Wednesday, May 5, 2021

House Speaker’s brazen attempts to save her party comes at a cost to all of us

Our Parliament has always been premised on the injunction of a House Speaker who is not only impartial but way above partisan politics.

That premise seems to be dissipating before our very eyes.

It all has to do with a frightening urgency on the part of all those so deployed, to save the Botswana Democratic Party.

The strategy to save the Botswana Democratic Party is creating an unwelcome bind in the flow of debates inside parliament.

At the centre of it all is the obsession by the Speaker of Parliament to dictate not the rules governing the conduct of debates, but also going as far as to want to determine what words can come out of the mouths of members.

While by far the biggest victims of this idiocy, such treatment, we have to point out is however not exclusively reserved for opposition Members of Parliament.

That was very clear in how an attempt was made to literally and unashamedly abort a motion by Francistown legislator, Ignatius Moswaane under a pretext of cooked up and artificial reasons.

Moswaane is from the ruling party, albeit from the other end of the party not internally held in high regard.
The treatment to muzzle MPs is far much worse when it comes to members from the opposition side.

Sometimes parliament can go on for days without a single one from their ranks being allowed to stand up and speak. It is despicable.

The tragedy of it all is that the unmistakable partiality of the speaker of Parliament is undercutting the respect necessary for her to inspire confidence.

For them to inspire the respect and trust of all Members of Parliament, the Speaker has to be seen to be impartial.

Impartiality of the House Speaker and treating all members evenly has been a stated policy attitude of every Speaker since inception.

It should stay that way, regardless of the existential threats that the ruling party is currently experiencing.

Those well versed with the Westminster system would be aware that once so chosen, the Speaker of Parliament immediately cuts off all ties with all political party activity.
 
Once so chosen, their loyalty is to the House and to all Members ÔÇô from both opposition and governing party in equal measure.

Sadly for us, Gladys Kokorwe, ably assisted by her deputy, Kagiso Molathegi has within four months of her appointment transformed the House into an acme of partisanship.

We cannot help but inevitably be reminded of the unique circumstances under which Kokorwe came into this position.

For her backers the stakes were so high that they literally had to move mountains including by telling lies that her opponent for the job, Margaret Nasha was an opposition stooge.

She is now doing their bidding. And from the look of things, going way beyond what is possibly her brief.

Even those of us who were willing to give Kokorwe the benefit of doubt we now find ourselves in a position where we to reassess our positions and attitudes towards her.

She is now threatening one of our biggest tenets as a Constitutional democracy.

Quite naturally, we are now annoyed by the prospect of a long future during which from the look of things, the Speaker, instead of facilitating debate in the House will be the one stultifying it by her bent to micromanage Members of Parliament.

It is not surprising that even Members from the ruling party, who are supposed to be beneficiaries of her partisan patronage, find themselves from time to time having to hang their heads in shame, embarrassed at the crude and unbridled unfairness meted on their counterparts on the other side of the aisle.

If this brazen unfairness is not promptly arrested, we are fast sliding into a point of political polarization from which a return will be almost impossible.

Panic, and with it frantic efforts to save the ruling party should never be at the expense of the integrity of an important office such as that of the Speaker of Parliament.

Fear and panic, together with an overarching desire to save the collapsing truss that supports the BDP should not be allowed to overcome the principles of fairness and detached natural justice often associated with the office of the Speaker.

It is hard enough to swallow the reasons behind which Kokorwe was brought in as Speaker.
She is part of the “save BDP infrastructure.”

She was brought in to help prop up the ailing political juggernaut out of the trough it currently finds itself in.
But the impression she is creating is that in a much unsophisticated way, she is overdoing it.

Feeling besieged by a Speaker who is intent on treating them as different and apart, it is natural that with time Members of Parliament, especially those from opposition who really are targets of this pointed treatment will become more, not less recalcitrant and defiant.

They will attack the Speaker, question her integrity and publicly doubt not just her suitability for the job but also her credentials.

In fact that is exactly what happened during attempts to kill Moswaane’s motion.

Both Kokorwe and Molathegi are not only ruining their own individual credibility, they also are ruining that of the House.

They are sacrificing a long held tradition of impartiality on the altar of expediency to save the faltering Botswana Democratic Party.

It is a stunt even their handlers will live to regret, because rather than saving their party, the strategy is undermining the duo’s personal integrities.

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