President Mokgweetsi Masisi suffered humiliation on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday when Members of Parliament across the political divide united to reject his brainchild – the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill – through which he was hoping to win the hearts of many. The Bill, which was brought to Parliament by the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA), Nonofo Molefhi caused serious divisions within the house, leaving the BDP caucus which had hoped for a smooth sailing, disappointed.
Debating the proposed legislation on Wednesday, President Masisi said he hoped that MPs will give the Bill thumps up as a collective. However, his expectations were thwarted as legislators, including some from the ruling party, criticised the formulation of the draft Bill and rejected some of its proposals.
Opposition MPs took a swipe at what they consider Masisi’s trump card to convince Batswana that he is committed to fighting corruption by enacting enabling legislation, a promise he made soon after ascending the presidency in April 2018.
Selebi-Phikwe West MP from the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Dithapelo Keorapetse launched an onslaught on the bill calling President Masisi a corrupt leader who does not even qualify to pretend to be fighting corruption.
Keorapetse argued that Masisi is only trying to proclaim himself and fellow corrupt BDP members as Messiahs in fighting corruption while some of his cabinet members have been embroiled in corruption. “This law should be rejected because the current system is not ready to execute it. The Permanent Secretary to President continues to make transfers of senior government officials fingered in corruption hence this shows how the President will even manipulate the influence of the law,” Keorapetse protested.
Keorapetse reminded BDP MPs that they once rejected important bills tabled by UDC before such as the living wage, arguing that therefore the UDC is not compelled to support proposals in the Bill in its current form and structure. Leader of the Opposition, Duma Boko, observed that the proposal of the Bill under a certificate of urgency is mischievous and reflects the level of pettiness that the BDP government has degenerated to in recent times.
Boko, a lawyer by profession, argued that BDP MPs and their leader Masisi are only in the process of acquiring public sympathy hence their rush to pass the Bill despite that a lot of shortcomings have been identified in it. He said the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Bill cannot be adopted as it is presented currently because it will fail to achieve the intended purpose if identified loop holes are not addressed first.
Furthermore, the MPs argued that the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) should first be guaranteed full independence from the Office of the President if it is expected to be the custodian of and enforce the Declaration of Assets law.
Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi, who is also the vice president of Alliance for Progressives (AP), said issues relating to Assets and Declaration should be handled by an office with no influence from the President or a Minister.
For his part, Gabane-Mmankgodi legislator Major Gen Pius Mokgware expressed doubts on the DCEC which has been earmarked as the custodian of the law arguing that the DCEC is not independent. “Our problem is that all of the oversight bodies are not independent. Let’s first make DCEC independent from the Executive influence. We cannot pass the Bill if oversight bodies such as the Attorney General and DCEC are still under the control of the Office of the President hence I doubt DCEC will be able to execute this task,” Mokgware added.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi had pleaded with Parliament to pass the Bill before the winter session adjourns because it is long overdue. He argued that the bill be passed because it associates with some pillars of the Vision 2036 in particular reference to good governance, peace and security. Masisi said the Bill is a step in the right direction in the war against corruption, which has resulted in the country’s resources being looted in the past. Supporting Masisi, Vice President Slumber Tsogwane took the floor on Thursday, expressing concern over the continuous rejection of the Bill by some opposition legislators. He said it will be a sad day or a deadly situation for the country if the Bill cannot be adopted as a collective by Parliament, pleading with Duma Boko and company to adopt and support the Bill as well.
The BDP caucus, led by party Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay has vowed to ensure that the Bill sails through Parliament before the winter session adjourns next week Friday on the August 9. BDP’s Dorcas Makgato, who is also Sefhare-Ramokgonami MP, said they will use their numbers to defeat the opposition in passing the Bill under certificate of urgency as per standing order 72.3 guarantees. She noted that it is in BDP’s manifesto to make delivery into reviewing the law once it passes by making adjustments that are proposed by the opposition legislators at the committee stage. “Opposition leader and his fellow counterparts can reject the bill but it will still pass. They forget we have numbers in this Parliament and we will use them to defeat their objections. I am very confident the bill will be passed by this parliament,” she said oozing with confidence.