Wednesday, October 4, 2023

MPs must work collaboratively for public good

Elections are over. Election petitions are over too. Now it is time to get down to business and respond collaboratively to the challenges that bedevil our people. Those challenges are well known. They include high levels of unemployment especially amongst the youth, diversification of the economy, curbing corruption and making the country more competitive. For that to happen, more than at any time there is a pressing need for all members of parliament to work collaboratively towards a common good. If we are to learn anything from the 2014 parliament, it is that parliamentary success doesn’t depend on the degrees that members have. Political posturing and sheer tomfoolery sometimes overtake politicians as they forget their primary reason for going to parliament. Party membership and playing to the gallery leads some down a perilous path and they quickly forget that they are in parliament to create laws that facilitate service delivery and make life a little better for Batswana.

To achieve these lofty ideals, MPs must quickly learn the art of collaboration, extend a hand across the aisle, bargain, win their opponents over instead of embarrassing and humiliating them. These are skills that are rare as some members are still steeped in old divisive politics. Much is said about holding the ruling party to account, but little is said about the individual responsibility of each member of parliament to deliver quality life to Batswana. This finally should be the ultimate test: how each member executes their parliamentary duty through the art of collaboration, extending a hand across the aisle, bargaining, and winning their opponents over.

I can think of two men who went to parliament following the 2014 elections, though with totally different dispositions, who were equally consumed by portraying individual brilliance. Though each had his fifteen minutes of fame, they both never made it back to parliament. National leadership is not for the smartest or for those with a plethora of university degrees. The best leader is not a professor or a scientist. An MP’s supreme calling is not to show off his well-cut suit and new moccasins. He must learn how to work collaboratively; recognise the brilliance of others and accord them space to shine. Perhaps no other president epitomized this more than Quett Masire. Though he was only equipped with a Tiger Kloof education, he was able to appoint into leadership men and women who were more educated than him who helped take the country forward. That is the kind of leadership that is needed.

MPs must therefore learn to work, meet, and built consensus. There will be those who would like to be heroes – those who would like to take the glory and the honour, those who would like to appear smarter than everybody else. For a while they would appear like they are achieving something as they paint their visions in large strokes. They would appear as if they are riding somewhere fast when they are peddling very fast in one place. They would be merely blowing hot air. The challenge is to learn tact, to bargain, to consult, to put your ideas across to your colleagues and convince them to support them. That is a harder ask than to merely state your ideas. Anybody can say what they want or dream for. Negotiating and bargaining require humility and an admission that one is not the epitome of all wisdom and knowledge.

It is not always the good ideas that win the day. One must bargain and win over those of his party and those across the aisle. One must however start from his own base. During his party caucus he must persuade his own party mates to see the wisdom of his own ideas. His contribution must be aligned to the broader party manifesto. He cannot not go rogue on his party. That is how he must craft his submissions – as being in line with the ultimate party manifesto and goals. He cannot hit the floor of parliament with ideas and submissions which are in dissonance with those of his party and which many of his party colleagues have no knowledge of. He is not an independent MP. He is a member of the collective. Should he approach parliament with views that are different, it should not be to ambush his colleagues and party – but it should be to answer a higher calling – that is in line with his national duty or line with his conscience.

MPs must ultimately strive to work collaboratively to achieve common good. They must learn the art of reaching across the aisle. To achieve broad acceptance of their ideas, they must learn how to sell them effectively. They must not sacrifice the interest of the party for their narrow short-term personal interests. Members of the ruling party must be open to endorsing ideas from the opposition if they are in line with their manifesto and in the national interest. Opposition members too, must not oppose for opposing sake. They must give credit where credit is due and agree with the ruling party on matters of national interest. Batswana and Botswana must be put ahead of everything else. We have a country to turn around and turn around rather quickly. We cannot be found bogged down by party slogans and party colours. The time for reaching across the aisle is upon us for national good.


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