His trauma having probably abated, Gaborone Central MP, Dr. Phenyo Butale, is now able to joke about an unpleasant incident in which he featured in the last session of parliament.
On the very first day of the winter session of parliament, the MP sought to table a motion without notice on the water and power crisis. The Deputy Speaker, Kagiso Molatlhegi then got into a protracted verbal joust with Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) MPs. The most heated exchange was with Butale, who at one point, thrice told the Speaker that the ruling he had made to disallow an urgent debate on the motion was “misguided.”
This fruitless back-and-forth exchanged reached a point where Molatlhegi ordered Butale to leave the chamber, but the latter would not budge. The dramatic high point of this stand-off came when the speaker ordered the sergeant-at-arms to “please usher Dr. Phenyo Butale out of the house.” The MP would still not budge, prompting a ruling party adversary across the floor to call out to those doing the ushering: “Lift him up.” The result was the sensational, un-Botswana incident immortalised in press photographs of an honourable Member of Parliament being dragged out of the chamber by security guards kicking and screaming.
Responding to President Ian Khama’s state-of-the-nation address, Butale brought up this incident: “Today we have areas in our country that have gone for three weeks – and counting, with no water and I am tempted to say, Mr. Speaker, that I have been vindicated. When I spoke about this issue here, I was told I should not use words such as ‘crisis’. They claimed it was not a crisis because it was being attended to. I was even bundled out of this house, simply ÔÇô”. He couldn’t finish as Molatlhegi cut him off with “Don’t get into that issue.”
Butale really did want to get into it and told the Speaker that he should confirm the availability of “your security guards because you might need them when I speak about this issue.” When Molatlhegi implored the MP to calm down and to not get worked up over bygones, the response was “I was simply cautioning, Mr. Speaker, that you might need the use of the personnel at your disposal because I hear that is what the law permits you.”
When Butale was done with his presentation and creeping around the chamber chatting to comrades, his back to Molatlhegi, the latter ordered him back to his seat: “Even though you want me to call the police, you can’t show me your back. Please go back to your seat.”
In what would have been more an expression of solidarity than condemnation of thuggish conduct, Butale also spoke out against the grievous bodily harm suffered by a UDC councillor at the Kweneng District Council at the efficient hands (and forehead) of a ruling party opponent. The assault (which happened outside the chamber) is said to have been provoked by what the UDC councillor said to the Botswana Democratic Party colleague during a debate on why students of Matsha College were transported back home in a truck and not a bus. Butale said his comrade was “assaulted simply because of asking a question on what were our children doing in a truck in the first place. I think that as a nation we need to reject that kind of violence.”
While deeply disturbing, the good that has come out of both incidents is that opposition representatives in parliament and district councils at least know what issues will put them in harm’s way.