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Bill amendment to allow for registration of political parties

13 Aug 2023

Amending the Societies Act will permit the registration of political parties by the Registrar of Societies, says Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, Ms Anna Mokgethi.

Tabling the Societies (Amendment) Bill of 2023 recently, the minister said the current act did not allow for the registration of political parties by the registrar.

 She said the amendment would address the gap in the Societies Act of 2022.

 The minister said  Botswana was a multi-party democracy and could not afford not to register political parties.

She also said the act contravened the constitution which allowed for freedom of association.

Further, she explained that the decision to exclude registering political parties under the Societies Act was deliberate as the intention was to explore the possibility of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) registering, monitoring and supervising all political parties.

She said it was later found not to be feasible as the constitution tasked the IEC with the registration and conducting elections.

During comments, Mr Goretetse Kekgonegile of Maun East expressed reservation over the bill, saying it was not clear what informed the change of heart by government.

He noted that the Societies Act was amended in 2022 and that a deliberate decision was taken to exclude political parties from the Societies Act.

While Mr Onneetse Ramogapi of Palapye supported the bill, saying it was addressing a gap in the Societies Act of 2022.

He also said the Societies Act of 2022 discriminated against churches. 

He said they were required to register with 150 members while other societies were allowed to register with 20 members.

Palapye MP said if there could be money laundering at churches, it could also happen at football societies.

Mr Wynter Mmolotsi of Francistown South said he was skeptical about the intention of the bill and that it was conceived in bad faith. 

He also said the changes were not done in the interest of the country.

While Mr Sethomo Lelatisitswe of Boteti East supported the bill, saying political parties were disfranchising and aggrievng members who wanted to register new parties, saying the current law was their main undoing as it did not allow for the registration of political parties.

While Mr Tumiso Rakgare of Mogoditshane said the bill gave Batswana an opportunity to register parties if they wished and those who wanted to register political parties but could not due to the gap in the law.

Mr Dithapelo Keorapetse objected to some provisions in the bill, saying the requirement by political parties to submit the names of their members and their Know Your Customer (KYC) was tantamount to interference by government on affairs of political parties.

He said he suspected a sinister motive behind the requirement, and that the registrar, although a public servant worked under instructions of the minister who was a politician.

Parliament passed the bill to the committee stage. Ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Bonang Masolotate

Location : Gaborone

Event : Parliament

Date : 13 Aug 2023