Tuesday, October 19, 2021

No special welcome for new MPs in Khama’s speech

Not that he ever has to explain his decisions but President Ian Khama would have been hard put to explain why he didn’t welcome an opposition MP in his 2015 state-of-the-nation address last year but did the opposite with the new MPs from his own party.

Ordinarily, the sitting president ÔÇô himself an MP – uses the opportunity of giving the state-of-the-nation address at the start of the parliamentary year to welcome new MPs. In most cases the latter would have acquired such status courtesy of a bye-election, which was the case with Goodhope-Mabule MP, Kgosi Lotlamoreng II last year after the resignation James Mathokgwane. On becoming president in 2008, Khama continued the practice of welcoming new MPs but didn’t do so with Lotlamoreng.

With the constitution having been amended to raise the number of specially elected MPs from four to six, Reggie Reatile and Bogolo Kenewendo filled those positions last month when parliament met to debate the draft National Development Plan 11. Both are members of Khama’s own party, the Botswana Democratic Party. If Lotlamoreng’s snub had anything to do with being from the opposition, Khama should not have had a problem with welcoming the new MPs. However, his speech skipped that protocol and it could well be that for as long as he is president, Khama will not extend such courtesy to new MPs. Had Khama welcomed the new MPs with the snubbing of Lotlamoreng still fresh in the minds of most, his action would definitely have fired up a news cycle and attracted negative press.     

Then again, Khama may be blamed for something that he is not primarily responsible for. While he owns every word in the state-of-the-nation speech, the reality is that the speech is put together by various civil servants, each contributing a chapter relating to his/her ministry. It is possible that the apparent snubbing of Lotlamoreng may have been an oversight that Khama himself failed to pick up.

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