Tuesday, March 5, 2024

MPs may be alco-tested before going into house

The incident in which Mogoditshane MP, Sedirwa Kgoroba, threw a water-filled bottle at a ruling party opponent across the aisle could provoke the most drastic security measures anywhere in the world.

From what Vice President and Leader of the House, Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed, a security expert will be engaged to devise a comprehensive if overly ambitious security plan to protect the speakership, MPs and members of the public. What the government envisages at this point is protection for the Speaker, MPs and everyone on the parliament precincts. There may be more drastic measures.

The Assistant Minister of Health, Dr. Alfred Madigele, asked Masisi whether he would “find it appropriate to recommend random tests of cannabinoids or alcohol or hallucinogenic drugs to check the status of Honourable Members time and again to ascertain our fitness to participate in this dispensation.” The response was that “among the myriad of things to be considered and the expert’s review of our security detailing and improvements, this certainly should be one of them. We would put those in place to make sure that we are all fit to participate.” Nowhere in the world are legislators tested for intoxication before starting work.

Interestingly, the Bogosi Act provides for the removal of traditional leaders (some of whom are members of the lower house of parliament) from office for reasons of “mental infirmity” but there is no such provision for MPs. Reacting to Masisi’s statement about possible drug testing for legislators, the Gaborone Central MP, Dr. Phenyo Butale, asked whether “mental check-up should also be one of them to determine whether we are all mentality fit in this House.” Prefacing his response with observation about mental health being broad, Masisi made reference to a condition (cataphrenia) whose description sounds a lot like that of drunkenness: “… sometimes afflicts some temporarily and they display some deviance temporarily and then get back to being themselves.”

As the Vice President was keen to stress, no definite security plan is in place yet and only the expert will devise one. Supposing Madigele’s recommendation is adopted (indeed there are ruling-party MPs who feel it should) it would be interesting to see how tests for cannabinoids are administered because there is no known scientific method for testing cannabis intoxication. Such tests only determine whether one has used the drug and if MPs are tested for cannabinoids, a cannabis-addled member would still be able to pass and go into the house.

Minus context, Francistown South MP, Wynter Mmolotsi, rose on a point of not-you to question whether Letlhakeng West MP, Ngaka Ngaka, could credibly claim to be horrified by what Kgoroba did. Addressing Masisi, the latter’s said that “the bottle came charging at me but was stopped along the way; it scared me and my health is frail. How will you help me, Your Honour, to cope and protect my health as well?” Some two years ago and with his wife as the complainant, Ngaka appeared before the Molepolole Magistrate Court on charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Mmolotsi asked Masisi: “Do you really think Honourable Ngaka Ngaka is the right person to preach to people about violence?”

A tough question considering the law enforcement-provided facts in the public domain but the veep did what best he could under the circumstances.

“I find Honourable Ngaka Ngaka as competent as any member of parliament to preach to us, including yourself Honourable Mmolotsi, about the issues we are discussing for he is an honourable member of the house,” he responded.


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