Sunday, September 27, 2020

BDP MPs quash parliamentary clause requiring President to attend parliament

Botswana Democratic Party MPs on Thursday used their numerical superiority to quash the majority of the clauses that the opposition MPs deemed fit to be incorporated into the parliamentary standing orders presented by the government whip, Tshelang Masisi, last week.

The government had submitted to the persistent concerns of parliamentarians, especially opposition MPs, over what they termed undemocratic standing orders clauses.

This resulted in opposition MPs Nehemiah Modubule, Isaac Mabiletsa and Wynter Mmolotsi proposing a clause which would compel any sitting president to attend parliament at least thrice a year.

BDP MPs charged that the move was designed and calculated for their leader, President Khama.
Mabiletsa, of the Botswana National Front, informed the House theirs was a noble cause, aimed at interacting with any sitting president who, traditionally after presenting the State of Nation address, would disappear with no questions posed or advanced to him.

“No forum whatsoever is ever extended to us as MPs but according to our constitution the president is treated as a Member of Parliament. We hardly have time with him. Once he finishes with his speech, he goes away only to appoint the leader of the house to deal with problems. We want to be afforded an opportunity to interact with him or her to answer our questions,” he said.

The Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, rebuffed the proposal, arguing that the move was nothing else but a calculation to embarrass and belittle “our president”.

“There is no smoke without fire. We can smell something fishy about this proposal, particularly more so that there is a clause which dictates that nobody should represent the President in his absence until he finds time to come attend parliament and answer such questions. You are used to vulgar language for our president and this makes it impossible to let the proposal pass. We can see you want confrontation with the President and to allow this would be inviting many more problems,” chipped in Venson-Moitoi, prompting Mabiletsa to intervene arguing that “the proposal is not meant for the current president but rather any incumbent president”.

Moitoi was not moved and urged her fellow democrats to reject the proposal because “we want respect for our president”.

While acknowledging the matter in which he saw the Britain Prime Minister on television, articulating his answers during the Prime Minister’s question time in parliament, the opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy MP Wynter Mmolotsi wished the same could be the norm in this country.

“Parliamentarians, like ordinary Batswana,” said Mmolotsi, “have burning issues and questions that demand the presence and participation of the sitting president.”

He added: “You could be free to defend your president because you meet with him at party meetings and vent your queries but to us, the opposition MPs, we hardly have that opportunity. We want it from the horse’s mouth not to pose a question to the minister, which is tantamount to throwing away the concerns of our electorates,” the former BDP MP said, before resignedly adding, “History will judge you harshly for your undemocratic ideals.”
MP Botsalo Ntuane indicated that the presence of the president would trigger the participation of the public in politics.

“This is a tragedy, a great deal of injustice. By coming once or twice to parliamentary sessions, it would not do any harm but rather assist and promote democracy. This public gallery would be fully parked should the president be compelled by a proviso to interact with parliament and deal with their everyday social and political lives, unlike today where our electorates are losing valuable opportunity because the buck stops with ministers,” he argued.

Ntuane continued: “We should know what are his views and verse-versa; ours is an open and democratic platform, like parliament,” he argued, to the mounting murmurs of BDP MPs, before telling them to behave or else “next week I take another MP because of your undemocratic ideals”.
The motion was rejected by the numerically dominant BDP MPs.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.