Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Opposition MPs say democracy is under siege

Citing the recent recall of Tonota South MP, Pono Moatlhodi, opposition MPs Friday accused the ruling BDP leadership of rendering parliament useless and impotent.

Moatlhodi, an BDP MP, was barred from participating in the coming national elections under the party’s ticket because he expressed a dissenting voice.
Opposition MPs viewed this as a typical example that democracy and free expression were under siege.

Contributing to a motion raised by Kanye North MP, Calvin Batsile, opposition MPs expressed fear and disappointment that the BDP leadership was victimizing its MPs and subjecting them to expulsion when they express dissenting voices on pertinent issues concerning the destiny of the people.
Batsile’s motion called for the government to provide each constituency office with vehicles, diverse facilities and resources deemed necessary to enhance smooth administration and quality service delivery.

With the motion quashed by the BDP chairperson, Daniel Kwelagobe, who spoke before the MPs, the opposition expressed fear and disappointment the noble and plausible motion would not stand the test of time as the MPs would not wholeheartedly express their independent views lest they provoke the party leadership and thereby run the risk of expulsion and face a gloom political career as is the case with Pono Moatlhodi today.

Gaborone South-West MP, Robert Molefhabangwe, noted the motion was opportune, sound and comprehensible but expressed fear and disappointment the BDP MPs would not wholeheartedly make tangible contribution to the motion for fear of the party chairman who had earlier made his contribution unsupportive of the motion.

Molefhabangwe said by opting to speak before other BDP MPs, Kwelagobe was setting a precedent which the MPs had to follow, failure of which the dissenting MPs would bear the brunt as experienced by Moatlhodi who was humiliated recently by the BDP leadership because he did not toe the party line but, instead, expressed his personal views.

“The BDP government is not doing justice to the people of this country. Plausible and comprehensive motions are quashed purely on baseless grounds. We know that by opting to speak against the motion before other junior MPs, Kwelagobe was signaling to his subordinates to follow suit, failure of which they would be subjected to punishment as experienced by Moatlhodi, whose personal expression and dissenting views cost him a political career in the BDP. This trend that the BDP is pursuing is dangerous and not good for the health of our democratic ideals and the right to expression.”
He noted that almost all the MPs across the political divide were experiencing the hurdles of administering smooth administration and quality service owing to the absence of a direct constituency office vehicle.

Because of the absence of the constituency office vehicle, Molefhabangwe noted the MPs were unable to reach all their constituents.
Although he acknowledges the facilities provided at the constituency offices, such as computers and fax machines, Kgatleng East MP, Isaac Mabiletsa, maintained the “tools of trade were inadequate” and insisted on the constituency vehicles to be provided to harness productivity and the smooth running of the day to day constituency services.

Mabiletsa said that to reach the public, MPs could not ride on computers and fax machines.

Like Molefhabangwe, he expressed fear that democracy and the right to expression were currently under siege and accused the BDP leadership of intimidating its MPs.

Mabiletsa dismissed suggestions there were insufficient funds to provide each constituency with a vehicle as suggested by Kwelagobe, saying that while the government was maintaining that there were insufficient funds, it was at the same time portraying a completely different picture as reflected by “its extravagant overtures of buying expensive vehicles for the ministers”.

Although the BDP MPs did not yet participate in the debate because of time, it remains to be seen whether they will take the route taken by their party chairman or whether they will branch out and support the motion.
Contributing to the motion, Kwelagobe quashed the motion saying it was impossible to embrace as the country is still grappling with financial constraints.

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The Telegraph September 30

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 30, 2020.