All Mmadinare MP, Kefentse Mzwinila wanted to find out from the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development was when the Diloro Cemetery in his constituency would be fenced. Getting the response was an elaborate process that required the National Assembly staff to contact the ministry headquarters which, in turn, would have called Mmadinare Sub-district Council.
Last Tuesday, the Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, France van der Westerhuizen devoted some time during Ministers’ Question Time to tender response to this particular question.
“While my ministry appreciates the importance of fencing of Diloro Cemetery, it was not in the priority list for 2015/16 under the IpelegengProgramme. Therefore the village will be advised and encouraged to include it in the 2016/17 Ipelegeng proposals,” the minister responded.
Watching all this, Okavango MP, Bagalatia Arone, felt that valuable time was being wasted on a matter that should never have made it onto the order paper. Rising on a point of procedure, the Botswana Congress Party MP gently protested the inclusion of the Diloro Cemetery in parliament’s business.
“Can parliament honestly discuss issues like the fencing of cemeteries? I am just asking myself whether we are on the right track?” said Arone and past brief interruption by another MP added: “What are councillors doing if we as Members of Parliament are going to talk about cemeteries?”
While she felt that the MP had asked a “good question”, the Speaker, Gladys Kokorwe, hastened to add that he was using the wrong forum. The right forum would be the General Assembly, a closed-door meeting that is attended by all parliamentary parties.
There are many more questions that Arone can complain about that seem to belong elsewhere and it is likely that the MP himself has asked such kind of questions. However, the reality is that there are no clear guidelines with regard to the kind of questions that representatives should ask. Once before a minister looked askance at questions she had to answer at Ntlo ya Dikgosi and pronounced that the questions should have come from MPs and not traditional leaders. Absent guidelines and coordination between MPs, traditional leaders and councillors, any type of question can be asked in parliament, at Ntlo ya Dikgosi and in council chambers.