The tide of criticism of President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s choice of Specially Elected Members of Parliament has been as swift and wide as the acclamation and breath of fresh air that met his inauguration just the other day. The bone of contention is the presence of two women who are close relatives of the First Family on both sides.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi is facing a rising tide of accusations of nepotism following yesterday’s (Monday) naming of Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs) who are said to be close relatives of his by marriage.
Former Serowe North MP Kgotla Autlwetse, former lands minister Kefentse Mzwinila and former international affairs minister Unity Dow managed to return to the 12th Parliament through as SEMPs. Others are former Permanent Secretary (PS) at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) Peggy Serame, as well as Philda Kereng and Beauty Manake.
Soon after the six were officially announced and confirmed before Parliament, social media was abuzz with remonstrations that two of the women, Philda Kereng and Beauty Manake are related to the President and the First Lady, Neo. There are allegations that Manake is a martenal relative of the First Lady’s from Bobonong while Kereng is her partenal relative from Ramotswa.
However, The Botswana Gazette had not independently verified how the Masisis relate to the two women SEMPs at the time of going to press. Upon contacting government spokesman Andrew Sesinyi to establish the verity of this, the seasoned former radio journalist said he would need 24 hours – up to Tuesday (today) – to respond to meet this inquiry.
Responding to these allegations, the new MP for Gaborone North, who is also the Secretary General of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Mpho Balopi, said they were unaware of the President’s relations with the two women. However, Balopi did not seem bothered by the alleged issue of the two being relatives of the President, stating that Botswana was a small country and so inter-relations were difficult to avoid.
There was nothing like such aquiescence at the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) whose vice president Dumelang Saleshando respondeds with umbrage that President Masisi should have seen fit select close relatives for SEMPs. “It is an outright embarrassment,” the newly elected MP for Maun West fumed as he addressed journalists outside Parliament soon after the naming of the President’s choice appointments yesterday. “President Masisi has gone and looked for people who lost the primaries and therefore people who have been rejected by the BDP.
“The likes of Rre Mzwinila were rejected by the BDP but Rre Masisi is giving the people of Mmadinare the middle finger by appointing him a SEMP. He has gone all out to look for people who have lost in the general elections such as Rre Kgotla Autlwetse. I thought we had passed all this where Parliament would sit the whole day to reward people rejected by the voters.”
Saleshando added that the system used to select SEMPs does not promote accountability but only forces elected MPs to vote for people they do not even know, to say nothing about their credentials. So angry was the normally equanimous politician said Masisi had downgraded MPs of the ruling party to cattle that vote without question. “If you vote without questioning (anything), and you’re voting for someone you don’t even know, you are a voting cattle,” he said.
“I am told that two the two other ladies besides Peggy Serame and Unity Dow (Manake and Kereng) are relatives of Rre Masisi. Now those who have been selling the story that Masisi is here to defeat corruption must know that corruption is wearing a big smile because it has a champion. Such naked nepotism does not have a place in the Botswana that we want to build between 2019 and 2024. This is a very bad start. It is a very sad day because Masisi has abused this dispensation of special nominations.”
In closing his remarks he labelled Masisi a hypocrite and worse than former president Ian Khama who he and his party does not care on consulting and engaging opposition in rebuilding this country.
Constitutionally, President Masisi enjoys the unfettered prerogative of appointing whomsoever he may wish as Specially Elected Mmeber of Parliamment. “Specially elected nominations to Parliament and councils should be used to make up for skills needed and bridge gaps of minority group representation,” said University of Botswana (UB) political scientist, Leonard Sesa, who also slammed President Masisi for instead making sympathy nominations and naming people who do not have the interests of the nation at heart.