Thursday, March 4, 2021

Evidence that parliament rubberstamps decisions posted online

Going back at least 20 years, MPs on both sides of the house have complained that the executive arm of government uses parliament as a rubberstamp.

Such accusation has always excited steadfast denial from the stamp-holders but in future that may be hard to do courtesy of a document posted online. Ahead of the climate change conference in Paris (COP 21 as it is called), Botswana uploaded its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) website. In terms of its INDC, Botswana intends to achieve an overall emissions reduction of 15 percent by 2030, taking 2010 as the base year.

“Botswana is developing a Climate Change Policy and Institutional Framework which will be supported by a Strategy and Action Plan to operationalise the Policy. The Policy will be approved by Parliament in 2016,” the INDC says.

If any explanation is necessary, here it is. Currently, the executive is developing a policy which will be presented to parliament next year. Constitutionally and on the basis of what the policy entails, MPs have the prerogative to either approve or reject it. A year before that happens, Botswana’s INDC ÔÇô which was approved by the executive ÔÇô is predicting that “the policy will be approved by parliament.”

The parliamentary debates are a mere formality for what would have been agreed at party caucuses. Botswana’s parliamentary history is such that motions, bills and policies that have the support of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will definitely gain passage. What will happen in the case of this policy is that BDP MPs will be told to support this policy and their numerical strength in the chamber will guarantee such passage.

More than a decade or so ago, there was a rebellion in the Government backbench that then President Festus Mogae could not quell. This rebellion reached fever pitch when MPs rejected the mid-term review of a national development plan, something that had never happened before. Addressing a BDP national congress shortly thereafter, a cowed Mogae pleaded with the legislators to play ball, noting in his address that he knew that they had the power to bring his government to its knees. The luxury of MPs doing so rode into the sunset with the end of Mogae’s presidency. In the new order, such rebellion is unthinkable because there would be grave consequences for those who don’t toe the line. Earlier this year, Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane, attempted to take President Ian Khama head on, criticizing him for not attending parliament meetings. Without mentioning him by name, the president took the opportunity of a BDP congress to send a very clear warning to the MP. While he can take on the Speaker, ministers and other MPs, Moswaane now knows better than to make Khama a target of his bravery.

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