal glory rather to serve. We do not have an answer as to why anybody would have seen her as a good person to be specially elected after losing an election. Another person who made it to parliament through the Specially Elected dispensation is former Permanent Secretary to the President, Eric Molale. Our gripe against Molale is well documented.

We admit that he is an immensely qualified and capable leader. His brash attitude has however been his biggest obstacle. Our view is that Molale left the civil service in a worse state than he found it. In our view he is intransigent and very difficult to work with. That was demonstrated in the high turnover of his permanent secretary subordinates who chose to leave rather than submit to his bullying tactics. Using his side kicks and proxies like Carter Morupisi who not surprisingly has been made PSP, Molale also set out to destroy rather strengthen trade unions.

By the time his retirement from the civil service was announced, this paper did not join the chorus that celebrated his departure because it was by then an open secret that he had cut himself a deal to join cabinet, with his preferred portfolio initially being that of Minerals.

Once again we call on authorities to reform the dispensation of specially electing people. If reforming it is impossible then abolishing it might be the best way out, including at council level.


Read this week's paper