Leader of Opposition Otsweletse Moupo and Botswana National Front Secretary General Akanyang Magama this week chickened out of answering President Festus Mogae’s state of the Nation Address following a party strategy that bombed out on the parliament floor.
Moupo lost his voice in front of a dead mike and missed a once in a year opportunity to present the BNF’s response to President Festus Mogae because he came to parliament unprepared.
The BNF president passed up the coveted one hour slot and surrendered the floor to Botswana Democratic Party’s Lt Gen Mompati Merafle to wrap up the debate.
The BNF losses were not helped by Secretary General, Akanyang Magama who also passed up the opportunity to speak in parliament because he was caught out in the party strategy flop.
The BNF blunder of missed opportunities was this week degenerating into a finger pointing-fest underlining the party’s power struggle.
Magama told The Sunday Standard that the strategy was that he would take the floor after Moupo so that he could cover the party president’s back. He was, however, caught napping when the strategy unraveled inside the parliament building because Moupo could not answer the speaker’s call.
Thursday evening after both men failed to step up to the plate, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Patrick Balopi, called on Leader of the House, Foreign Minister Mompati Merafhe to respond to other members and wrap up the debate on the State of the Nation Address.
This was after persistent calls on opposition MPs to stand up and make contributions were not successful.
Moupo was present in parliament, as was Magama.
“I had spent the whole week in South Africa. There were other BNF parliamentarians who had still not taken the floor,” said Moupo, who was still reeling from the shock of the lost opportunity.
As Leader of Opposition, Moupo is allocated more time than other members of Parliament.
He acknowledged that a failure by him and Magama will once again put public pressure on the credibility of political opposition in Botswana.
“Yes, it’s an indictment on us and our credibility,” he said.
Moupo said the State of the Nation Address is a serious event, and it is unfortunate that as Leader of Opposition he will not be able to present the BNF’s views which are supposed to be the alternatives to the ruling party’s.
“I am disappointed this has happened,” he said.
He said he was still going to speak to Leader of the House Mompati Merafhe to see if they cannot reach some kind of settlement.
But in an interview Merafhe ruled that out.
Merafhe, who was clearly relishing the BNF’s blunder, said he was baffled by the high levels of irresponsibility among the opposition MPs.
“I am actually baffled. I have no idea what these guys are up to. But I feel vindicated because we have always maintained that they have no alternative policies to give the nation,” he said.
He ruled out yielding the floor to them, saying they were in parliament when the Speaker asked them to reply.
“The worst they could have done was to ask for postponement if they thought they were not prepared. But they did not. I was supposed to speak on the of December 11 but I had to come in because political opposition had nothing to tell the nation.”
Merafhe further took a jibe at BNF saying he was particularly disappointed at the poor performance by opposition just after the President had called on MPs to improve their productivity.
On the other hand, Magama said he was disappointed because there are things he would have wanted to say in response to Mogae’s speech.
“The strategy was that I would speak after so that if he was attacked I could defend him later,” said Magama lamely.
The BNF’s latest gaffe came in the wake of a recent crisis in the party whereupon Moupo was forced to go on sabbatical leave as a result of personal financial problems that dogged his private life.
At the height of his problems the part Executive Committee called on him to resign as BNF president. He declined and clung on.
Since then, there have been reports that some powerful voices inside the BNF have never really welcomed him back wholesomely as leader.