There is an unprecedented number of academics vying for a parliamentary seat in this year’s general election. While the general feeling is that the academics are opportunists positioning themselves for a possible takeover of power by their party so that they loot public resources, they aver that theirs is a form of national service and nothing else.
In terms of income and allowances, a Member of Parliament in Botswana earns about P20,000 per month while a junior lecturer gets not less than P25,000.00. Besides, lecturers do consultancy work for government and other organisations including international ones and this adds to their already hefty salary. While the MP’s salary is increased at the behest of government, the academic can work his way up to professorship and thereby earn more than P40,000.00 monthly. In terms of the University of Botswana regulations, a lecturer is entitled to a five-year leave which is renewable.
This means that upon winning the election, the academic can serve his community for five years after which time he or she may decide whether to resign from teaching and continue with his or her political role as an MP or rejoin the university. There is no doubt that, even then, the salary cut during his or her leave period is huge. Elmon Tafa, a Botswana National Front (BNF) veteran politician, is a senior lecturer at the UB. Despite not contesting this year’s general election, he has done so before. Asked why he wanted to go to parliament even then when the income disparities between threat of a lecturer and an MP was so huge, he said, “It is not about money.
The bait is to effect change in society,” said Tafa in an interview. From that viewpoint, the sacrifice is justified, he said. BCP parliamentary candidate for Selebi Phikwe, who teaches at the UB is of the view that, because politics is a calling, the plight of the people must come first. “Look, Nelson Mandela was a successful lawyer running a law firm. He could have watched from a distance as the Blacks suffered from the apartheid laws while he lived a good life. Despite the income difference, I want to make a meaningful contribution to the development of our democracy,” said the BCP Youth League president. Challenged on whether it was all about power, he answered in the affirmative. “Yes, we want to win the election.
We want power to rule Botswana and improve the lives of the people,” he said. “I do not know how much MPs earn and I do not care. I will find out when I get to parliament after the election,” said the BCP candidate for Bobirwa Taulo Lucas when asked to reason the huge salary cut he is prepared to endure. According to him, it is all about service to humanity. “We are not happy with economic distribution in this country where you have part of society obscenely rich while the other part is desperately poor. Those who see politics as a reward are distorting it,” declared the BCP spokesman adding that if money were the driving force, he would keep his job and not go on leave. “Admittedly, it is a huge sacrifice that however, should be made,” concluded Lucas.