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WE NEED AN OMBUDSPEOPLE, ASAP!

WE NEED AN OMBUDSPEOPLE, ASAP!
March 13
08:32 2018

With the current President, we are an oligarchy of sorts. Power lies within a small group of people distinguished by family ties. Theoretically, we are a democracy, (albeit) a version with little citizen participation except taking long walks to polling stations to vote (Blurb)

How many jobs have been created from the insight shared by speakers since the first annual Botswana Jobs Summit?  I would tell you if I knew, and you can tell me if you know, but what I certainly know is that there used to be effective and efficient conferences when organisers were not just in it for the Benjamin’s and attendants did not just go for a sense of belonging – the snaps, the hashtags and the affordable fine dining.

I say affordable, and not free, because anything that consumes an invaluable resource (in this case, time) is not free. Before the fine dining, you have to sit for hours listening to people going on and on, one after another about things you can readily find on Google and read about at your own spare time.

In 1993, an international conference on the sustainability of the Ombudsman institution in Botswana was held in Gaborone. The Ombudsman was a must to complement Botswana’s democratic institutions, the need for such an institution having been made clear by the then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration. You can tell from afar that this minister was not Eric Molale. You can tell that his cognitive power was not limited to processing basic data from the five senses and that there was a sixth sense, common sense, which seems to be lacking now.

In 1995, the Office of the Ombudsman arrived with the sole purpose of receiving and investigating allegations of maladministration and violation of rights in the public sector, just as the conference had intended,

The Ombudsman is appointed by the President, another man. The current Ombudsman, Augustine Makgonatshotlhe, was appointed by President Ian Khama in 2016. A common theme throughout Makgonatsotlhe’s tenure would be to pretend that he is independent from the bloke who believed in him enough to appoint him. Obviously, the President having to consult the Leader of the Opposition is just ceremonious, and the current LOP probably just needs filtered coffee without sugar from Mugg & Bean to let his guard down and be easily satisfied with the consultation.

Already Augustine has given the Botswana Congress Party the middle finger on a complaint they lodged against the President with respect to his heavenly compound at Mosu. The middle finger may be warranted, but this is an official who was not ‘democratically’ elected by the people. Just one person decided on behalf of two million people. On the face of it, we cannot be sure about who he is protecting. It is unsettling, but that is just our democracy – less people involvement and more unilateral decisions. The President, whom we do not even directly elect, has an ocean of power to appoint key players in our governance – the judges, the Ombudsman and Specially Elected Members of Parliament (for whom the acronym of SPEMs makes for curious reading, but that’s a matter for another day’s column that may tackle the cerebral virility and loyalty of this peculiar lot). The Constitution is the mother of all these problems but we have since decided to treat it like the Bible, cast in stone and not open to progressive amendments.

Practically, with the current President, we are an oligarchy of sorts. Power lies within a small group of people distinguished by family ties. Theoretically, we are a democracy, (albeit) a version with little citizen participation except taking long walks to polling stations to vote. Anything else afterwards is out of reach of the public, who under normal temperature and pressure, should be more powerful than the representatives they have elected. The question now is what opportunities do people have to control leaders and to oust them without a revolution?

But revolutions are expensive. We already have a huge import bill and we cannot commit ourselves any further. Even the constitution of the SRC of UB is more democratic than our national constitution because a majority of the students can effectively pass a vote of no confidence in the SRC, be it the president or any representative. At the national level, this form of recourse is not available to citizens. It is the elected representatives who have the privilege but may well not be bothered like the citizens are. This may not be a solution but we are in Africa, when implementation fails here, we always create new structures to solve problems that seem to be beyond the current structures instead of focusing on achieving implementation.

An office of the Ombudspeople would focus on quality assurance and quality control of government to maintain desired levels of service by the government, its branches and the representatives by being a threat to the tenure of the representatives. It would serve as a referendum platform where we can oust any representatives we are not satisfied with by way of voting. We would not need the Ombudsman to investigate and make a determination on alleged maladministration. Right now our relationship with our representatives always feels like marriage without the option of divorce. We are not satisfied but we cannot do much to save our souls. Now we have comfortable leaders who can loot and be under no pressure to resign because afterall, the power does not lie with the people!

 

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