Masisi Clips MPs’ Right To Freedom of Speech

  • No trust amongst party members
  • Masisi is Khama’s protégé
  • MPs are worried, demand meeting Masisi
  • Masisi blocks floor crossing


President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s recent decision to suspend Francistown West Member of Parliament (MP) Ignatius Moswaane and former Cabinet Minister Vincent Seretse from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has brought further divisions and a great deal of disgruntlement among the party’s MPs, The Botswana Gazette understands.

Moswaane and Seretse were served with their suspension letters last week. According to the letters, signed by Masisi, the two are accused of bringing the party’s leadership into disrepute through their social media posts. Moswaane has levelled criticism at the government for the rapid increase in the rate of corruption in the country. He has also called for some ministers to step down from cabinet for what he sees as incompetency. On the other end, Seretse was fully against the six-month State of Emergency (SoE). He said Masisi’s meeting with the BDP Central Committee (CC) at the State House in April was for the purposes of “brainwashing” them into agreeing with the SoE.

This week, MPs who spoke to this publication under the condition of anonymity expressed concerns about Masisi’s “harsh” punishment on his critics. Some of these MPs said this has now brought mistrust amongst themselves. “There is just too much backbiting right now, people are constantly informing the President about who is saying what, you just can’t trust anyone. We even have some BDP MPs who don’t even talk to each other at all,” said one MP.

“We are elected to parliament by our constituencies and it is very unfortunate that we are not allowed to speak or stand for what we believe in. Moswaane spoke for what he believed in and some did not like it but it is the truth. Where is the freedom of speech?” added the other.

Some prominent party members have also shared the same concerns and in addition, they are even convinced that Masisi is likely to turn out as a ‘dictator’ that former president Ian Khama was said to be. “Masisi learnt everything from Khama, he is Khama’s protégé and we are going to see a lot of Khama’s traits in him. They do not take criticism too well.”

However, BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi defers, he says all BDP members have the responsibility and obligation to respect and support the party’s leadership. He noted that all members are guided by the party’s constitution which they ought to uphold.

Unconfirmed reports in the political circles suggest that a number of BDP MPs are likely to dump the party as a result of some of these concerns. Mephato Reatile (MP for Jwaneng Mabutsane) Molebatsi Molebatsi (MP for Mmadinare) Machana Shamukuni (MP for Chobe), Moswaane, Paulson Majaga (MP for Nata-Gweta) are some of those linked to the BDP exit.

The Botswana Gazette also understands that BDP MPs have demanded a meeting with Masisi ahead of the winter parliament session.

Meanwhile, Minister for Presidential Affairs Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng will present a bill that bars MPs and Councillors from floor crossing, in the upcoming parliament session. In politics, a politician is said to cross the floor if they change their party allegiance. Crossing the floor may also mean changing to a second party after being elected as a member of a first party, or voting against the approved party lines.

This publication engaged a few MPs to share their views on the subject.

LIAKAT KABLY (Letlhakeng-Lephephe) BDP

“If this motion is meant to deny MPs from crossing for their personal reasons, I am 100% in support of it. But I would have a serious problem if this motion gives our leaders the powers to expel an MP from the party and parliament just because they call for the government to account.”

“In advanced democracies, they do not have any problem with floor crossing and I do not understand why it has to be in this country. I believe that it must be sent to referendum, it should be referred back to the people to decide, if they are in support, then we will accept it. The problem is that some of these laws are intended to frustrate certain people.  Former president Festus Mogae once said “we need to make decisions under cool and calm conditions.”

“First, Batswana have not been consulted on this intention. Second, the President should explain where the Bill which amended Section 68 (1)(A) approved by the 10th Parliament is. The Bill provided that an MP shall seize to hold office a day before elections. Third, we need to know how far the President is with the promised comprehensive review of the constitution; we didn’t anticipate this partisan, personal and ill-thought piecemeal amendment. The constitution shouldn’t be malleable and changed at the whims and caprices of the president.

We can’t legislate to address his personal fears that his MPs are about to leave. In the past he has personally recruited opposition MPs and benefited from floor crossing, now because of his eminent loss he rushes to Parliament with a law. The Bill is not compatible with the First Past the Post system where an MP is individually elected. If BDP is lost, the constitution should not be used to kidnap MPs who want to leave.”

“Generally, people vote along party lines and not for individuals.  I personally believe that, before politicians decide to cross the floor, they should engage their voters first, and consult. It should never be about an individual, in many instances it is the voters that are always left in the lurch and I think this is what this motion seeks to achieve.”