Parliamentary audience was Thursday afternoon agape in disbelief as they witnessed a motion on the recent Zimbabwe election crisis turn into a fierce political battle between the ruling BDP and opposition MPs.
Gaborone Central MP, Dumelang Saleshando, pleaded with parliament to temporarily suspend the orders of the day and, as a matter of urgency, allow him to table an impromptu motion calling on the Zimbabwean government to release results of the presidential elections.
Even before the motion could be tabled, it was clear it would meet resistance from BDP MPs who were arguing that since SADC leaders meeting was in the offing, the motion was a premature 11th hour attempt designed to endear the mover to the media.
The newly appointed Foreign Minister, Phandu Skelemani, whose portfolio the motion challenged, opposed the motion saying: “President Ian Khama has initiated the Lusaka conference scheduled for Saturday (yesterday) in Lusaka to be attended by SADC leaders. We expect much from the meeting. Our parliament discussion will not bear any fruit since we already have a meeting ahead. We should exercise restraint. Why such a hurry? We should allow SADC to deal with Zimbabwe election woes.
“This parliament can not dictate to President Mugabe to release the presidential election results. The elections are under the control of the Zimbabwe Election Committee. Worse still, we can not dictate terms to the committee to release the results. They will laugh at us if we attempt to do so,” Skelemani argued to the chagrin of the opposition who held a different view.
Skelemani reminded parliament that he was dealing with a very volatile issue that could incite Zimbabweans.
Education Minister, Jacob Nkate, reiterated Skelemani’s position bluntly reminding parliament that debate over the Zimbabwe issue “will comprise the Lusaka meeting”.
“While we acknowledge all is not well in Zimbabwe, we are of the opinion that we should give the Lusaka conference the best chance.”
In lengthy attacks and counter attacks, the debate took the whole afternoon and part of the evening, resulting in the attorney general being summoned to address the legal implications but the opposition parties never yielded.
“The Zimbabwe issue is a different issue with different a context. We should exercise patience,” corroborated the BDP Boteti North MP, Slumber Tsogwane, trying to soothe the opposition’s fears.
But the statement did not go down well with Gaborone South MP, Akanyang Magama, who questioned the players and actors in the Lusaka conference.
According to Magama, the players at the conference “are the same Mbekis and Mwanawasas who failed the continent and the world at large.”
Mahalapye East MP, Botlhogile Tshireletso, dismissed the motion adding that “the motion is designed to attract the attention of the media. People like to be in the news”.
However, the opposition BNF MPs insisted that Saleshando’s motion was plausible, concise and came at the opportune time and they dismissed assertions the motion came late.
Earlier, when tabling the motion that sparked such controversy, Saleshando insisted that “it was important for parliament to express its voice. Parliament is the voice of the people, an embodiment of the values of democracy”.
Saleshando argued that “the burning Zimbabwe generates fumes which will suffocate us.”
BNF MP, Olebile Gaborone, argued that, “we can not bear meeting after meeting anymore. What is so special about the Saturday meeting? Is Saturday meeting any magic?”
Another BNF MP, Mephato Reatile said, “SADC alone can not solve these problems. Zimbabwe problems have been with us for a long time. Our voices condemning what is happening in Zimbabwe should be heard.”
Kgalagadi West MP, Filbert Nagafela, held the audience in stitches saying, “Mugabe o elame maduo. (Mugabe is sitting on the presidential ballots like hen on eggs.)”
He said Zimbabwe and Kenya style of rule was undesirable since the world will paint Africa with the same brush.
That notwithstanding, BDP MPs eventually succumbed reluctantly and the motion was passed.