Khama is ‘Vulture No. 1’ – Molapisi
‘He is forgetting that he once called MPs vultures, but he is a vulture as he preyed on Batswana and strikes when they least expected’
Chickens have come home to roost for President Ian Khama. The nation is up in arms and wants to know how different he is to the Members of Parliament he once ridiculed for wanting to line up their pockets under tough economic conditions that saw many ordinary Batswana wallowing in poverty.
FLASHBACK: In 2006 while still Vice President, President Ian Khama labeled Members of Parliament vultures when they had asked for an eight percent inflation adjustment to their salaries. At the time, Khama said he would rather look at the many Batswana offering critical services to the functioning of the economy, whose conditions of service he said left much to be desired and should be prioritised above the MPs’ packages. It was important, he argued, that before leaders can seek to fatten their pockets, they should rather think of those in more need.
Now the tables have turned as the President gets the label for his purported expensive lifestyle. The argument follows the passing of President (Pensions and Retirement Benefits) Bill that will ensure that when he retires next year, Khama would choose where he wants to have his retirement home built, be able to get employment if he so wishes and use a helicopter or a boat when he travels in areas that are not accessible by a motor vehicle. The Bill was passed just before midnight on Thursday last week. The Bill which has been amended on several occasions was published on 12th December 2016.
Botswana Congress Party Secretary General and former MP Kentse Rammidi said Batswana can now see who the real vulture is when it comes to public funds.
The former Botswana Democratic Party MP stated that Khama is the first sitting President who overspends and will be the first retired president to do so. He wondered why Khama should be provided with extra transport.
“It would not be the first time he would be spending so much on public funds. He renovated the state house, bought himself an expensive caravan and a helicopter.
“The very same MPs he labeled vultures are the people who are on the ground. Some of these MPs their constituencies are not accessible by motor vehicle, which is why when they vacate office their motor vehicles would be worn out. But these are the people that are in touch and must take government programmes to Batswana. What Khama said at that time was to try and confuse Batswana to think he cares,” said Rammidi.
Rammidi believes that the helicopter would be used for personal gain and for BDP campaigns as Khama has hinted that he would be the chief campaigner for BDP in 2019 general election.
Leader of Opposition who is also Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) president, Duma Boko has said that they do not subscribe to a procedure where laws are meant to favour interests of one individual.
He explained that the Bill was passed because BDP has more MPs in Parliament and they also lack consciousness. According to Boko, the UDC is against legislating for an individual’s preference. “Khama has to sponsor his lifestyle in addition to what government is providing. Why should we change the law when Khama leaves office while Festus Mogae and Sir Ketumile Masire had no problem with the package we are giving them as Batswana,” asked Boko. He added that when UDC takes power in 2019 this is one of the many laws that the party would repeal.
Botswana People’s Party President (BPP) Motlatsi Molapisi labeled Khama as “Vulture Number One.” In Molapisi’s assessment, Khama prepared the Bill for himself. “He has no shame and respect for the country. We always talk about lack of funds but just look at what he is doing. He is forgetting that he once called MPs vultures but he is the number one vulture as he preyed on Batswana and now he strikes when they least expect it,” fumed Molapisi, who is also UDC Chairman. The veteran politician said this also says a lot about the independence of Parliament. He labeled MPs, especially from the ruling party, as toothless as they always rubberstamp what Khama wants.
He said Parliament is no longer serving its mandate. But handlers of the president have a different view to the recent developments. Government Chief Whip Liakat Kably said the president as former head of state must be taken care of. He said even for MPs, they would like them to be looked after, which is why they are always striving to improve their conditions of service.
On Khama calling MPs vultures, Kably who is also MP for Letlhakeng-Lephephe argues that at the time, the President had his reasons for such a statement especially that the economy was still recovering from a down turn. He said he saw no fuss about the president’s expected use of other government modes of transport such as helicopters and boats while in retirement, as that would have to be authorised by a sitting President before Khama could use any of them.
Government spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay said people are being fed the wrong information which informs their perception of the Bill. He stated that the Act will grant former Presidents, on a case by case basis, access to the use of any Government owned mode of transport, on such terms as may be determined by the sitting President.
“We are a free country and people are entitled to their opinion that is why some say the president is a vulture.
They say that based on their opinion with regards to the Bill. But as government we have tried to explain what the Act will entail so that the public understands it.
This is not anything extraordinary,” he said, explaining that the amended provision is meant to regularise situations in which Government deems it appropriate to give former Presidents access to alternative modes of official transport, be it for their internal or external engagements in the national interest.
“This could include boat or air transport as may be warranted by circumstance”, he stated.
Political Analyst Anthony Morima said what is expected to be enjoyed by the president should reflect on the
entire populace. “We cannot make benefits that would negatively affect our consolidated funds. The President has received his salary for the rest of his presidency without spending it as he relied on government coffers,” said Morima, adding that even the options of receiving office accommodation allowance or construction of an office at a place of choice for the former president would be costly for the country.
He argued that if the office is not in Gaborone it would not be accessible to the public, diplomats and other government officials.
He however indicated that if the president would want to fly, it shouldn’t be a problem because it must be authorised so that the air space could be cleared.
He condemned the receiving of Pension and Gratuity at the same time which are both terminal benefits, “which many employees in the country cannot be allowed to enjoy, both.”