Mmegi Online :: Specially elected MPs and cabinet elected from MPs?
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Friday 16 November 2018, 09:22 am.
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Specially elected MPs and cabinet elected from MPs?

It made perfect sense at dawn of independence due to scarcity of election candidates qualifying for cabinet that unelected candidates could be ‘specially elected.
By Michael Dingake Tue 25 Nov 2014, 12:24 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Specially elected MPs and cabinet elected from MPs?








’ There were 12 University graduates in 1965 when Bechuanaland ventured into pre-independence general elections. That was why virtually all the four specially elected MPs of British origin were roped into the cabinet. The appointment of Cabinet ministers from MPs was inherited from the British Parliament the departing institutional colonial parent.

The Eleventh Botswana Parliament is far removed from the First Parliament. A big majority of elected MPs are University graduates, for which the era should rebuke us sternly for perpetuating an obsolete tradition. Another consideration for specially elected MPs was these MPs were so elected to represent special interest minority groups. This has not happened and it’s not about to happen. Why then do we continue to have an irrelevant and outdated provision in our constitution? Why is the provision catering for the ruling party alone in a multiparty democracy?

The truth of the matter is that the provision of ‘specially elected members of parliament ‘ indulges the partisan greed of the ruling party, helping it to coast from one general elections victory to another.  Specially elected members in Parliament and councils have become a cash cow to nourish victory prospects for the ruling party. SEMPs have become the goose that lays the golden egg. It would be foolhardy to kill the golden-egg laying bird. The goose is spared its life as it rakes millions of pula into  party coffers, lubricating the party machinery to vanquish the opposition. This attitude may be good for the system abusers, but horribly unethical for multiparty democracy.  

The ruling BDP manipulates the democratic process in many other ways to win elections:  rejection of political party funding, gerrymandering the delimitation process of constituencies, holding tight to the indirect election of president, control of the state media - Btv, radio Botswana and the Botswana Daily News – and arrogantly refusing to transform these media into the public media since they are run and maintained by public taxes, the incumbency factor enjoyed by the power wielding party, manipulation of  the IEC by denying it sufficient funds to perform its duties efficiently is all part of the process to retain power ad infinitum.

The provision of Specially Elected Members if it ever remotely served the purpose for which it was designed has long ceased to do so and should be repealed forthwith. Indeed the provision should have long been repealed ; It’s never too late to discard redundant traditions when they no longer serve their original purpose! Failure to do so will relegate our much flaunted democracy to the doldrums of sorry  history!

What about electing Ministers from MPs, (elected MPs plus specially elected ones)? The tradition, if continued looks like a disaster about to happen:  Should the provision of SEMPs be scrapped as it ought

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to be, the BDP government which has in terms of popularity nosedived into a minority government  of 46.7 percent, would teeter on the brink of extinction: The pool of MPs from which to appoint Cabinet Ministers would shrink irretrievably.  Note, all the four members appointed to the Cabinet this year come from the specially elected MPs! Warning signs that the death-knell of the BDP is about to be sounded are flickering! Unless the ruling BDP starts thinking outside the box, embarrassing moments are here!

The reliance on MPs to form the Executive has always been an absurdity except that it was inherited from Mmamosadinyana due to lack of comparative models at that stage of political development. We couldn’t have copied the American system of forming cabinet since the private sector was primordial, since we had no such qualified personnel in the public or private sector. Nor did we have the option of borrowing from the PR system countries which have the unique system of choosing Cabinet Ministers, since ours was the First-Past-The- Post electoral system.  Both the American and the Scandinavian methods are illuminating, sustainable and conducive to efficient administration.

 The appointment of Cabinet Ministers from MPs isn’t on merit, but on expected loyalty of appointed MPs to the president.  Dubious meritocracy in the system of selecting Ministers therefore arises and obviously impacts on the quality of government. That isn’t all. In the current awakening of voters political consciousness Ministers are liable to rejection by the voters at the primary elections stage or at the polls for alleged poor interaction with the voters who elected them as they get absorbed in their cabinet duties. It gets worse under the leadership style of President Khama, who to enhance his pre-eminence in the public eye and impose authority on his Ministers as he drags several of them in tow in his kgotla tours, effectively denies them time for work in their constituencies. Ask Honourable Pandu Skelemani and some of his colleagues why they lost at Bulela-ditswe! Public resources are wasted while Cabinet Ministers are deprived of time to serve their constituents, in a bid to enhance the Big Man’s image at their expense. Do you wonder why Khama is more popular than BDP? Ex-Ministers suffered the backlash of this deprivation of time for portfolio duties, complicated by president’s selfishness!

Two valid reasons for selecting Ministers outside parliament:  One is that constituents won’t be deprived of their elected representatives’ devotion after electing them; Two, voters in any case aren’t asked to elect ‘Ministers’ at general elections as they are unqualified for the task, they only elect representatives!  The president with assistance of a duly appointed institutional public hearings committee can better the job of picking suitable Cabinet Ministers!

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