Angry councillors say Molale cannot be capricious with their “entitlement” and use the State of Emergency to reverse a decision to award them a salary increment without consulting them. Staff Writer SESUPO RANTSIMAKO reports
Councillors countrywide have reacted angrily to the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Eric Molale’s response to their demand for a salary adjustment that they should instead focus on helping people who elected them, The Botswana Gazette has established.
After government failed to implement the 6 percent salary adjustment as promised in the 2020/21 budget, councillors recently petitioned Minister Molale over what they called their entitlement. However, Molale responded sternly, saying the increment will not be coming in spite of it being spelt out in the 2020/21 budget speech. Priorities have changed because COVID-19 has brought about a bleak situation, he added.
It is therefore time for councillors to put their personal interests aside and focus on helping Batswana to get out of their abjection. “You will recall that immediately after the passing of that budget by Parliament there was an outbreak of COVID-19, which compelled government to reprioritise and reallocate the budget,” Molale wrote to councillors through the Association of Local Authorities (BALA).
“Worthy of remembering is that the 2020/21 budget that was passed by Parliament had to be reallocated during the sitting as part of the concerted efforts in response to pandemic. Money was set aside to assist those who were about to lose their jobs, collapsing businesses, (and) to fortify food security.”
In an interview with The Botswana Gazette, the Councillor for Mosekangwetsi in Bonnington South constituency, Tshenolo Palai, said Molale’s response means he does not care about the welfare of councillors, especially that MPs had a salary increment in the advent of COVID-19. He added that Molale did not even consult them after reversing the decision to increase their salaries.
“It is very painful to be labelled greedy when demanding our entitlement,” Palai said. “We would have understood if Molale had been in touch with us but he is a minister who is always unavailable when we want to meet him.”
A councillor in Tlokweng who preferred anonymity echoed those sentiments and accused Molale of using the State of Emergency to sacrifice their welfare. “An exclusive adjustment for MPs means the State of Emergency is not for all of us,” the councillor said. “Molale should have at least exempted us from tax because we are also affected by inflation.”
Councillor Ephraim Mabengano said the minister should tell them when the decision was reversed and why only councillors were sacrificed. “The minister has a lot of explaining to do because we cannot leave this issue just because he is telling us that there was a reprioritisation and reallocation of the budget,” Mabengano argued. “If Molale says we should focus on assisting Batswana, he should be reminded that he is not different from us as representatives.”
Reached for comment, the Chairman of BALA, Geoffrey Sibisibi, confirmed receiving Molale’s letter but said there are better ways for the minister to communicate with them than by letter. “This is a sensitive issue that needs meeting in person rather than exchanging letters,” Sibisibi said. “I do not know if councillors want to take the matter further. We will wait for their advice.”