Botswana: Parliament Suspends Saleshando

Gaborone — Leader of the Opposition, Mr Dumelang Saleshando was yesterday afternoon suspended from participating in the National Assembly for a week, following a vote by Members of Parliament subsequent to a ruling by the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Phandu Skelemani.

Mr Skelemani had on Monday told the house that he was not satisfied with the evidence Mr Saleshando had presented before him to substantiate allegations of corrupt practice in the process of the awarding of government tenders and urged the LOO to withdraw the claims.

Mr Saleshando, who is also Maun West MP refused to withdraw the corruption claims, and on Tuesday his attempts to lodge fresh evidence derived from an internet search and newspaper articles were further rebuffed by the Speaker who questioned the legitimacy of such sources.

With Mr Saleshando persisting in declining to withdraw, Mr Skelemani invoked Section 60 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, which empowers the speaker to name a member who has committed the offence of disregarding the speaker's authority, then calling upon a chief whip to move for the suspension of the offending member from the National Assembly.

The speaker had first called upon Opposition Whip Mr Pono Moatlhodi to move in that regard, but the Tonota MP said he would not partake in what he deemed a 'very biased, very unfair and unpatriotic act,' before ruling party whip, Mr Liat Kablay who joined the proceedings late, moved the motion.

Of the parliamentarians present, 34 voted in favour of Mr Saleshando's suspension, 10 voted against, nine were absent, seven chose not to participate at all while three communicated their abstaining from the process.

According to Section 60.5 of the Standing Order, a member suspended on the first occasion under this clause would serve a one week suspension to which the speaker said would effect from Tuesday. After Mr Saleshando's suspension was pronounced, opposition MPs joined him in walking out of Parliament en masse in protest.

This was the culmination of an issue which had started during the emergency meeting of Parliament in April, when Mr Saleshando made allegations to the effect that there had been dishonest practice in the awarding of tenders.

Mr Saleshando had alleged that there had been a direct awarding of a government tender to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi's sister, and that governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) councilors were also being given tenders by their own local authorities.

Mr Skelemani then asked Mr Saleshando to provide evidence of his allegations, and according to the speaker, the LOO duly furnished his office with documentation on May 4, contending that a tender worth over P13 million had been directly awarded to a company one of whose directors is alleged to be the President's sister.

But, Mr Skelemani said there had been no sufficient proof to validate the claim that indeed such a tender had been improperly awarded, or if the person mentioned is indeed related to the President. As such, the Speaker requested Mr Saleshando to withdraw his allegations.

Mr Saleshando was persistent, telling parliament on Tuesday that the company in question had failed in their first submission for an open, competitive bid for the provision of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), and the company's appeal of this failed bid was also dismissed by the Public Procurement and Assert Disposal Board (PPADB).

Despite this, Mr Saleshando claimed that the company in question was still awarded a direct tender appointment by the Office of the President. Mr Saleshando also said that some local councils headed by the governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had awarded tenders to its councilors, citing the example of the Francistown City Council.

Leader of the House, Mr Slumber Tsogwane, and the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development Mr Tumiso Rakgare pointed out that Mr Saleshando had not backed up his initial allegations that the tenders were COVID-19 related.

Also, Mr Tsogwane said the Francistown mayor cited by Mr Saleshando had subsequently withdrawn a bid from his company for a tender under his local authority.

Various opposition MPs on the other hand protested that the process to suspend Mr Saleshando was unfair and counterproductive in the country's efforts to fight corruption.

<i>Source : BOPA</i>

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