President Mokgweetsi Masisi has inherited a bloated Cabinet, which incessantly gives the Legislature a torrid time in terms of making laws. The Cabinet also leaves the taxpayer grinning with envy at the hefty amounts the Executive gobble. The Executive arm of government is so powerful that it uses its strength to frustrate the making of laws, leaving the Legislature to simply 'rubberstamp' its decisions because of its (Cabinet) superiority in numbers, Mmegi Staff Writer RYDER GABATHUSE reports
FRANCISTOWN: From an economic point of view, the heaviness of the Cabinet translates into a burden on the national coffers as it gobbles a hefty sum annually. For instance, without other allowances and benefits it’s estimated that the President, vice president, substantive Ministers and their deputies, about 30 in number, gobble about P12, 392,872 annually.
The above estimated figures are without other notable allowances as Cabinet has luxurious and expensive motor vehicles and other staff members who are a direct cost to the taxpayer.
Botswana Parliament has 57 elected legislators and six Specially Elected Members of Parliament. Including the President, Vice President, Permanent Secretary to the President and the Attorney General, Botswana Cabinet has a strength of 32 members.
Whilst the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has 38 elected Members of Parliament (MPs), and six Specially Elected MPs collectively making 44 MPs, the opposition collective of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, (UDC) - which is represented by members of the three parties, the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) - together with the new Alliance for Progressives (AP) and one independent, has 18 MPs. Currently, Mochudi East is vacant following the death of former MP, Isaac Davids.
In terms of a balance between the Executive and the Legislature, the Executive has become very strong and the heavy reliance upon the numbers of Cabinet when voting in Parliament has left the Executive very powerful in decision-making processes.
Trimming down Cabinet is important in lean times as these. In his first ever State of the Nation Address (SONA), the neighbouring country, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa stated: “We have begun a review of the configuration, size and number of national ministries and departments”.
President Masisi, whose country’s economy has been ailing for a while, has to take a leaf from the neighbouring South Africa’s case to trim the country’s bloated Cabinet.
University of Botswana (UB) senior lecturer in politics, Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao holds the view that the Botswana Cabinet is bloated and that sometimes there is a problem of proper coordination. “Do we really need a Cabinet of so many people?” he wondered this week in an interview. He noted that it’s a problem with third world countries that even when they struggle with their national budgets, they will still go ahead with bloated Cabinets.
“The problem of third world countries is that they would rather use Cabinet appointments to dispense patronage and reward friends,” he observed, noting that it does not add up for a country struggling financially to be supporting such a bloated Cabinet.
In his view, some of the responsibilities currently distributed amongst government ministries can be subsumed
He further holds a strong view that the bloated Cabinet can only serve the party agenda and reward supporters and loyalty.
“With the country going to the national polls in 2019, with no party State funding for political parties, to remain with a Cabinet of Botswana’s size it helps Ministers to use sSate resources to campaign for the incoming elections.”
He added: “With such a bloated Cabinet it’s a hidden way of aiding the ruling party’s Cabinet to its advantage and keep the BDP in power as majority of its MPs are in Cabinet”.
Another UB political scientist, Leonard Sesa says it’s unfortunate that at the moment there is a tendency for sycophancy from the ruling party lawmakers, “with a tendency of endorsing whatever the President is saying”. He sees frustration on the side of the opposition MPs in terms of making laws as their numbers continue to disadvantage them. His take is that there should be an increase of constituencies although it will come at a cost, so that it increases the number of MPs to raise the voice of the ‘weakened’ backbench. “As it is, what MPs are doing to the Cabinet is only akin to dogs barking at the moon. An increase in constituencies will come at a cost, but currently some of the constituencies are bigger so much that the MPs are not doing them any justice in terms of advocating for services.”
He also noted at how the President currently is struggling to compose his Cabinet and observed: “We need a robust and bigger Parliament. Voters should go for quality and not quantity. There should come a time where all the MPs see themselves as material for Cabinet”.