Botswana: MPs unite in quest for ‘fair deal’

Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday passed a bill, which seeks to ensure that they are paid their gratuities and pensions taking into account the various positions they would have held during a parliamentary term.

Several MPs served in Cabinet during former president Festus Mogae’s reign from 2004 and were dropped last year when President Ian Khama ascended to power. Another Cabinet reshuffle was done in December bringing in three new faces.

The current ministers and National Assembly Gratuities Act does not take into account the fact that some MPs may have held different positions, which attract different salaries during a parliamentary term. This meant that some MPs who would have served in Cabinet were going to forfeit their severance pay while those who served only six months were going to benefit as if they had served five years. Among the MPs who had served in Cabinet and later dropped are Daniel Kwelagobe, Moggie Mbaakanyi, Guma Moyo, Major General Moeng Pheto, Olifant Mfa, Charles Tibone and Professor Sheila Tlou.

Several MPs agreed that the Act was not fair and that the amendment bill has come at the right time. They said that MPs should be allowed access to their severance benefits even before the end of parliamentary term to attend to their personal financial needs or for investment. However, though in support of the bill, Gaborone Central MP Dumelang Saleshando accused MPs of using the House for self- serving missions. He said Mogae pleaded with the House about three years ago to come up with the same law that would ensure that employers were not ripping off employers. The MP was referring to common cases where employees were sacked a few months before they qualified for their gratuities (60 months).

He urged government to come up with a law that will ensure that employees could be paid gratuity proportionate to the length of time they have worked for their employers, and not based only on five years.

Meawhile, newly appointed Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning Keletso Rakhudu supported the bill but cautioned the presenter Phandu Skelemani (foreign affairs and international cooperation minister) that he should be careful not to trample on the Employment Act. He said the Employment Act entitles one to severance pay based on the salary he/she was earning at the end of employment.

Skelemani in response reminded his Cabinet colleague that MPs were not employees and not covered under the Employment Act. With regard to a comment by law on severance benefits for employees he said that the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs was responsible for that.

President Ian Khama is expected to dissolve Parliament sometime next month the time during which he would announce the date for this year’s general election.

Mmegi Online

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