Some Members of Parliament have blamed Director of Health Services Dr. Malaki Tshipayagae for having misled them regarding quarantine and transmission of COVID-19. According to the MPs when Dr. Tshipayagae told the Special Parliament Meeting on Thursday this past week that when exposed to the virus it takes the infected between five (5) and 14 days to transmit the virus, it gave them the impression that within the period they got exposed to the COVID-19 health officer deployed to the meeting, it would be less risky to have been in public places.
Three MPs were on Wednesday placed under government supervised mandatory quarantine after they were seen in public places doing some shopping. This publication has learnt that three MPs were not the only ones who flouted the quarantine rules as other MPs were allegedly also doing shopping at other malls.
The three MPs who were spotted at West Gate Mall and placed under supervised quarantine at Avani Hotel are Nata-Gweta MP Polson Majaga, Christian Greeff of Gaborone Bonnington South and Pono Moatlhodi of Tonota. About 17 other MPs are said to have been quarantined at Avani Hotel. Earlier on the day during the meeting MP Greeff asked if the virus can be transmitted the same day the person got infected. Dr. Tshipayagae replied that in most cases to transmit the virus when you get exposed it takes a period of five to 14 days.
“This is the time when you will be shedding the virus. Day one (1) is unusual to transmit the virus. This is why we test you after ten days because the first day many of you will test negative because the virus is so low." After being exposed on social media the three MPs apologised to the public. They also pointed out that they decided to do shopping because they knew they were going for quarantine and their understanding of the director was that they are less of a risk to the public.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi, his cabinet, MPs and all those who attended the special meeting including members of the media have been quarantined for 14 days. They have been given the mandatory quarantine with two options; self-isolation and quarantine place availed by government through the ministry. They also were given a Daily Monitoring Tool Form to record their temperature and any observation such as headache, shortness of breath, vomiting, pains in the throat and lungs.
Members of Parliament have unanimously welcomed their massive salary adjustment effective April this year. Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi this week presented under certificate of urgency the National Assembly (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill of 2019.
He said this is because if the Bill is tabled through the normal course it would not be debated in the current Parliament sitting and would delay increase for MPs which is expected to effect this month. The Bill other than the adjustment also wants to delink the salaries of MPs from the Public Service Structure by 11 percent. The adjustment which excited legislators from the opposition and the ruling party means MPs are expected to now get P39 197 per month or P470 364 per annum. Currently MPs are earning P23, 786 per month.
The MPs expressed appreciation at this increase even though they said it is not enough when compared to other countries. The Speaker will get P600.00 sitting allowance every day on which he or she attends a meeting of Parliament or Committee of Parliament while MPs will get a sitting allowance of P450.00. Constituency allowance has been adjusted by 50 percent while Fixed (communication Allowance and Hospitality) has been adjusted by 10 percent.The President will get P89 588 per month (P1 075 056 annually); Vice President P78 586 (P943 032 annually); Speaker P60 416 (P724 992); Deputy Speaker P46 490 (P557 880); Minister P60 416 (P724 992); Assistant Minister P46 490 (P557 880); Government Whip P40 783 (P489 396); Opposition Whip P39 984 (P479 808) and Leader of Opposition P46 490 (P559 880).
MP for Boteti East Setlhomo Lelatisitswe said when he became MP in 2014 it was shown that they were lowly paid. He stated that as they travel the world on Parliament assignments it has proven that Botswana MPs are working on a voluntary basis. He said they are happy about the increase especially that of the Speaker as this shows government is moving in the right direction in efforts to empower Parliament as an arm of government. He said constituency allowance increase will assist as some of their constituencies are vast and need a lot of resources.
Mochudi West MP, Gilbert Mangole wished all MPs could be able to speak on the increase and speak with one voice. He said it is time MPs publicly speak about their salaries which he said are very low. He expressed worry that the media will blow the increment out of proportion with the potential of making voters angry. “I wish we could have a calibre of journalists who will state that we are not paid enough. Not what we will see in the newspapers’ headlines tomorrow. “Not what we have currently where journalists are reactionary to public discomfort about our salaries. The press should demonstrate that we are not paid but we are always portrayed as vultures.
“This is not enough but we appreciate the little that the minister is offering. Right now, a District Commissioner is being paid more than an MP but we do more work than them,” argued Mangole. Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology, Thapelo Olopeng said as MPs they have to be brave when talking about their salaries. He said what they are currently getting as MPs is eroding the dignity of the country. “We do not have to be worried what our electorates will say. Even our entertainment allowances cannot even do what they are supposed to because the allowance is too small.
“We should have a political pay structure different from that of public servants. What kind of hierarchy is this? You are told you are the boss to the Permanent Secretary but you get paid less that your PS! “Where have we seen such thing where a boss gets paid less than their subordinates. When I arrived in this Parliament the president was paid less than Permanent Secretary to the President this is not right for our reputation”, charged Oloponeg who is also MP for Tonota. Liakat Kably, MP for Letlhakeng-Lephephe who also serves in the MPs Rights and Privileges (Staff Welfare) Committee said they have been troubling the minister about the Bill and are happy that it has finally reached the floor of Parliament
MPS 2017 SALARY INCREMENT
National Assembly (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill of 2017 with the 4 percent increase brought an MP’s monthly salary to P23, 786 per month which is P285, 432, 20 every year. The President annually pocketed P907 595, 50; Vice President at the rate of P535 902, 10; a Minister P470 959, 80; Speaker P470 959, 80; Assistant Minister, Deputy Speaker and Leader of Opposition all at the rate of P397 085, 50; Government Whip P315 125, 20; Opposition Whip P302 888, 60 while MPs got P285 432, 20 per annum.
Constituency Allowances, were increased by 40 percent which is almost P3 000. A constituency such as Gaborone Central, which was getting P6 185, 15 is getting P8 659, 21 which annually comes to P103 910, 52. A constituency such as Okavango gets P10 628, 98 per month from P7 592, 13.
Members of Parliament are expected to get more than the initial 4 percent which was published in the Government Gazette in April this year, Botswana Guardian has been informed.
According to the initial Bill the MPs were to get four (4) percent salary hike. At press time Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Eric Molale was scheduled to present some amendments to Parliament which are expected to increase MPs’ salaries by around P10 000 which is close to 40 percent.
The Bill, currently at committee stage, has been embraced by MPs across the aisle. During the previous Parliament sitting, this Bill nearly caused an uproar as MPs wanted it to be tabled before they could debate and support the President’s (Pensions and Retirement) Bill. Prior to agreeing to the four (4) percent proposed by Government, MPs had allegedly proposed 25 percent increase, 40 percent Constituency Allowance, Provision of transport for each Constituency and review of their Terminal Benefits.
Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Molale however awarded the MPs four (4) percent salary increase and 40 percent Constituency allowance. According to the Bill published on 6th April 2017 the President, Vice President, Ministers, assistant ministers and MPs will have their 4 percent salary increment backdated to April 1st 2017 as soon as Parliament passes the Bill.
Under the Bill a 4 percent increase would bring an MP’s monthly salary to P23, 786 per month which is P285, 432. 20 every year. Information has been sketchy on the new development as Minister Molale would not avail the amendments. MPs approached by this publication could also not give a definite figure of the increase even though they confirmed that the increase would be more than 4 percent.
Their excuse has been that Molale has not given them copies of the amendment as he promised. When approached, the minister directed this publication to speak to Government Spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay to assist with the figures. Ramsay however maintained that MPs will just get a 40 percent increment for constituency allowance and 4 percent as salary increment.
At Press time, Parliament was scheduled to finalise the Bill yesterday (Thursday). Government Whip and Opposition Whip were also not able to assist on the pending amendments. Supporting the increase in Parliament, MPs have indicated that even though they understand the hard economic times felt by the country, their salaries have to match their work. They have revealed that what they are doing is not for them but the institution (Parliament).
Government Whip Liakat Kably said he is happy that all MPs are in agreement. He said the increment would go a long way in uplifting their lives and assisting them in executing their duties at constituency level. He explained that their salaries have been low as compared to other countries. He said even though people might think MPs are being selfish, the public have to think of the work that legislators do.
When debating the Bill, Opposition Whip Wynter Mmolotsi said MPs have not been getting what they deserve. He stated that they share the little they get with their constituents. Mmolotsi said they appreciate that their salaries should improve and improve significantly. He expressed worry that even though Parliament is considered one of the arms of government, MPs are lowly paid. He wondered what would be wrong if an MP gets what is equivalent to what is being earned by a judge.
He however called for their salaries to be considered by an independent body. He said MPs should not be deciding their salaries and the mandate should be given to the Parliamentary Service Commission.
During a General Assembly in April, Minister Molale is said to have indicated that there are no sufficient funds to meet all the demands by MPs. The minister, according to MPs who attended the meeting, indicated that as per the recommendations by MPs Rights and Privileges (Staff Welfare) Committee Chairman Haskins Nkaigwa, all those proposed would not be met but the remaining ones are not being thrown away.
The minister is said to have indicated that as government they would continue to engage with MPs on their proposals and grievances.According to the Bill published the same date it was to be tabled in Parliament on 6th April 2017 the President, Vice President, Ministers, assistant ministers and MPs would have their 4 percent salary increment backdated to April 1st 2017 as soon as Parliament passes the Bill.
The Bill is expected to be passed during the winter session (July this year), which is a session that focuses on Bills.
Even though the MPs have complained about their tools of trade they have scored big on Constituency Allowances, which have been increased by 40 percent which is almost P3 000. A Constituency such as Gaborone Central, which has been getting P6 185, 15 would now get P8 659, 21 which annually comes to P103 910, 52.
A Constituency such as Okavango would get P10 628, 98 per month from P7 592, 13. Under the amended Act annually the constituency would get P127 547, 78. Although the MPs hail this increase they argue that a lot still needs to be done in terms of availing tools of trade for MPs in their respective constituencies for executive government duties and programmes.
They still believe that provision of a motor vehicle and a driver per constituency should be considered. In the salaries the Bill states that the President would annually pocket P907 595, 50; Vice President at the rate of P535 902, 10; a minister P470 959, 80; Speaker P470 959, 80; Assistant Minister, Deputy Speaker and Leader of Opposition all at the rate of P397 085, 50; Government Whip P315 125. 20; Opposition Whip P302 888, 60 while MPs would get P285 432, 20 per annum.
‘We are against the disparities between MPs and Ministers’- Kablay
‘It’s news to us’ – Mmolotsi
MPs’ Constituency Allowance to be increased by 40%
Members of Parliament are said to have demanded a 25 percent salary hike for themselves, but the Opposition Chief Whip has distanced his MPs from the decision. The MPs have however been given four (4) percent salary hike which is expected to be effected once Parliament passes the Bill during the winter session in July this year. The Bill failed to see the light of day in the just-ended Budget session, as efforts by MPs to squeeze it through proved futile. The MPs wanted the Bill to be tabled before Parliament on a Certificate of Emergency. It was initially agreed that the Bill would be tabled before the President’s (Pensions and Retirement) Bill but things changed on Thursday night when the President’s Bill was tabled first and passed. Botswana Guardian is reliably informed that prior to agreeing to the four (4) percent proposed by government through the Ministry for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, MPs had proposed a 25 percent increase, 40 percent Constituency Allowance, Provision of transport for each Constituency and review of their Terminal Benefits.
Presidential Affairs Minister Eric Molale however awarded the MPs four (4) percent salary increase and 40 percent Constituency allowance. The minister is said to have explained during a General Assembly last week Thursday that there are no sufficient funds to meet all the demands by MPs. The minister according to MPs who attended the meeting indicated that as per the recommendations by MPs’ Rights and Privileges (Staff Welfare) Committee Chairman Haskins Nkaigwa, all the proposals would not be met but the remaining ones are not being thrown away.
The minister is said to have indicated that government would continue to engage with MPs on their proposals and grievances. Government Chief Whip Liakat Kably confirmed that MPs had proposed an increment of 25 percent. “The minister told us that he is not rejecting the proposals but due to funds constraints government would not be able to cover all our demands. This is why our long outstanding request for constituencies to be given motor vehicles and review of terminal benefits did not get the green light. I know people will start thinking that the 40 percent increase for Constituency allowance is too much but that money is not for us. It is for the constituents so that we could be able to take services to them,” stated Kably.
He expressed hope that the Bill will pass in July because no MP is against the increment. He reiterated the need for the review of their terminal benefits saying there shouldn’t be that much difference between MPs and ministers. “This is why people do all they can to be a minister because they know that they are better off as ministers. That is why we are against the disparities between MPs and ministers. “A minister can easily traverse through his or her constituency because s/he is covered in terms of transport while as an ordinary MP you have to rely on you own motor vehicle for transport and servicing the bank loan at the same time. At the end, you are left with nothing,” said Kably buttressing the point why there should be provision of motor vehicles for each of the 57 constituencies.
This is not the first time, MPs have requested to be given motor vehicles to undertake constituency assignments. The request has been there for some years and has always been rejected. Opposition Whip Wynter Mmolotsi said as opposition MPs they are not aware of the 25 percent increase. “We have not even been able to see that Bill. I’m just seeing some of the snippets of the Bill on social media which means some of our colleagues from the BDP could have it,” said Mmolotsi.
The Francistown MP said that all he knows that was presented at the general assembly by Nkaigwa’s committee was the provisions of motor vehicles for constituencies to help execute government duties. He said some constituencies execute such duties because there is no mode of transport and some of those constituencies are far from Gaborone and are vast. He said the recommendation also spoke about giving MPs allowances rather than the vehicles availed when Parliament is sitting- vehicles, which are only used to ferry an MP from his/house to Parliament and cannot do any other errands for an MP.
“The problem we have is that our colleagues would discuss things at their caucus then come and hijack us and associate us with such decisions. This would not be the first because BDP has in most instances taken decisions during their Parliamentary caucus then come and present such in Parliament. This is why we always oppose such business when brought to Parliament. We are not saying MPs are paid enough but what I am saying is that the 25 percent is news to us,” said Mmolotsi.
The outspoken legislator stated that as part of the three arms of government MPs are the lowly paid. He said an MP gets less than Permanent Secretaries and in some instances less than a Director. “We are on the same level with the Judiciary and Executive but there is huge disparity when it comes to salaries. The executive salary is a stand-alone so is the Judiciary but we are supposed to be in a three-tier system in the pay structure. We provide oversight and make laws but our remuneration does not reflect that,” he argued, dismissing claims that even opposition MPs support the 25 percent increase.
Kably has however castigated Mmolotsi saying the MPs across the aisle want the 25 percent increase. He said opposition MPs are disassociating themselves with such a proposal because they want to appear differently before the public while in actual fact they also support the increase.