Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Rookie MP fumbles delaying Parley proceedings

Six months into their term, some new MPs are still struggling with standing orders, often bringing house proceedings to a complete standstill. At least one male Botswana National Front MP has rebuffed the lavishing of a term of affection lavished on him by a Botswana Democratic Party lady minister.

When the Committee of Supply discussed budget estimates for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Gaborone Central MP, Dr. Phenyo Butale, lamented “the current scenario where the president decides to deport a business competitor and that person is deported immediately without even being given a chance to appeal their case or even argue their case.”

Foreign Affairs minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, rose on a point of procedure to complain that the MP was imputing an improper motive on the president and demanded that he withdraw his words. Butale refused, attempting to explain away his statement, whereupon the Vice President and Leader of the House, Mokgweetsi Masisi, rose on a point of order to reiterate Venson-Moitoi’s demand. Butale would still not yield and proceeded to make the impossible claim that “Madam Chairperson, I never said the president deported any businessman.”

When Madam Chairperson, Gladys Kokorwe, suggested checking the Hansard, Butale half-relented with “for interest of progress, I can expunge if I said that but the point remains that there is need to reform.” That was not good enough for Kokorwe who told the MP that “You can’t say I expunge but …” Finally, after precious debate time had been lost, Butale withdrew the words.

When Masisi rose to make his own contribution, he congratulated Dr. Matshidiso Moeti who has just been appointed World Health Organisation Regional Director and Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, the former Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth, for flying Botswana’s flag high abroad. That struck Goodhope-Mabule MP, James Mathokgwane, as odd because he was under the impression that MPs cannot mention outsiders by name during their deliberations. His point-of-order interjection was to get clarity on this issue. Kokorwe’s response was that Masisi was mentioning Moeti and Masire-Mwamba in a positive light and not within a context that required them to defend themselves against accusations. She added that she expected MPs to familiarise themselves with the standing orders. The Acting Parliamentary Counsel, Shabani Chikanda, rose to confirm that in terms of Standing Order 57.6, members are prohibited from talking about the conduct of people.

“I think what was being said by His Honour the Vice President was not the conduct. He was just talking about the achievement of somebody, not their conduct,” Chikanda said.

The impression of health minister, Dorcas Makgato, is that Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP, Shawn Nthaile, is not paying heed to the protocols of point-of-order interjections. The rule is that when an MP stands on a point of order, the one on the floor must yield. Nthaile has yet to internalise this protocol and Makgato has complained bitterly about this.

There is every indication that Kokorwe and her deputy, Kagiso Molatlhegi, are going to have a tonnes of fun with Francistown West, Ignatius Moswaane. The MP has rebuffed Kokorwe’s rigorous enforcement of parliamentary rules with the assertion that he has a sneaky feeling that the Speaker “hates” him. Two weeks ago, Moswaane also engaged in a ceaseless and very lengthy back-and-forth about a motion he wanted to table before parliament. He felt it was “very unprofessional for this parliament to fail to discuss this motion today.” Molatlhegi suggested they discuss the issue in private but Moswaane would have none of it. Ultimately the former had to reveal that the MP had not followed procedure when submitting the motion to parliament staff and that his suggestion that they discuss the issue in private was to save the MP embarrassment.┬á

At least for now, Mathokgwane would prefer that Makgato use official nomenclature when addressing him – nothing lovey-dovey, thank you very much. The MP wanted Makgato to state whether she would be in position to give details about a proposal her ministry has made to the Directorate of Public Service Management. She responded: “No, my dearest because it is still internal consultation, and once I have concluded my internal consultations,” Mathokgwane interjected on a point of order to ask Kokorwe if it is parliamentary “for one member to call another member ‘dearest’?”

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