Monday, March 8, 2021

MPs agree that Francistown South petition was forged

Members of Parliament across the political divide where almost all in agreement that the petition that Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe relied on to postpone the Francistown South parliamentary elections may have been forged. MPs, however could not agree on the way forward. This emerged during the debate on a motion by Francistown MP, Wynter Mmolotsi that a Parliamentary select committee be set up to investigate the impropriety in the collation of the petition.

The motion drove a wedge through the BDP parliamentary caucus which has already been polarized by the recent acrimonious primary elections. Tonota South MP, Pono Moatlhodi said he was ashamed by revelations that dead people’s names were in the questionable petition. He said if dead people were indeed used to deceive the president to postpone the elections, then there must be an investigation. “This is a very serious issue. The person who orchestrated this petition must be found. If the Police are incapable of finding him, then Scotland Yard must be called to assist. Even the names of the dead have been included, we have never heard of this in our country. This is tantamount to treason. Those who sit with the president should please advise him well give him proper counsel,” he said.

Minister of Transport and Communication Nonofo Molefhi interjected, asking if parliamentary select committees had power to investigate criminal conducts. He asked whether it was not proper for the matter to be left to the police. MP for Kgatleng East, Isaac Mabiletsa then stood on a point of order, pointing out that parliament has conducted many investigations in the past, including on Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) and Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). Speaker of the National Assembly, Margaret Nasha said that parliamentary lawyer was on sick leave there was no one to advice the house on legal issues. MP for Kgatleng West, Gilbert Mangole said the president should have satisfied himself that the petition was authentic.

“What has been presented to us, is setting this country aback, how could they even fake a pastor’s name?” Mangole alleged that there were two things that might have happened. He said is either the petitioners knew that the president would not scrutinize the petition or that there was an orchestrated plan from the Office of President (OP) to make up a fraudulent petition.

The assistant Minister of Trade and Industry, Keletso Rakhudu said although the matter was serious, he found nothing compelling the matter to be brought to Parliament. He said since it was clear from the petition that similar signatures were used, it was only proper for the matter to be handed over to other organs of the state. He said the motion must be suspended so that relevant authorities can investigate the matter particularly that the issue already been handed to the police. However, Mmolotsi interjected saying nothing has been reported to the police. Nasha then stood up saying parliament can only suspend an issue if it is before the court of law not before the police. Rakhudu then moved that the motion be terminated.

MP for Gaborone Central, Dumelang Saleshando then stood up saying parliamentary standing orders give the speaker powers to protect the minority. He argued that it would not make sense for an urgent motion of public interest to be terminated based on numbers. Former chairman of the BDP and the longest serving MP, Daniel Kwelagobe opposed Rakhudu’s motion, saying Parliament has investigated many matters and handed them to relevant authorities. “What are we hiding? There is no need for the police to investigate that there is a BPP member who is dead whose names appear in the petition.

There are witnesses in this House who even attended his funeral. Let us allow the opposition to lay their case, let us not teach them how to report matters to the police,” he said. Kedikilwe also stood up to oppose the motion, saying it will be bad to kill the motion, he said Parliament must proceed with the debate and make a decision at the end. Rakhudu then withdrew his motion saying parliament was ungovernable. This was after MPs could not stop interrupting the debate on ‘points of order.’ In debating the original motion, Mabiletsa said Parliament was competent to debate the motion, he said the president could even see in his own eyes that the petition was full of fraud. He said the way signatures have been used; it would have been clear that, one person signed many times.

Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mokgweetsi Masisi opposed the motion saying it was motivated by political expediency. He said the decision taken by Kedikiwe was made after considering many points not only based on the petition. He said even the number of those who are said to be dead does not constitute the majority of petitioners. Rammidi interjected asking Masisi how parliament would know if there are no other dead people if there is no investigation carried out.

Masisi claimed that parliament neither had the power nor the expertise to carry out investigations. Nasha then stood up to correct Masisi, saying the minister was misleading parliament as parliament had engaged experts before in its investigating functions. After tea break, Kedikilwe moved that the motion be amended so that government could carry out investigations not parliament. MPs from the opposition bench opposed the motion which was put to question by voting and the opposition lost in numbers.

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