The brawl on who between Botsalo Ntuane and Dumelang Saleshando leads the opposition in parliament is a matter that the Attorney General Athaliah Molokomme and possibly the High Court could be called on to assist in by interpreting the Parliamentary Standing Orders.
Following the defection of Kentse Rammdi to the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), the party now has seven Members of Parliament, the Botswana Movement For Democracy has 6, while the Botswana National Front has 3.
The BMD and BNF have a coalition agreement which puts their collective number in parliament to a total of 9 MPs.
Deputy Speaker and Member of Parliament for Tonota South, Pono Moatlhodi, reckons owing to Rammidi’s defection, the BCP is the party that now leads the opposition because it is the party that has a majority of seats within the opposition.
Moathodi said that according to the standing orders, the party with an outright majority will nominate a leader of Opposition.
“It goes without saying that the BCP will automatically assume the office of Leader of Opposition and in this case it would mean that by July, Honourable Dumelang Saleshando will be the Leader of the Opposition.”
The deputy Speaker said parties are allowed to form a coalition where there is no opposition party with an outright majority.
Moathodi said that in line with Standing Order 14, Rammidi, formerly with the BDP and BNF, has to write a letter notifying the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly a change of his political allegiance. The Deputy Speaker’s observation, however, is totally different from that of the Coalition in parliament. BMD chairman, Nehemiah Modubule, insists there will be no change of guard. Modubule maintains Ntuane will keep the position of Leader Opposition because the BMD and BNF have an existing partnership agreement.
“If the coalition is in existence it can’t be ignored…either the existing coalition collapses or the BCP has to gain more members to exceed the 9 Members of Parliament that the opposition coalition currently has,” said Modubule. “We are still the main opposition and consequently the Leaders of the Opposition bench,” said Modubule.
In a separate interview, the BCP’s publicity secretary, Taolo Lucas, told The Telegraph their view is that the party with a majority of seats gets to nominate a leader of Opposition. He, however, said that the issue was for now not a priority.
“Our goal remains to attract new members to the party…we cannot be distracted by who gets to lead the opposition in Parliament. We believe that Parliament will guide,” said Lucas.