- Clerk wants MPs to report public officers who are active in politics - Dithapo threatens disciplinary action against officers - Constituency staff serving at the behest of MPs - MPs want the current arrangement to be changed

Members of Parliament have allegedly ignored a savingram from the Clerk of the National Assembly threatening disciplinary action against public servants at constituency offices who are actively participating in politics.

Parliament Clerk Barbara Dithapo has written a savingram to all Senior Administration Officers (SAO) warning them against being active in politics.

She says it has been brought to her attention that some public officers at Constituency offices are participating in politics. Dithapo warned that their continued participation in active politics shall render them liable for disciplinary hearing.

“Any public officer who wants to exercise his/her constitutional rights by taking part in active politics, is required by law to forthwith terminate his/her contract of employment as per General Order 220.8 of the General Orders Governing the Conditions of Service of the public service of Botswana,” Dithapo stated in a savingram dated 19th January 2024.

Dithapo called on MPs to promptly report such cases to her office for immediate action. Information reaching Botswana Guardian indicates that some of the reports came from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members and MPs who feel hard done by the SAOs who are campaigning for those who have expressed interest to contest in Bulela-Ditswe.

Some of the SAO members are said to be readying to challenge their MPs.

SAOs are critical officers are the ones who man the constituency offices and act as intermediaries between the constituents and their respective MPs. Also it has emerged that after they were hired by their respective MPs, some of the SAOs have since switched allegiances.

“Almost all of us hire campaign staffers, inherently political. In fact, the system must be changed, so that this is purely apolitical office,” one MP said.

Another MP who is also a cabinet member revealed that the floor crossing law has made it difficult for MPs especially if the officer switches sides and the MP has not.

In such cases, working relations are soured and service delivery for the constituents is compromised.

“What is happening is nothing new. Some MPs in the past house and the current have levelled a plethora of allegations against the officers, essentially, accusing them of sabotage.

“The crux of the matter lies in the assumed political affiliation of the staff. The constituency office staffing, is a political process. They are a recommendation by MP to the Clerk of Parliament.

“But once approved and have their five-year contracts signed, they are now civil servants and MPs have no control over them or their contracts”, the MP said, adding that the current setup is very tedious.

Added another MP, “it gets complicated, when the MP defects to another political formation. When one makes a recommendation, they would do so in line with the party they contested the election using its banner or emblem.

“When such an MP decides to defect to join another political party, it is likely that the staff retain their political affinity. This does not only create a trust deficiency between the MP and the ‘foot soldiers,’ but it is threatening the MP’s political career.”