Candidate for the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr. Margret Nasha has scoffed at the case in which Attorney General Athalia Molokomme wanted the Gaborone High Court to strike down Standing Orders prescribing that the vote for Speaker deputy Speaker and endorsement of Vice President should be by secret ballot. In a press statement, Nasha states that “the suggestion that Parliament of Botswana or any self respecting Parliament for that matter anywhere in the world especially in the Commonwealth; in this day and age could vote on any issue, by show of hands, was the most laughable and ridiculous.
No Parliament, at least not in the Commonwealth does that.” According to Nasha “for the past 15 days, ever since I received that disturbing letter from Collins and Newman demanding that I should withdraw some of the Parliament’s Standing Orders, specifically those that deal with the endorsement of the Vice President and election of Speaker and Deputy Speaker; ever since that day, I have literally been a prisoner of conscience.” Nasha states that watching what can be described as “very strange events as they unfolded right before her eyes has been mind boggling. “I could not believe that these strange events were actually taking place in my country… Botswana,” said Nasha. She added that “I should let you know that; I refused to withdraw or set aside those Standing Orders, as I explained to the Attorney General, on the morning of 24 October 2014. I did not have any “powers of attorney” to undo, amend or change decisions and resolution of Parliament. No Speaker has those powers… even in the most subservient of all republics that you can think of.
No Speaker has the power to change resolutions of Parliament without reference. “ But then Nasha said, the “case itself has taken so many twists and turns in the last seven or so days or the extent that I could not help but ask myself as to who has actually taken who to court here?” That is one of the many reasons why, Nasha says, “I and many straight thinking individuals believe very strongly that our Parliament should be fully independent. And that is why in the past the Attorney General used to personally sit in Parliament to give advice on the spot, should the need arise, which advice Parliament in its own wisdom, could accept or reject, depending on how they viewed the issue at hand. Nasha said Botswana Parliament ever since the speakership of Dr Alfred Merriweather has never voted by show of hands on any matter whatsoever. “The question therefore is why do we want to do it now? I can only hazard a guess.
There is fear maybe, just maybe, the preferred candidates for Speakership and Vice President may not get the required votes. That is all,” she said. Nasha explained that the idea is to penalise or intimidate those that do not toe the line, by literally whipping them into submission. “Parliamentarians are supposed to be lobbied to take certain decisions and those decisions must be taken following free and open debates of the issues at hand. They should not be told what to do or what not to do. They are honourable men and women with conscience and the public expects them to behave honourably in everything they do,” said Nasha. The endorsement of the Vice President, Nasha said, was never envisaged to be a rubber stamp exercise.
She said that since the Vice President is expected to automatically take over as President, at least until the next elections, such a person has to be someone who is trusted by Members of Parliament, to be a person who can take the country somewhere. “The whole idea was to ensure that the VP was a person of integrity, who has been put there for any other reason than with the interests of Botswana at heart. Parliament is therefore expected to endorse if it has confidence in the individual or refuse to endorse or vote no if the they have reason to believe that such an appointee is not fit and proper person to lead the nation should the need arise,” said Nasha. Questioning the wisdom of launching the lawsuit, Nasha added that “I’m amazed that anybody in their right minds could even suggest that honourable Members of Parliament should take such serious decisions by show of hands.”
Commenting on the judgement, Nasha said “To me the decision by this honourable court today proved that our judiciary can still be trusted. They have acted on the side of the truth; on the side of transparency and most importantly on the side of democracy and I’m’ absolutely elated by that decision.”