Thursday, March 4, 2021

Town Hall rivalry leaves mayor speechless

For the first time ever, the traditional mayor’s speech at the beginning of a Gaborone City Council full-council meeting will be replaced by a press conference. “Let’s be realistic: for the past two meetings, Botswana Democratic Party councillors have been using their simple majority in the council to reject the mayor’s speech. In the circumstances, we thought it best to call a press conference than deliver the speech,” explained Mayor Haskins Nkaigwa.

Nkaigwa’s speeches have indeed not fared too well in the recent past. The last two he gave to the full council were not adopted by the council, primarily on the basis of a BDP majority flexing its muscle. The mayor has also had to fight off challenge from BDP councillors trying to oust him from his position. The campaign intensified mid-year with BDP councillors walking out in protest of a minority opposition coalition being in charge of the council.

However, at this point the campaign has lost steam and the explanation of a BDP source is that the councillors failed to agree at their caucus on who should replace Nkaigwa. The implication of the mayor’s speech being rejected is that the council cannot adopt resolutions based on what the speech contained. The speechless full-council meeting represents further emasculation of the GCC mayoralty. Compared to other mayors around the world, the Gaborone mayor has no executive powers that would put him or her in full control of the city.

Beginning with Nkaigwa’s predecessor, GCC mayor has not had a mayoral chain which went missing in October 2009. As Councillor Veronica Lesole before him, Nkaigwa has had to make do with an awards-ceremony-like silver medal attached to a Botswana-colours ribbon. When the campaign to unseat Nkaigwa got ugly enough, a fair chunk of the dignity of the mayor’s office was chipped off. And now the mayor’s speech. The absence of this speech, through which the mayor updates residents about the state of the city, is the equivalent of the parliamentary year opening without the traditional state-of-the-nation address by the president. The upcoming meeting, which takes three days and is the last of the year, starts tomorrow.

The original was for the full council meeting would sit from December 9 to December 17 but that period was later abbreviated to only three days. GCC is also bidding farewell to its town clerk, Agnes Seragi, who caused a stir two years ago when she resisted official instruction to transfer out. The result was that for a period of time, Gaborone had two clerks before the permanent secretary in the ministry of local government caved in. Seragi is retiring.

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