Thursday, March 4, 2021

MPs have ‘democratic right’ to absent themselves from parliament ÔÇô Tawana

Never one to bite his tongue, Maun West MP, Tawana Moremi, says that he and his parliamentary colleagues have the “democratic right” to break the quorum of the house if they “feel like it.”

 

Tawana was reacting to a complaint from the Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Phillip Makgalemele, who had earlier expressed great displeasure about a tendency by some MPs to break the quorum by walking out of the chamber while the house was still in session. Conversely, Tawana’s view is that MPs are well within their right to do that.

 

“Madam Speaker, I wanted to caution that the standing order is silent on leaving the house thereby resulting in the collapse of the quorum collapse. So, it is our democratic right to make the quorum collapse when we feel like it,” said the MP, a lawyer by training.

 

The Speaker, Gladys Kokorwe, neither tackled Tawana on the legality of breaking the quorum nor called upon the Parliamentary Counsel to give his own interpretation of the standing orders. She instead chose to remind Tawana that his words will reach his constituents back in Ngamiland. However, from a purely legalistic perspective, Tawana may have a point and it doesn’t like the Speaker has much say on keeping the quorum intact. Kokorwe spoke about the “pain” of watching “an honourable member leaving the house despite being told that if he or she leaves the quorum collapses.”

 

While Makgalemele spoke generally about some members on either side having developed a habit of leaving before the house adjourns, Gantsi North MP Noah Salakae, was more pointed, naming names. The MP said that instead of Makgalemele tarring MPs with the same brush, he should “ask ministers like Honourable Tshekedi Khama why they do not respect and attend parliament.” At least one other MP is unhappy with Khama’s attitude towards meetings. In his response to the state-of-the-nation address, Tati East MP, Moyo Guma, rapped Khama on the knuckles for failing to attend a meeting he (Khama) was scheduled to address in his constituency.

 

The issue of the willful breaking of the quorum will be discussed at the General Assembly, which is a closed-door meeting of MPs.

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