Why would adults, virtually all of them parents and discharging the enormous responsibility of making laws, act like children in the process of doing so? Why should crude language ordinarily used at round-the-clock shebeens be hurled back and forth on national television? Why are the culprits remorseless and wont to display such misconduct on an almost daily basis when parliament is sitting?
The Government Whip and Letlhakeng-Lephephe MP, Liakat Kablay, may have solved this puzzle by revealing a stop that some MPs make on their way to parliament.
“Do we really need a bar in parliament?” he posed when debating the Committee of Supply presentation on funds allocated to the National Assembly. “I think that it is the source of the disorder that we see in parliament.”
An MP, speaking without the Speaker’s authorisation jokingly quipped whether there was a bar in parliament. To that Kablay replied: “Yes, there is a bar in parliament and as I speak, it is open. Maybe the disorder in parliament is a result of MPs stopping off at the bar before coming into the chamber. When we finally walk into the chamber, our minds are impaired.”
It was clear that Kablay cleverly counted himself among the culprits to take the sting out of his words and keep temperatures down.
Rising on a point of order, which compels yielding the floor, the Leader of the Opposition, Dithapelo Keorapetse, sought to deflate Kablay’s argument. Keorapetse said that as the chairperson of the Members’ Rights Committee, Kablay was ultimately in charge of the running of the bar at the National Assembly itself and one at the Parliamentary Village, the official residence. Keorapetse that if Kablay had any concerns relating to operations of the National Assembly bar, then he should raise it at the General Assembly, the closed-door meeting of MPs. He added that Kablay’s characterisation wasn’t accurate and could put parliament in “serious disrepute.”
The bar in question is actually part of the Members Lounge, a term Keorapetse preferred to use. Keorapetse’s own argument for keeping the Members Lounge open is that it is where MP meet their constituents and buy refreshments (he mentioned soft drinks, peanuts and potato chips) from the bar.
In particular regard to raising the issue at meetings of the Members’ Rights Committee, Kablay’s response was that no such option existed because parliamentary committees are not functioning at the moment. Summarising his debate, the Government Whip said that the misconduct of some MPs (which he evidently tied to drunkenness) was a source of grave concern with not just MPs but members of the public in respective constituencies.
Many more MPs have expressed concern about thuggish conduct by some MPs. “Some” is an important qualification to make because most MPs on both sides are not part of this circus. Takatokwane MP, Tshoganetso Leuwe, has told parliament that as he travels around the country, some of the people he meets also complain about the coarse language that MPs use in parliament during debates.
“They actually quote incidents and name names of when so-and-so said this or so-and-so said that,” he said.