Saturday, September 26, 2020

Our parliament is an absolute disgrace!

Former President Mogae once commented that some BDP MPs were behaving like young uncastrated male goats.
Precisely Mogae was offended by his party’s MPs for electing to subject proposed legislations to serious scrutiny. I then opined that ‘President Mogae’s comments are an indication that the Executive will stop at nothing to orchestrate devious schemes to silence maverick MPs and take Botswana back to the sad days when MPs were literally as submissive as neutered tom cats (Sunday Standard, 13-19 May 2007). Truth hurts! My commentary elicited a heavy handed response from veteran BDP member and former Specially Elected MP, J.B. Gabaake.

Gabaake’s gripe with my piece was that the language used was un-cultured and clearly offside. Perhaps the choice of the words used in expressing my opinion spoiled my otherwise frank case, which is why the learned ex-legislator chose not to disparage the story but rather the expression used in conveying the message.

Remorseful as ever, my sincere apologies for the injurious inference!
I should have known better that unrepentant criticism is never tolerated and in failing to deny what is already common knowledge people would readily opt to concoct charges based on an inkling of cynical indifference to sincerity. Essentially commentators should be aware of this and strictly keep within the dictates of caution to avoid being hauled before a military tribunal for indiscipline. There is a common saying that for whoever keeps the whole law and yet tumbles at just one point of it is guilty of breaking all of it. Watch out! Nonetheless, my point was that the Executive has rendered MPs brainless and, including, painfully, some very intelligent souls in parliament.

BDP MPs are regularly charged with insubordination yet we know that their only crime is their determination to ensure that government conducts its business in an orderly fashion. I pity them! For purposes of muzzling them, the BDP devised a series of measures to control and direct the conduct of its MPs. The autocratic Party Caucus was institutionalized to coerce MPs to toe the line.

Some vocal MPs were publicly humiliated, ridiculed and denigrated in show trials with all the distinctive features of a military tribunal. As a result, Botswana has one of the most pathetic Parliaments in the world. Shame! A credible Parliament affords MPs the opportunity to discuss government policy, proposed new legislations and issues affecting people.

Customarily, heated debates are necessary to assist Parliament to reach an informed decision on any matter under consideration. Under such circumstances voting is only held to conclude a debate and the pattern of voting is expected to be influenced, to a greater extent, by the debates that ensued earlier on.

Voting should not be used to determine the outcome of a proposal before it has been debated. Debates allow MPs to voice concerns and interests of their constituents and other issues raised by the public which is why MPs normally tour their constituencies before parliament opens to consult with their people. The ideal world! Now under the BDP Caucus arrangement, MPs are simply instructed to speak for the party if they wish to open their mouths. The era of a dynamic style of discussions has lapsed as ruling party MPs are expected to always nod in agreement like pupils in a cr├¿che reciting the Lord’s Prayer that they hardly comprehend. MPs have become pathetic; discredited fathers and mothers who visibly walk about with a guilty conscience. Oh Lord! In their recent comments on the 2009/10 budget for various ministries, ruling party MPs have been appalling. The usually lively and quick witted MPs were reduced to delinquent creatures.
It has been a pretty difficult moment for them because they are known for interesting and quality inputs premised on honesty and truthfulness. Yet they have been directed to deliberately lie and deceive the public or shut up their mouths.

Unaccustomed to conspicuous silence on issues that really matter, and recognizing that they will not be able to justify their dead silence to their constituents, MPs elected to play dumb. The universal technique to mark one’s presence in Parliament these days has been to spit lavish praises on small and personal achievements that give little mileage to this nation. My dear country! Former President Mogae has been congratulated countless times by individuals, groups and institutions, including the Botswana government for winning the Mo Ibrahim Prize. Yet MPs would unashamedly spend quality time repeating praise songs for Mogae as though there are no deserving national issues to deal with.

One would expect serious MPs to punctuate their praises with suggestions. For instance, it is of no help to stand up and praise the constituency league without suggesting how it could be improved if it is a worthy cause.

If MPs have nothing to offer during debates in Parliament, they can choose to sleep and enjoy their petty dreams or visit their well stocked parliamentary bar to freely drown their sorrows than waste time in regurgitating insignificant praises.
So help me God! Citizens are terribly disappointed by the deterioration in the standing of our Parliament, especially the low standard of debates that characterize it. All too often Parliament sessions lack well researched and substantive debates.
Our Parliament is now identified with silly banter and sick jokes, especially by some ruling party MPs who are always too quick to shoot from the hip in order to caress the leadership.

Brainless remarks and blatant intimidation has become the hallmark of our Parliament. Frightening indeed! When I compare the glorious days of our Parliament in the 1980s and 1990s and recall the quality and vociferous debates, it is difficult to fathom how our Parliament has degenerated into a kind of stokvel where the loudest dirty scoundrel preside over the shouting matches. The fierce, robust, exciting and meaningful exchanges between the likes of M. K. Dingake, Gil Saleshando, K. K. Koma, Vain Mamela, I. Mabiletsa, the late M. Dabutha and J. Kavindama on the one side and K. Morake, P. H. K. Kedikilwe, B. Temane, P. Balopi, C.J. Butale, D. K. Kwelagobe and J. Phumaphi on the other, have only become a distant memory.

Admittedly, parliament debates in the past at times lacked substance but they were nevertheless vibrant and exciting, often interpolated with intelligent humor and brilliant repartee. For instance, ex-Minister Morake would normally remind people that development is an incremental process that requires one step at a time, the same way one is required to do when getting into a trouser – one leg at a time. This was very simplistic but a witty characterization of the development process and such remarks added color and life to Parliament. Ride on oldies!

Those vibrant sessions have been replaced by dull, irritating and ghostly sessions, which explain why the public gallery is often empty. Ruling party MPs are instructed on what to say, how to say it, when to speak and how long to take the floor. In any case, Parliament was never taken seriously by the former President. The current Head of State has never hidden his contempt for this institution and the human creatures that give it a human face. My goodness! Of late Cabinet Ministers and their deputies do not bother a bit to attend the sessions which is a national shame and a disgrace. Our Parliament only exists to the extent that it is protected by the constitution, otherwise its importance and relevance cannot be justified any longer.

Perhaps this is why Cabinet Minister Nasha urged BDP faithful to vote for the party rather than individuals. Thus, voters are free to cast their vote for anything that looks like a human being, be they pretty brainless sleep walkers, swine or whatever.
The implication is that brainpower is not a fundamental prerequisite for one to get into this supreme legislative body, because all brainy MPs would eventually become mute. In short, in the words of Minister Nasha, there is no need for Parliament.
No wonder!

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