- 3% Salary increase is an insult-MPs
- Heated debate on blankets donation
Members of Parliament were on Tuesday debating a bill regarding the delayed salary increment for political officers, including theirs. The 3% adjustment was supposed to come into effect in April this year but it had to wait for the authorization of Parliament. The Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Minister, Mokgweetsi Masisi presented the bill. Below is how Francinah Baaitse captured the debate.
Dumelang Saleshando (Gaborone Central MP and Leader of Opposition): This ought not to be a lengthy debate. Why can’t we just have a thought in this bill that as and when salaries of Public officers are adjusted, the same would happen in the case of MPS, Dikgosi (Chiefs) and others. Again this is an old point that has been harped upon before Honourable Masisi came to Parliament and all Ministers would always say “we would do that.”
Maybe we must just accept that, this is the pace which the BDP government wants to move. What is the source of the delay? There is no dissenting voice? There is an element of not appearing to be what we call in Setswana “Gore e seka ya lebega ekare ke wena yo itsholelang mme o tlhokometse pitsa” (Appear to be serving personal interests).
The public perception is that we are today dealing with our own interests. And clearly…. (Interrupted by the deputy Speaker Pono Moatlhodi)
Moatlhodi: Let me help you. In Setswana you say, Moreko ga o ke o ithekolola, (Literally meaning, “a sale item cannot buy itself back.”)
Laughter from the floor.
Saleshando: Thank you for your assistance Mr. Speaker. But it is international practice to have an independent body looking into all conditions of service for Legislators. There is a general view, and that is not only in Botswana, that the less you give the politicians, the greater the chances of attracting those who are truly committed. I don’t agree with that because ultimately this house would lose talent and skill to other competing sectors that offer better rewards.
Where we need to attract skill as Parliament, we ought to be able to make the environment conducive.
Nehemiah Modubule (Lobatse): Let me say I have a problem with what has been offered to MPs and the civil service. I don’t know where the 3% came from and what was guiding the government to award the civil service the 3% that is now being extended to us and Ntlo ya Dikgosi and Dikgosi. As far as I am concerned inflation rate is nowhere near 3%. I don’t see why it should be Halellujah when my salary is only going to increase to P15 600 from P15 000. I think really, in all fairness, it is an insult to the nation and everybody else including us. I think Honourable Minister, you owe us an explanations as to how you came to the 3% adjustment.
One other thing I want to emphasize is that as Parliament w e should have a Parliament Service commission that will look into the welfare of Legislators.
Moiseraele Goya (Palapye): The Parliamentary Service Commission is long overdue and it can only be brought to existence by us. It would be important because through it our concerns would be addressed. Let us accept the 3%. It could be little but it is better that not having anything at all. I personally accept the adjustment even though it is not much.
The Minister should not wait for the media to misinform people into thinking that we are going to be getting a lot of money. When we leave our houses, we meet about ten people and all of them would be asking for either P2 or P20 from us because they think we are well paid. They are misinformed by the media.
Guma Moyo (Tati East): Well. Like I did last time, my emotions are in conflict with my heart. The background of this bill comes from the strike that led to the 3%. At that time and until today, I was one of those who did not support the strike. I understood the position of the government at that time and a lot of people lost their jobs. They suffered quite a lot. Even now I still believe we should move with a lot of caution. But I don’t want to look like a hypocrite and appear as if I don’t want money and by so saying I have a difficulty of standing up and saying I am supporting the introduction of this bill because it has a background. I am also not sure that morally I can look at somebody who has lost their job fighting for what I am now getting which I opposed then and say “ I stand to support the bill.” But what I am supporting basically is the comprehensive review of the condition of service of politicians, taking into consideration what they are doing now and what they will be doing in the future.
Dorcus Makgato-Malesu (Minister of Trade-Specially elected): I thought the Honourable colleague was not supportive of the 16% that was demanded by the unions at the time and not the 3% that was the outcome of the negotiations. So I am struggling a little bit since he seems to be against the 3% because people lost their jobs. I just want him to clarify that for ease of reference in my brain.
Moyo: That was your thought. I never spoke about that. I was very clear and stern that the economy at that time could not afford salary adjustment. That was what I was talking about. I did not even talk about any figures.
Wynter Mmolotsi (Francistown South): As Parliament of Botswana, we need a different system of salary adjustment from the civil service. MPs are not supposed to beg from the President or from the Presidential Affairs Minister for them to be given a pay rise. We need a Parliamentary Service commission to do that. Let’s not negotiate about it because we need it as a matter of urgency. Today what is clear is that, salaries can been adjusted depending on the temperature levels of a decision maker. You’ll remember that, at the BDP congress in Mahalapye, the President pronounced that he would not increase salaries for MPs and Councillors. He said he would only increase salaries for the Public service. So I am wondering why we are being offered the 3%. I believe my salary has to be adjusted because my work is appreciated not because somebody is feeling pity for me. If salary adjustments are going to be influenced by emotions, then I am not going to take it.
Ramadeluka Seretse ( Minister of Defence, Justice and Security): At the BDP congress, where you were not present, did the President say he could not, or was the BDP debating a motion of whether they should or should not allow for the salary adjustment? Do you understand that it was a BDP motion, which was addressing the BDP MPs not opposition MPs?
Mmolotsi: The Minister should not have even stood up because the President appeared on Botswana television and even said he had consulted MPs and the agreement was that we including Councillors were not going to get an adjustment. Besides it is not the BDP congress that should decide whether we get salary adjustments or not. You should know that some of us are not BDP members and therefore BDP should not decide for us. That is why I am saying I don’t agree with this particular salary increment.
Masisi: I’d like the Honourable Member to clarify for us in this house whether when we legislate we do that on the basis of what we think, feel and how we vote or we legislate on the basis of what we hear in the news?
Mmolotsi: The problem is that, nowadays we get to know many national programmes through television. For example where did we hear about the radios that are being distributed around the country? The blankets, ah, let me leave out that one. Mme le rata dikobo thata (But you like blankets too much). That is besides the point. The real issue is that, we must show that as MPs that we cannot be subjected to somebody’s emotions. That when he likes he can hike the salaries and when he does not want it would not happen. Let’s refuse to take the 3% because the President has already said he would not give it to us.
Ramadeluka Seretse: There is Setswana and English. When he says “Go rata dikobo” is he referring to the English way of liking blankets or the Setswana way of “go rata dikobo.” (losely translated meaning to like sex).
Moatlhodi: You are saying people like dikobo (blankets). Can you explain yourself?
Mmolotsi: Yes I am saying so. Hey, BDP members like dikobo! They go around distributing them. I am referring to the same dikobo that you are being generous with.
Maxwell Motowane (Assistant Minister of local Government): If you like something, you take it, you don’t give it away. In the context he is using, is he saying this side we like taking dikobo or issuing them? Which is which?
Mmolotsi: The blankets that I know are the ones I am talking about. It appears some people know some other form of blankets. I am talking about dikobo that have become the government policy today. They are being distributed everywhere. Even at your constituency Sir, an alarming number of blankets were distributed by the people that we know have interest in contesting for the next general elections.
Masisi: I would like to correct the Honourable member. There is no policy of this government on “Dikobo” .
Mmolotsi: The truth is when policies are going smoothly they are owned by government and it disowns the ones which had gone bad. The real issue here is not the blankets.
Moatlhodi: Yes, I was wondering why you are making more emphasis on blankets.
Mmolotsi: I am not talking blankets. It is your people. They should take the blankets to Nyangabwe hospital as it has shortage of blankets. My request is that when you give out the 3% salary adjustment, don’t put it in my salary.
Botlogile Tshireletso (Assistant Minister of Local Government): The party has no money. Instead of turning down the increment, you can donate it to the BMD. We all know that your party is struggling financially. Mmolotsi is my friend and we are in good talking terms. Even as we speak I have promised him some blankets.
(Parliament roars in laughter and goes for tea break).