The Gaborone City Council has indefinitely deferred a debate on a proposed by-law that seeks to prohibit the gatherings of a number of people without a permit, with some suggesting the number to be 50.
The council met in an extraordinary session on Wednesday to discuss the controversial proposed regulation, which has been drafted by the council management.
Gaborone City Council Clerk, Agnes Seragi, explains that there was a misconception, with regard to the proposed regulation which seeks to prohibit the gatherings of people without a permit.
“The debate on the by-law was initially scheduled for next month, but public perception has forced us to call for a special full Council meeting to iron out some of the issues which were not properly interpreted to the public,” said Seragi. “The public was given a wrong message to the extent of us being called by radio stations and some journalists from the print media to explain the by-law so we convened to debate the proposed by-law before we can pass it to the public.”
Councillor Ephraim Mabengwane had wanted to know why the special full council meeting was called to debate the by-law when the council was scheduled to debate it next month (June).
The majority of the councillors then asked for extensive consultations to be undertaken before the by-law could be affirmed.
According to the proposed by-law, social gatherings, such as weddings, funerals, churches and sporting activities will be affected. Organisers will need to submit to the council crowd management plans and security and emergency plans in order to get permission.
But some councillors were saying the city council does not have the capacity and wondered how the exercise will be carried out while council is failing to even fix streets lights and potholes.
Gaborone Mayor Haskins Nkaigwa led the council in postponing the debate saying it is too early to have such regulations in the country; he said it is too early for the by-law to be imposed on Batswana.
“We have been getting permits from the council and the police while doing some gatherings so I’m wondering what the proposed by-law is up to with regard to the freedom of association and movement the public used to enjoy,” said Nkaigwa.
He was of the view that if it was to be implemented, Manyalo, Dintsho and other traditional related gatherings should be excluded from the proposed by-law.
“I think there are certain clauses that need to be removed from it, like Manyalo, Dintsho and other tradition-related gatherings but with regard to Sunday soccer or football tournament gatherings during Christmas then I don’t know,” said Nkaigwa.
But while the council was dispersing, chaos nearly erupted in the council chamber after the city mayor announced the defection of councilor Seabelo Thekiso to the BDP.
Thekiso recently quit the BCP to join the ruling party. Some BDP councilors wanted to know if the defection would necessitate a leadership change, but Nkaigwa ignored the query and ordered the council to close the session with a prayer and disperse.
This did not go down well with some BDP councilors who remained seated and made disruptions during the prayer. Most BDP people remained sitted, making noise during the prayer.
Nkaigwa explained that the announcement did not mean anything with regard to change in leadership.
“The Local Government Act says any party interested to oust the mayor should lead by 2/3 majority in the council chamber, but the reality is that I’m the mayor of the council because of the councilors who elected me and I will remain in this post until the ruling party reaches the 2/3 majority. There are only 18 and we are 17 as opposition and they need 5 more councilors to succeed. They are forced to be 24 in the council chamber for them to succeed, so I’m still the mayor and the defection of Councilor Thekiso from BCP to BDP doesn’t cause any threat to me,” said Nkaigwa.