The ruling Botswana Democratic Party will tomorrow (Monday) pull the rug from under the feet of the squabbling Botswana National Front (BNF) Botswana Movement for Democracy (BDP) and the Botswana Congress Party by chopping the head off the combined opposition, in a move that is expected to plunge the country into a Constitutional crisis.
The BDP has put together a plan to cash in on the controversy over the position of Leader of the Opposition and will next week table a motion requesting the Speaker of the National Assembly, Margaret Nasha, to declare the position of Leader of Opposition vacant.
Member of Parliament for Tswapong North, Prince Maele, is expected to table a motion challenging the legitimacy of Gaborone West-South MP Botsalo Ntuane as Leader of the Opposition.
According to the Parliament’s standing orders the party with the majority of votes in the opposition is designated the main opposition and from its rank the Speaker appoints a Leader of the Opposition.
As it stands, the Botswana National Front (BNF) has six seats, the Botswana Movement For Democracy (BMD) six and the Botswana Congress Party has five. It is the even number of seats between the BMD and BNF that the BDP wishes to exploit.
Maele is expected to argue that because the parties are even the seat should be declared vacant because the standing orders do not provide room for a tie. Given what the standing orders say, the legislator is also expected to submit that the position should be declared unoccupied because there is no room for coalition between the opposition parties currently in parliament.
“There is no absolute majority, there is no way they can agree to share amongst themselves…if there is no absolute majority then there is no official opposition,” said a high ranking BDP insider who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity.
“He is there because initially he got a majority…as far as we are concerned they are not in a coalition. As long as they are not in a coalition we are going to ask for that seat to be declared vacant,” he further said.
The BDP fancy footwork follows the Friday opposition fiasco when Ntuane faced down a revolt from the opposition camp after BNF central committee members Harry Mothei and Maemo Bantsi torpedoed and mobilized BNF parliamentarians and their Botswana Congress Party counterparts to topple Ntuane as Leader of Opposition and replace him with Isaac Mabiletsa.
However, the palace coup de tat fizzled out after Speaker Nasha ruled that only a party with a majority of seats was recognized as the official opposition and advised the BNF to discuss the issue with the BMD.
In a letter signed by 10 BCP and BNF parliamentarians, dated 2nd February and addressed to the Speaker of the National Assembly, the MPs state that, “we the undersigned Members of Parliament who belong to the opposition do hereby advise that during our joint party caucus held on 2nd February 2012 within the precincts of Parliament, resolved to propose the change of leadership of the Opposition in Parliament which is currently held by Honourable Botsalo Ntuane MP (Gaborone West South). We have nominated Honourable Isaac Stephen Mabiletsa MP (Kgatleng South) to be our new leader of opposition. We request you to designate him Leader of Opposition with immediate effect”.
The BMD, however, shot down the opposition intrigue by return mail of the same date in which they argued that, “In terms of Standing Order 7.2, the position of Leader of Opposition shall be held by the majority party. In the present circumstances, two parties, namely BMD and BNF have an equal number of seats. On this premise it is our submission that the BCP, as a minority opposition party with five seats, is not qualified to participate in any process that determines the position of Leader of Opposition. Our contention is that this is a matter to be resolved by only BMD and BNF. As far as we are concerned, the two parties have never met to discuss the matter.
“As one of two majority opposition parties (with BNF) in the National Assembly holding six seats each, the BMD was excluded from the said caucus, and therefore submit that the resolution arrived at is null and void.
“We submit that the only instance where the proposal submitted by the ten legislators can be considered lawful and valid is if Standing Order 7.4 which provides for a formal coalition between political parties has been complied with. To our knowledge no such formal coalition exists in our National Assembly.