As of February 5, 2021, no Member of Parliament or Council will quit their party for another without going for election.
This is because the Constitution Amendment Act, seeking to make vacant a legislative post in the event a legislator resigned from a political party that launched him/her into office, has commenced. Political parties, however, have vowed to continue recruitment despite the move.
Already, after losing legislator Pono Moatlhodi to the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the main opposition Umbrella for Change (UDC) gained former ruling party legislator Ignatius Moswaane.
“We have noted the latest development. Our position has and remains that this amendment was meant to stop defections from the ruling party. It has been used to strengthen the President’s hand in an already unstable and divided party. This piecemeal approach to constitutional review is not what we had hoped for. We want a holistic and comprehensive constitutional review. Therefore, this latest development does not excite us. Interestingly, the BDP president took so long to append his signature despite rushing the Bill through Parliament on urgency,” UDC spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa protested.
Mohwasa further said people who joined them did so out of principle because the opposition does not offer wealth and monetary opportunities. He said for that reason, this does not affect their potential recruits. Moreover, the UDC had opposed the then Bill during parliamentary debates.
For its part, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), which just increased its tally to four legislators through Jwaneng/Mabutsane MP, Mephato Reatile who quit the BDP, is confident the party will still get new members.
“This is one of those laws that one can never know the mischief that was being cured here. I believe that those who want to leave their parties will still do so provided they do not ‘resign’. I believe the law cannot surmise constructive resignation. Many will choose constructive resignation. Our recruitment goes on unabated. Councillors and MPs are important but the ordinary voters are the key to state power.
“This law will kill the BDP silently. Have you ever tried to stay with a partner who is unhappy in a relationship but is forced to stay by one of the partners? It is a recipe for disaster! You can’t legislate love and stability in an organisation. It’s a classic case of clutching at straws to survive a flood,” BPF president, Biggie Butale said.
Meanwhile, the Alliance for Progressives (AP) which has only one legislator, Wynter Molotsi slammed the President for the ‘self-serving’ law.
“This Act was brought to Parliament on urgency and he promised to sign it immediately after it was passed by Parliament. He then delayed and went on a recruitment exercise. We disapprove of such conduct. We have said as the AP that this is not what we are expecting. The nation is expecting a holistic constitutional review, something that all the parties, and even the President promised. So we did not expect this piecemeal that is self-serving of interests,” AP secretary-general, Phenyo Butale said. He said they want a constitutional review and it should be an inclusive process for all Batswana and stakeholders throughout the process.
The BDP is happy their MPs passed their congress resolution. “We are happy that our 2019 Mochudi National Congress resolution has been signed into law. We commend BDP MPs for working hard to ensure that the bill passes. It’s the will of the people! Their vote must not be in vain. We commend BDP MPs,” BDP spokesperson, Kagelelo Kentse said.
Kentse added they continue recruiting and attracting people to the ruling party and if they recruit a sitting councillor or MP they will seek validation from the voter.