Thursday, October 28, 2021

MP Ntlhaile wins motions’ rat race this session

The star performer in the ninth and 10th parliament was Tonota MP, Pono Moatlhodi, who later doubled as Deputy Speaker. Moatlhodi’s re-election bid failed and he was promptly replaced by an MP from the neighbouring constituency of Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane. Giving notice of parliamentary questions and motions is a fierce rat race and somehow the Jwaneng/Mabutsane MP, Shawn Ntlhaile, beat Moswaane to the finish this session. This is how the parliamentary system works with regard to the tabling of motions: an MP gives written notice of a motion to the National Assembly’s administrative staff and that motion gets on a waiting list. While standing orders allow MPs to table motions on a notice of urgency, they also give the Speaker the prerogative of determining such urgency. The latter has proved to be controversial with a speakership that the opposition considers to be biased in favour of the ruling party. The major flaw in the system is that an MP can hog the house’s sitting hours by bringing too many motions. The first-come-first-served system means that there is no consideration of the quality of a motion, which means that the house can be reduced to debating inconsequential motions while more important ones slowly crawl up the list. It is a game that Moswaane plays as well as Moatlhodi did. Motions do more than spotlight problematic areas that political and other leaders need to solve but also add wattage to the mover’s star. The MP who asks far too many questions or tables many motions hogs not just the house’s sitting hours but also airtime on national airwaves as well as editorial acreage in newspapers. If on a particular day, an MP asks five questions, radio stations (which typically mention the name of the MP who asked a question) will report the issue for an entire news cycle. That can greatly impress constituents back home who are listening to the radio. All told, 64 motions are on the agenda of the current session and it appears that MPs of the Umbrella for Democratic Change have cornered the rat race, getting both the gold and silver medals at this point. Ntlhaile has 19 motions, his Gabane/Mankgodi colleague, Pius Mokgware, has 14 and coming in at a distant third is Boteti East MP, Sethomo Lelatisitswe with nine.

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