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Parliament has heard the non-tragic news of how two male ministers suffered a vicious mid-morning attack from a bevy of unnamed Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (*BUAN) female students who must have one of the strongest teeth games this side of Dibete.
The bearer of this good news was a colleague of theirs from across the aisle, Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa. Earlier in the day, all three elected officials had attended an event at the BUAN campus in the outskirts of Gaborone. Right out of the gate, Nkaigwa hustled up a lame excuse to file an unsolicited Mills & Boon report when the Speaker credited him with floor time.
“Honourable Kgathi and Honourable Olopeng have asked me to speak on their behalf because they are not here,” said the MP, beginning what would turn out to be a titillation-soaked travelogue. “I left them behind at BUAN.”
He was referring to the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Shaw Kgathi and the Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng.
There is nothing remarkable about an MP being used as an unpaid messenger by full ministers – which is probably in the job description of the former but in the next breath, something really remarkable happened. Nkaigwa’s snitching came down in flood.
“They are busy taking selfies with students and told me that they see no need to come back to parliament,” he revealed. “I left them back there Mr. Speaker.”
In short order, the MP launched into an impassioned debate about the need for a beef regulatory authority, in part reticulating a well-formed set of facts bequeathed to the opposition bench by “President Ndaba Gaolathe.” His use of “president” was merely provocative because Gaolathe is actually the president of the Alliance for Progressives – which Nkaigwa is a member of - and not the state president.
As his eyes swam around the house, Nkaigwa spotted Kgathi and decided to blend BUAN events and beef regulatory matters together.
“Do you understand Honourable Kgathi?” he rhetorically posed off-handedly. “I can see you have come back bearing love-bite marks but I have no problem with that.” As would become apparent mere seconds later, he actually had an outsized problem with that.
With its rich evidentiary menu, Nkaigwa adjudged his travelogue to offer a fruitful line of attack and he strove mightily to dine out on it some more, squeezing all the juice out of “love bites.” He jealously lamented that being youthful, he should be one bearing those love-bite marks and observed that it is awful to watch “an old man” show up in parliament (beautifully?) nicked with love-bite marks. One gets a sense that if the Speaker had been more indulgent, the MP would probably have added: “I hope that BUAN student cheats on you with a mohawked, chart-topping kwaito star.” When you apply your mind to it, Nkaigwa’s privileged resentment is actually easy to understand: the love bites were inflicted in his constituency and it is likelier than not that, for purely self-interested reasons, he has imposed a very strict, one-sided love-bite policy.
You think all of that didn’t happen? Well then, “Think Twice Because That Was Just Another Day in the Botswana Parliament”. The latter would be a title of a Phil Collins song that never made it from the recording studio to the public airwaves.
Of course, Nkaigwa was only doing an extended stand-up comedy routine - which is almost impressive until you remember that this happened during official working hours. Few (actually, no one) would make family men central characters in a joke about selfies with and romantic mauling by a bevy of BUAN beauties. However, whether he is seriously debating an issue or just messing around with erstwhile Botswana Democratic Party colleagues, Nkaigwa can go all the way left. That is because the MP, who is a lay “Fire!” church pastor, is a profile in unusual rhetorical courage. One is continually astonished by the fact that despite his born-again conversion, Nkaigwa – who never holsters an opinion, still has a wild side he can’t tame. A tart-tongued artisanal provocateur, the man of God still struggles to keep his language clean because a substantial amount of it seems to be obstinately stuck in the toxic range. For him, the government bench is a target-rich environment and often than not, his choice of words shocks his listeners out of their wits. Happily, the MP’s dark comic bent on the day in question never once ignited the wrath of either one of the two ministers and at one point, Olopeng looped into the comedy routine with a sunny counterpoint.
In one respect, this messing around - which is an equal opportunity sport – helps one understand why successive editions of the Global Competitiveness Report classify Botswana’s national labour force as having the worst work ethic in the world. Truth be told, with as much playfulness, noise-making, gallivanting and hooky-playing as it tolerates, parliament is a portrait-in-miniature of the average Botswana workplace. If a cliché would be easier to understand, almost every day is a holiday in most Botswana workplaces - which include parliament. The best part is that at the end of every month, everybody is paid their full salary - plus allowances.
*The last thing to do is congratulate the management of BUAN for a forward-looking acronym which, by leaving out R, explicitly recognises the fact that down the road and as a natural outcome of a whole host of reasons, there will be no resources to speak of.