Olopeng said a former president must be given access to all government transportation including boats so that he doesn’t drown in water and must be allowed to build a house in Tonota should he so wish and that it is wrong for government to dictate where retired presidents must live.
A bill amending the Pensions and Retirement Benefits of former Presidents of Botswana was passed by Parliament on April 6 after a heated debate between the ruling party and opposition members of parliament.
MP for Tonota South, Thapelo Olopeng came out with guns blazing and accused opposition MPs of what he termed pettiness and hatred of President Ian Khama, arguing that a retired president must be respected and afforded a dignified life. He urged MPs to be objective in their arguments and stop “hating on President Khama”. Among the amendments, the bill stipulates that in the event that a former president dies after ceasing to hold office, any surviving spouse should be paid a tax free annual pension of P98,268.00. An emotionally charged Olopeng took a swipe at Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi who had earlier said at this rate Khama will be given a rocket as mode transport. “We should be careful not to be used in approving laws that seek to fund people’s lifestyles because the next president will also want his retirement package to suit his lifestyle,’’ he had cautioned.
Olopeng however scolded Mmolotsi for talking about rockets which he had only seen in movies and never in reality. At some point during Olopeng’s submission, Mmolotsi stood on a point of correction but started off by saying, ‘’Ke lantlha ke bona ale marapo jaana in a debate’’ (Never have I seen him this forceful in a debate). Olopeng however soldiered on, saying a former president must be given access to all government transportation including boats so that he doesn’t drown in water or that if he drowns government should account to his family. He emphasized that the president must be allowed to build a house in Tonota should he so wish and that it is wrong for government to dictate where retired presidents must live.
Next on the debate was Bonnington South MP Duma Boko who started by saying he likes the way Olopeng debates the issue with love. ‘’I always like it when I hear passionate arguments made out of love. Love here meaning the sum total of all our connections and entanglements, whatever they happen to be,’’ he said. Boko said as opposition they are not so stupid as to fail to deduce that the bill was crafted to benefit and satisfy the needs of an individual. He said he had observed a pattern where the ruling party legislates for and around a single individual. ‘’The other aspect of this is when you frame that individuated legislative intervention in terms that are facially neutral, deceptively innocent on their face but clearly designed to benefit a particular individual,’’ Boko said.
The bill, which was presented by the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric Molale, now makes it lawful for former presidents to find employment elsewhere after vacating the country’s highest office.
For her part, Serowe South MP Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, said allowing former presidents the use of any mode of government transport would help when former presidents are required to undertake international trips.
MP for Ramotswa, Samuel Rantuana, however urged parliament to address poverty and improve the conditions of public officers instead of coming up with laws aimed at enriching former presidents.
In 2001 the then Ombudsman, the late Lethebe Amos Maine, issued a report critical of Khama, then Vice President, for using government vehicles for his personal use.