Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Parliament degenerates into chaos

Parliament was on Monday thrown into chaos as opposition Members of Parliament demanded that Parliament debate an urgent motion on water and power crisis.

The motion was brought by Gaborone Central Member of Parliament Phenyo Butale and it was refused by the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Kagiso Molatlhegi who argued that Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse already had a question on the same matter.

Opposition MPs wanted Molatlhegi to make a determination on whether the matter was urgent or not. Molatlhegi ruled that the matter was urgent but failed to accord the matter the urgency it deserved. The result is that UDC MPs differed with the speaker and disallowed Parliament to continue without the matter being considered and resolved.

The debate on the matter invited the use of unkind words. “If we are not going to respect each other as they are already calling me ‘head girl’, let me face these people I want those who voted them to know that they have sent people with no respect here,” said Serowe South MP Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi.

“Honorable Nkagiwa ke tsile mo palamenteng ke thophilwe ke batho ba Serowe South, o kaya go ba botsa gore ke eng ba thophile motho yo o kana ka mmago,” Venson-Moitoi told Gaborone North MP Haskins Nkagiwa.

At this point Parliament was already thrown in chaos forcing the Deputy Speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi to call the Sergeants of Arms together with the police to throw Butale and MP for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi out of the House.

In an interview shortly after he was thrown out Mmolotsi said “when a Member of Parliament has an urgent matter affecting the Public he has to notify the Speaker of the National Assembly. The Speaker then can determine whether the matter is urgent or not. In this case the Speaker made a determination that the matter is urgent.”

Mmolotsi said that even after making such determination Molatlhegi continued to say Keorapetse had a question on the same matter; the question that has not been noticed.

“Butale was bringing the matter as a motion on an urgent basis therefore the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly has deliberately misdirected himself because he has the power to do that. What we are saying as the opposition is that people are in darkness as we speak, people are drinking dirty water, and some do not have water at all; therefore Parliament as the representative of the people cannot refuse to discuss issues that affect Batswana,” said Mmolotsi.

He said as UDC they will not allow a situation where people are suffering and complaining about water and electricity crisis everyday while the members of the ruling BDP are reluctant to discuss the matter because they know it will embarrass them.

“This is not what we are going to stomach as the opposition, we are here to represent people and we are going to talk about their problems. For me to be thrown outside Parliament is not going to stop me from talking about the problems affecting Batswana and therefore when I go back I will continue to talk about this. I am not going to give up until this matter is discussed,” he said.

Mmolotsi further said Botswana is at an embarrassing point where parliament involves police officers for the sole reason of intimidating opposition Members of Parliament.

“That inspector who was intimidating Members of Parliament was completely out of order. What we know is that we have Parliament securities, we do not have police officers who at any time can enter parliament; therefore the speaker will explain to us since when the police officers are allowed inside parliament to harass the members of parliament,” Mmolotsi. He added that this is just the beginning as people are not going to be allowed to disagree in Parliament.

“This looks like a new government and from the short break I believe they have been told to bundle us and throw us out. This matter will have to be discussed, from tomorrow we are going around the country addressing people on water and electricity crisis,” he said.

For his part Butale said there is a clear dictatorship masquerading as a democracy.

“Member of Parliament voted by people to Parliament was manhandled, carried out of Parliament and thrown to the floor because he wanted Parliament to discuss the national crisis of water and power. The speaker chose to misdirect himself because he believes that Parliament is a play ground for Executive and therefore we should not do what we are expected to do by people who have sent us here,” Butale said.

He added that “this was a reality of it all we are in a dictatorship, and even members of Parliament are silenced and censored on what they should say and not to say. It is punitive; it is an attempt to intimidate us into not doing what members of Parliament are supposed to do. I tell you as members of Parliament for Umbrella for Democratic Change we will not be silenced.”

He said they will be back today (Tuesday) to make sure that the issue of water and electricity crisis take precedence.

“This is a primary economic issue, if that is what it takes, all MPs from the UDC side will be thrown out. All MPs are going to stand out there because we represent the interest of the people. We are not here to play,” said Butale.

The Botswana Congress Party MP Bagalatia Arone said it was very clear that Keorapetse had a question and Butale had a motion on urgent basis.

“These are two different things. Because the motion was brought on urgent basis that means the question then falls off. I am just going home because there is no business. I wrote a message to the Deputy Speaker reminding him that procedurally the urgent motion should come first,” said Aarone.

He emphasized that he personally advised the deputy speaker who ignored him, “They want to use the whole thing to divide the BCP and the UDC. There is nothing much we can do as the BCP because what we could say has already been said by other MPs from the UDC side,” he said.


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