Botswana Television will start broadcasting live proceedings of Parliament during the 2017/18 financial year. Presenting the budget proposals for Parliament, Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Mr Eric Molale said this, therefore, has been budgeted for at P3.7 million, getting the largest share out of the P5 640 000 total development budget. Minister Molale said P1.880 million is required to carry out security upgrades at the National Assembly.
The minister further requested P130 million as the recurrent budget for 2017/18 financial year.
He said the amount represented an increase of P12.9 million or 11 percent over the 2016/17 financial year’s budget due to the overtime allowances, salary and allowance adjustments for MPs. The major share of the proposed budget, P121 588 620 or 93 percent is allocated to the National Assembly, while the remaining share of P8 575 230 or seven percent is allocated to Ntlo Ya Dikgosi.
Responding to the proposals, the Vice President, who is also MP for Moshupa-Manyana, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi urged MPs to respect one another when the live broadcasts start. He pleaded with MPs to learn to disagree in a peaceful manner and respect, for which Batswana are known. As some of his colleagues called for changes in Parliament, Mr Masisi noted that some of them would require a review of the Constitution. He said there was the need to review the welfare of MPs, Parliament staff as well as constituency officers whose tenure is tied to the MPs time in office.
The MP for Gaborone South, Mr Kagiso Molatlhegi called for an independent Parliament, saying it should be either the Speaker or an MP presenting the budget instead of the Executive through the minister. He said the Parliament’s role was to make laws, provide oversight and represent the electorate and should be independent in executing its mandate, as it is one of the three arms of government.
MP Molatlhegi said Parliament should be staffed with experts in law, who could assist MPs in drafting Private Member’s Bills.
He said research experts in other fields such as Economics, Finance and Environmental Science could also help MPs with relevant information, which could help them when they debate issues in parliament. He said the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees failed to undertake their duties because of budgetary constraints, meaning they could not carry out their function of providing oversight.
MP Molatlhegi further called for the review of the per diem, saying it was insufficient and at times MPs had to dig into their own pockets to finance their external trips while on official duty outside the country.
He said Botswana MPs were the least paid in Africa, yet they come from a ‘wealthy country’. The Gaborone South MP further said the parliamentary staff structure needed to be reviewed, adding that some of the officers have been at C1 scale since 2009 and there was no way they could be promoted unless a senior officer dies or resigns. He said the Parliamentary Staff Allowance should be re-introduced.
MP for Gaborone-Bonnington North, Mr Duma Boko echoed the sentiments, saying Parliament had been relegated to the back, suggesting that it should be at par with other Arms of Government. He said Parliament acted not as a poodle of the Executive, but as an independent body. MP Boko said this had even created disparities between the Chief Justice, who heads the Judiciary and the Speaker, who heads Parliament, adding that once Parliament was elevated to its rightful place, everything would fall into place. Boko, also Leader of the Opposition said it was a Constitutional anomaly for the minister to present the budget, adding that Parliament must have its own legislative offices together with the capacity to employ and supervise its own staff.
MP for Mahalapye East, Ms Botlogile Tshireletso said Botswana lagged behind in increasing the number of women in Parliament. She further said there was the need for a Parliamentary Commission, as MPs could not address their welfare issues.