Members of Parliament are some of the most important political figures in Botswana. MPSs actually make up the cream of Botswana’s political elite.
One reason why MPs occupy a special place in our society and indeed most societies is because MPs form the National Assembly whose place and influence within the institutional framework of most government is extensive and publicly recognized.
It is a fact that after general elections when political campaigns and party politics faint, become dull and almost deserted, parliament assumes the center of political life of our nation and parliamentarians become acclaimed political celebrities often giving voters the impression that we owe them a debt of gratitude for whatever development is parceled to our constituencies, even as we do know that they do not control much resources, not even the useless constituency development fund.
Their claim to a pretense of power and influence over gatekeepers is in spite common knowledge that the legislative branch is dominated and overshadowed by other branches of the government.
In the minds of most MPs and owing to their willingness not to miss any village event as well as public perception of the constitutional privilege of Parliament within the institutional system, MPs come across as superior beings and have, as a result, become demigods to the electorate.
It is hard to fault MPs for bragging about themselves and pretending to be very important because they have to believe in their abilities including the ability to make others believe in the impossible. It is also hard to fault members of the public for celebrating MPs for indeed the MPs’ fame and preeminence rival that of pretentious socialites.
That said, MPs should know that they are objects of worship to many adults and are role models for many young people. For this reason, MPs should show the way of discipline and responsible behavior at least for the benefit of young people who consider MPs as paragons of real leadership.
As much as we know that most MPs conform to what is essentially party behavior (the values and habits that their parties propagate privately), as individual national leaders, MPs have a responsibility to conduct themselves like bona fide law makers.
However, in the wake of a string of recent incidents of daily use of uncouth language and arrogant display of unreasonably aggressive behavior, perhaps to demonstrate how strongly they feel about matters under discussion or to impress members of the public, most MPs have become a very bad example of privileged elders.
In the guise of freedom of speech in Parliament, most MPs have become exceedingly noisy, excessively theatrical and confrontational like unruly school boys and girls in way that have turned Parliament into a battlefield of badly behaved honorable men and women who would, without rehearsals, certainly win auditions for the role of gangsters and thugs in an X-rated horror movie.
The point scoring and childish behavior that characterizes the National Assembly is not only repulsive but is an insult to this nation with its great reverence for the law makers as national and community leaders.
The reckless, violent and repugnant conduct of most legislators is besmirching the stature of the National Assembly and by extension the social standing of MPs in our society and the very laws they make.
The streak of this very bad and unacceptable behavior has continued in spite constant public disapproval of their behavior and calls for the Speaker of the National Assembly to impose financial penalty in the form of withholding sitting allowance for repeat offenders.
The screeching, barking and threatening conduct of some these honorable adults seems like an overkill by those who want to show case their animal side and build their profile as unrepentant bullies and thugs who sits in the National Assembly and get paid for bringing our nation into disrepute.
Granted MPs are in Parliament to debate and thoroughly scrutinize Bills and in the course of doing so, there is likelihood for heated exchanges especially when the minorities feel strongly about their contributions on issues that matter to their constituencies and the nation at large.
However, such exchanges must take place within the confines of civil decorum so that Parliament is not turned into a toxic, least hospitable workplace that only suits adult druggies and retards.
By its own place within the institutional system, Parliament should be free from harassment and bullying by those in privileged positions either by virtue of being members of the executive branch or being members of the party with the majority or by virtue of being members of the opposition whose minority status automatically generate public sympathy for their plight.
Essentially, MPs are elected on the expectation that they will debate serious and pertinent issues that matter to their constituencies and Batswana in general, in a mature and dignified manner that accord with their role as law makers. Intimidation, booing and/or shouting down colleagues or members of the frontbench is a thing for devout thugs.
Perhaps most MPs believe that the public enjoy the spectacle and their rude manners. Perhaps MPs also think that when members of the public laugh every time they stoop to the lowest with their seemingly scripted irritating noise, they are laughing with them, when in actual fact people would be laughing at the absurdity of some of the country’s so-called law makers.
It is true that some voters believe that a rowdy Parliament signals a sure march to regime change and it would seem that some MPs subscribe to this absurd logic. Only little men with big responsibilities would follow this script.
While it is acknowledged that at times MPs have to conduct themselves like trained gangsters in order to face up with some ministers who think that they are law unto themselves and do not have to account to anyone, the style and tone of their interjections seems fashioned to ambush, provoke, humiliate and/or put off the frontbench in order to placate the voters.
Such approach may have the short term benefits of entertaining idle minds and amusing irrational voters but it also serves to add to the already poor public image of our Parliament by turning parliamentary debates into gang wars.
It is a fact that most MPs are products and purveyors of dirty politics. However, the expectation is that the moment they enter the chamber of Parliament, not only should they look good in their funny suits, but they should also reset their behaviors so that at no point in time should they behave like thugs in designer suits and multi-colored neckties.
MPs must hold each other to account for their behaviors failing which they should not complain when the public treat them like prominent scoundrels who found their way to the National Assembly through deception often by exaggerating their worth and being extremely good at lying.
MPs must treat one another with dignity and respect if they want the public to take them seriously. Assuming that indeed the public does enjoy a bit of aggression and the violent behavior of political celebrities, MPs ought to know that by behaving like escapees from a rehabilitation institution, they are damaging the reputation of the National Assembly and conforming some of our worst fears; that we have sent certified hooligans to Parliament as national leaders.
A critical conclusion of this discussion is that there is lack of accountability for conduct by most MPs. Perhaps most MPs do not know what acceptable behavior is and what is not.
Were that to be the case, a kind of a workplace code of conduct setting out expectations for the way MPs should behave when in Parliament would be necessary. However, any proposal that seeks to police [bad] behavior in Parliament would never be popular with the MPs, supposedly because they always want to have a special dispensation in society.
Ultimately, the best way would be for MPs to deliberate issues and treat one another with dignity and respect, failing which a code of conduct would have to be developed to protect the sanctity of the National Assembly from honorable rogues. Don’t say you have never been warned!
The Badge of Courage would like to wish you success and happiness this Christmas and in 2021. May I urge all of us to observe all COVID-19 health protocols!
God Bless Botswana!