Botswana Democratic Party Member of Parliament for Gaborone West South Botsalo Ntuane stirred controversy in Parliament Thursday afternoon when he asked a colleague from the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) to stand in for him during the parliament question time.
The Deputy Speaker who is also BDP Member of Parliament for Tonota South Constituency found himself pitted against fellow BDP parliamentarians who objected to his decision to uphold Ntuane’s choice of stand in MP. BDP parliamentarians accused Moatlhodi of misleading parliament. Absent in parliament, Ntuane asked BCP Member of Parliament Kentse Rammidi to ask a prepared question on his behalf, sparking fierce opposition from BDP bench. Standing on a question of procedure, Prince Maele argued that the decision was against the known traditional norms of parliament.
“I once burned my fingers when I stood in for Arone in this very parliament who was absent then,” he added, questioning the Deputy Speaker’s decision. Tswapong North MP insisted precedent should be followed for the smooth running parliament business. Bagalatia Arone is an opposition MP for Okavango constituency.
Moatlhodi however dug his heels, arguing the Standing Orders allowed him to take such a decision. Daniel Kwelagobe who is the longest serving Member of Parliament and its institutional memory also spoke out against the Deputy Speaker’s decision. He argued that what was previously agreed upon in the House should become part of the practice and thereby form part of the Standing Orders.
“I therefore agree with honorable members that your actions are misled,” said Kwelagobe, who is dubbed the parliamentary archive. Moatlhodi would not bend, permitting Local Government and Rural Development Assistant Minister Botlogile Tshireletso to answer the parliamentary question as agreed between Ntuane and Rammidi. Failing to contain her disappointment, Serowe South constituency MP Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi joined the intense debate, interrupting the minister’s response mid-way.
The agitated BDP legislator accused Moatlhodi of committing a “very grievous mistake” to allow non-identical political twins to work together. But still Moatlhodi could not budge, calling on the MP’s to come with evidence that he was in the wrong. “I do not know if the Honourable MP for Tswapong North (Prince Maele) does not want me as the Deputy Speaker or he is undermining my authority.
I came to this House long before him except for the honorable Kwelagobe.” “We are the custodian of the Standing Orders and I know what I am doing,” Moatlhodi fumed as the debate escalated. Maele accused the Deputy Speaker of overacting over noble inquires relating to parliament procedures.