With the 2021 population census about to take place, Members of Parliament (MPs) are already clamouring for the increase in parliamentary seats from the 57 that resulted from the 2001 census.
Some members say there is a need to increase the number of constituencies in order for service delivery to be improved. On the other hand, they argue MPs will be able to consult their constituents without struggling, as it is currently the case.
According to the 2021 delimitation report, the Commission has done everything possible within its power to realign the constituency boundaries to ensure that the population of each constituency is nearly as equal to the population quota as is reasonably practicable.
“In so doing, the Commission was not merely complying with a constitutional imperative, but was upholding an equitable principle that equal numbers of people should ideally have equal representation. Because Parliament did not increase the number of seats of elected members in the National Assembly, the delimitation exercise was carried out through the realignment of the existing constituency boundaries only,” the report states.
“The population quota as determined in accordance with the formula provided by section 65 (3) of the Constitution is 35,524. This is derived from dividing the population of the country as determined in the 2011 comprehensive National Population Census which was 2,024,904 with the number of constituencies into which Botswana is divided which is currently 57,” added the delimitation report.
The members say it is 20 years now since the constituencies were last increased and therefore, there is a need to increase them for the 2024 general election.
Their contention is that some constituencies are too wide which makes it hard for an MP to visit his or her area as one had wished to.
MP for Francistown South, Wynter Mmolotsi said the increase in constituencies depends on the growth of population census and how government can afford the constituencies.
“Again, government will have to state a quota which she wants and the committee will look at how best they could divide constituencies with high population. In 2012, only re-alignment was done and now the population has grown. The committee should not only look at the high numbers, but also if it is realistic for an MP to service wider areas,” Mmolotsi said in an interview
“Look at constituencies in Ngamiland, Takatokwane/Lephephe amongst others, it does not make sense for an MP to be travelling such long distances in the area when they do not even have resources. Some of the villages in these constituencies are 200 to 500 kilometres apart. For example, Lephephe is near Shoshong than Molepolole or Takatokwane.”
For his part, MP for Takatokwane/Lephephe, Liakiat Kablay said government should increase the number of constituencies. His contention is that Batswana are suffering because some of the constituencies like his are too big and he is given only two weeks by Parliament to check on the electorates.
“The roads are so bad and it is difficult to visit some villages because of that. Imagine, I have to travel for more than 300 kilometres from Lephephe to Takatokwane while I have fields (masimo) and cattleposts. This constituency is not aligned properly. I think constituencies in the villages must be re-looked into. Our voters are complaining that they do not see us, but the problem is the roads and lack of resources,” he bemoaned.
MP for Mahalapye East, Yandani Boko also complained that his constituency is also unnecessarily big which disadvantages voters because of its wideness.
“There is a need for constituency increase and to re-look into some constituencies. Look at where Mookane, Kudumatse, Setshile and Makoswana are. These places are far from Mahalapye, but I am forced to ensure that I keep on checking them because they had voted for me. But these areas are far and it becomes expensive. Again the voters get their services very far because of how the constituency is aligned,” he said.
Serowe North MP, Baratiwa Mathoothe revealed Parliament gives them two weeks to update their constituents on what is happening in the National Assembly while at the same time they have oversight committees which need them.
“Honestly, there is a need to re-look into some of our constituencies because these are big villages which one need to travel over 200 to 300 kilometres to reach another village,” Mathoothe said.
“I do not think it is necessary to make such big constituencies when one knows that it will have a negative impact on the voters. Some of the villages in my constituency are nearer Tonota constituency.”
MP for Jwaneng/ Mabutsane, Mephato Reatile also shares similar sentiments.
“Some oversight committees are also suffering because some MPs sit on seven committees and therefore, other committees end up failing to meet. Oversight committees are important because they help to make the government accountable and how the country is performing in terms of service and delivery. If the number of MPs will be increased, then some committees would not suffer,” he said.