BDP moves to kill Saleshando bill

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*Motsumi set to bring an executive friendly'counter-bill'
*BDP MPs ordered to reject Saleshando bill and support Motsumi's motion
*Some Barata-Phathi say they will stick to principles and debate any bill objectively
*Saleshando rejects 'ploy'

FRANCISTOWN: Legislator Dumelang Saleshando's recent private member's bill on disclosure of assets and liabilities by national leaders has apparently stirred a hornet's nest in the government enclave, Mmegi has learnt.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party is said to be moving frantically to kill Saleshando's bill and replace it with a new cabinet-sanctioned bill to be brought to Parliament by Presidential Affairs Minister, Lesego Motsumi. It was at a BDP MPs caucus this week that BDP MPs were told of these new moves to outmanoeuvre the opposition MP.

The counterbill is to be tabled before Parliament tomorrow. However, Motsumi has denied that she was preparing to bring such a bill.


An insider who attended the BDP caucus meeting informed Mmegi, "It was agreed that the government will bring up a counter bill on disclosure of assets and liabilities by all national leaders."

Motsumi reportedly pleaded with BDP MPs who are the majority in the House not to support Saleshando's bill but instead support hers.

Our source, who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals, agreed with the notion that the government was reacting to the Saleshando bill in bringing up a similar motion. This would prevent BDP MPs approving the Saleshando bill.

"In other words, Saleshando's private member's bill has put government under pressure to the extent that they have decided to bring up a similar motion," said our BDP source who also warned the executive that even if the government bill comes, it will also be subjected to debate just like Saleshando's.

The recent move is said to be a strategic move by the executive to gain control over MPs especially those aligned with Barata-Phathi who the executive feared could approve the bill. Cabinet ministers and most MPs aligned with the BDP's A Team are said to be generally opposed to the bill but feel they have no option but to act given the current debate on the declaration of assets and liabilities. 

The source feared that given the recent attitude of the government, a bill to be presented by Motsumi is likely to provide an acid test to the individual MPs' stance on the issue. Questions however abound within the BDP, especially within the Barataphathi faction as to what could have triggered the resuscitation of a 1996 motion, which was presented by former Health Minister, Joy Phumaphi.

The bill has been gathering dust at the Office of the President without any specific reason as to why it could not be made into law. "What is it that our rulers fear?" This is a question that has been asked many times without answers forthcoming from the ruling elite.

Contacted for comment, Motsumi told Mmegi yesterday "there was no truth in reports that the government was contemplating bringing up a counter bill tomorrow."

She said since there was already a motion pending before parliament, what it meant was that it would have to be given a chance to reach its logical end.

"Ga ke itse go re ke mang ene yoo neng a go fa tsone Dikgang tseo tsa go re re kile ra kopana ko BDP ka tsa bill (I just wonder who could have fed you with the information that the BDP MPs could have caucused)," she said without disputing the fact that BDP caucus met this week to discuss Motsumi's proposal.

In the end she declared: " As the BDP, we are going to debate Saleshando's motion and wait for the process to take its course. It is illogical that we can bring a motion within another motion."

Despite her denial, BDP insiders insist that Motsumi this week prayed for the MPs' backing in her counter motion tomorrow. Motsumi herself could not say what exactly transpired at the party caucus.

Quizzed about the government's impending move to present a counter bill, Gaborone Central MP and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) publicity secretary, Saleshando confirmed to Mmegi that he is aware of government's intended move.

"I have heard that the approach is going to be that the Minister is going to come up with a bill on the disclosure of assets and liabilities by all national leaders or something similar to this," said Saleshando.

He says in the ruling BDP government's view, "their new bill or the old one for that matter will render my bill redundant. If that is true, I think it's purely a ploy to kill the debate on the disclosure of assets and liabilities."

Saleshando, who is not prepared to give up, is steadfast that the BDP had an opportunity to present their bill in the past 10 years and they refused. They "would not simply frustrate my bill this time around," he said.

He said that in the ninth parliament he asked the Ministers of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration that is Daniel Kwelagobe and Phandu Skelemani and their answers were that the government was not interested.

"They were rigid that they would rather draw a code of conduct for national leaders," pointed out Saleshando.

Saleshando is hopeful that Parliament, as an independent entity from the Executive, will have to assert its position and continue with its business tomorrow without any intimidation from the Executive.

"Those who would choose to bring up the Executive position then they would not be aware of the independence that the Legislature enjoys."

"I am proceeding with my private member's bill and I will continue lobbying for support from other MPs across the political divide as they are appreciative of the bill," concluded Saleshando.

It will not be the first time Parliament debates a motion seeking to establish a declaration of assets legislation. In the 90s MP Joyce Phumaphi submitted a motion which passed the first stage of debate but never appeared again.

In 2005 then Minister of Presidential Affairs, Phandu Skelemani indicated that the bill would return but that never happened. 

The matter of declaration of assets recently reared its head again after it was reported that Minister of Defence, Justice and Security Ndelu Seretse's company had been allocated tenders to supply equipment to law enforcement organs under his own ministry. There have also been recent media reports that President Ketumile Masire received funds to the tune of P4 million from the mining conglomerate De Beers during his time as president to help resuscitate his indebted farming business.

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