Government stopped the All Party Conference – which is entrenched in the Constitution because – because it united opposition parties against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), it emerged in parliament this week. The longest serving Member of Parliament (MP), Daniel Kwelagobe revealed in parliament that halting the All Party Conference was a political decision to protect government and the BDP against being pushed against the wall by a united opposition.
Debating a motion tabled by MP for Francistown South, Wynter Mmolotsi which wanted Parliament to request “government to facilitate an inter-party dialogue to discuss issues of concern such as political reforms, unemployment, land and the dwindling economy”, Kwelagobe said government stopped the all party conference because political parties debated issues on partisan lines and when it came to voting, all opposition parties would team against the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Dismissing the motion, Kwelagobe said the motion was unnecessary since the Constitution provides for all an party conference. He said during former president Sir Ketumile Masire’s time, they found it fit to come up with an all party conference and even entrenched it in the constitution so that there can be cooperation between different political parties.
Kwelagobe said all party conference is not restricted on what it can discuss. However Mmolotsi interjected, saying he was aware that the constitution allows for it, but it has not been convened for many years, hence the reason he came with the motion. In replying, Kwelagobe said, there was no need for the motion because government has already facilitated inter- party dialogue. “All what the member needs to do is to write to the minister responsible; asking him to convene the conference if there are issues he feels must be addressed. If the minister refuses, he can then come to Parliament.”
“I know why there is reluctance to convene the meeting. The problem emanated from political parties because they labelled themselves on party lines, so when it came to voting, they put the BDP against the wall as they teamed up,” Kwelagobe said. The Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi said on the face of it, the motion seems innocent, but it has burdensome and fallacious assumptions. He said the government will never operate under a situation where it is pinned against the wall and held at ransom. Masisi said there is no need for all party conference because there are tested systems in place.
He said an example was Mmolotsi himself because he was able to cross the floor because legal instruments allowed him to do so. “He is a member of a minority party and his leader enjoys an enormous time in Parliament that is more than of those who have been legitimately elected to lead. He is a beneficiary of our good systems.” Mmolotsi intervened saying Masisi was addressing issues outside the motion. “In all fairness to the minister, he is not out of line, he is laying foundation,” ruled deputy speaker, Pono Moatlhodi.
In resuming debate, Masisi said there was enormous relevance in his debate. He said institutions in place promote inter-party dialogue because they even recognise political parties that were not there. He said Botswana had an impeccable record of tolerance as seen in the media where even a head of state can be discussed. In responding, Mmolotsi said said Masisi seemed to be comfortable with the high rate of unemployment and dwindling economy that has besieged this country. He said he tabled the motion fully aware that there was a provision in the constitution which allows for all party conference but because the conference is not convened, he saw it fit to bring a motion. MPs are expected to vote next week whether the motion should be agreed to or rejected.