The minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Eric Molale managed to sail through as the Specially Elected Member of Parliament (SEMP) amid chaos and controversy.
Yesterday, Molale managed to have a second bite at the cherry after he was nominated and elected for the second time. Mmegi has learnt that this was not an easy decision by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to arrive at after some MPs voiced their opposition to his candidature at a caucus on Tuesday. His detractors took advantage of the fact that Molale has been branded an enemy of the workers by the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) to oppose his candidature.
They argued that he is not in good terms with the civil servants and should not even be at the helm of such a crucial ministry in the Office of the President.
Mmegi has learnt that on Tuesday, some Cabinet ministers who were clear that they are against Molale’s nomination included two cabinet ministers and backbenchers.
Some BDP MPs who spoke on condition of anonymity said the majority of them were concerned that Molale as an enemy of workers, was decampaigning them and the party.
“The MPs felt that the public servants have the power to determine the outcome of elections in some constituencies. Workers sabotage the party because of the bad blood between them and Molale. They proposed that Molale should be given another ministry,” said one of the MPs.
The ruling party chief whip and Letlhakeng-Lephephe MP, Liakat Kablay criticised his colleagues who defied the party caucus. Molale got 30 votes defeating the leader of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Dumelang Saleshando and Shampoo Matshediso who got two votes apiece. The BDP secretary general Botsalo Ntuane did not get a single vote. There were two spoilt votes. Surprisingly, Saleshando had turned down the proposal to be nominated while the caucus did not agree on Ntuane’s name.
Seventeen opposition legislators had boycotted the nomination process while only two Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) MPs, Kgosi Lotlamoreng II of Goodhope-Mabule and Tlokweng MP Same Bathobakae participated. Molepolole South MP, Tlamelo Mmatli was not present.
Kablay explained that the MPs are supposed to know that the caucus decision is binding. “It is very sad to find out that some of our MPs voted with opposition parties,” said Kablay.
“We agreed on a single name at the caucus and that was Eric Molale’s name. Of course they are those who were against his nomination but the majority had agreed. You cannot defy the party caucus simply because you do not agree with them. It is clear that four of our members did not vote the way we had agreed. The sad part is that we will not know those members.”
He said the party was treating the matter very seriously because it is possible for the opposition to defeat them if some members keep on defying the party caucus. Kablay said they would call another caucus to plead with MPs to desist from defying the party.
Opposition abstains from the vote
The opposition abstained from the vote protesting that they want to know the names of people who nominated Saleshando and Ntuane. The opposition leader, Duma Boko came 30 minutes late and it was clear that his absence during the discussions of legal matters dealt the opposition a big blow. He could have used his legal expertise to provide guidance and counsel when the constitutional issues were discussed.
The opposition chief whip Wynter Mmolotsi said the reason why they refused to vote was that they believe the whole procedure was wrong. Mmolotsi said they could not nominate a person who had resigned from the same post two months ago.
“We cannot participate in something that we do not believe in. Again it is unethical to vote for someone’s return to the Parlament he resigned from two months ago. We felt the Speaker Gladys Kokorwe was biased because the nomination paper has names of people who voted for the other two names. Why is she refusing to disclose those names rather insisting that the law is silent on that?” said Mmolotsi.
He said some BDP members wrote Saleshando’s name deliberately to bring confusion to the opposition. Mmolotsi insisted that the name of Saleshando was not brought from the opposition.
Regarding the participation in the vote by Bathobakae and Lotlamoreng, Mmolotsi explained the two unfortunately voted before the opposition caucused to boycott the vote. He said while there was still confusion and debate as to what steps to take, the Speaker called for a vote, and as Bathobakae, by alphabetical order, is always the first, she went ahead to cast her vote. Mmolotsi said Lotlamoreng also found himself in the confusion and when his name was called, he walked over to vote. It was only then that the opposition took a decision to boycott the vote.
Saleshando wants Kokorwe to explain
Saleshando told Mmegi that it was true that he was approached by the UDC leadership but declined the offer on principle.
“While I acknowledge the UDC for seeking to strengthen unity within opposition I made it clear to them that I cannot partake in a process I have always criticised as an award to losers of national elections,” said Saleshando. He further added that agreeing to such a proposal would not have reflected him well as a leader.
“Our view as the BCP has always been that the Specially Elected Members of Parliament process was abused. If the electorates have decided against you for a particular period, you should not attempt to go in through back doors. I do not have a problem with the Specially Elected MPs’ provision but how it is done,” he said.
Saleshando said he was shocked to learn that Kokorwe subjected him to an election that he was not interested in. He further said that he was aware that the BCP parliament leader, Okavango MP Bagalatia Arone alerted Kokorwe of his non-availability.
“I am told that the Speaker endorsed a plot to ridicule me by the BDP to subject me to an election I was not interested in and I will be engaging her to seek answers on her conduct. My view is that Parliament should not be a playground for mischief and mockery but should be a respectable house that respects and promotes the integrity of citizens,” he said.
Ntuane clears his name
Ntuane has also distanced himself from the nomination. “I was not aware that my name would be nominated, and we have never as a party agreed that I should be nominated. I never gave anyone consent and the go-ahead to nominate me,” he said. He did not know who nominated him. “I don’t know who did it. Our MPs who were in Parliament say it was a UDC MP but the BDP will issue a statement on the matter.”