Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Stop bullying and intimidation in parliament

At secondary schools, the privileges that come with being a prefect include the enjoyment of some certain degree of authority over other students outside of the classroom.

In some extreme cases school prefects administer on-the-spot corporal punishment or what is called summary execution of other students. Inside the dining hall, privileges include getting a bigger slice of bread dressed with a heavy layer of peanut butter and dishing oneself extra-large pieces of meat. Other privileges include enhanced opportunities to have countless intimate relationships with girls most of who are coerced into the relationship, and so forth. Indeed this is a prestigious position in schools because of the accompanying perks. I am not very much familiar with the criteria used to appoint school prefects but my limited experience is that most of those appointed happen to be big-muscled with elephant-like postures but less brainy. Schools prefer boys or girls whose body structures instantly instill fear in their mates.

To some degree the idea of having school prefects and head boys or head girls is quite noble for it helps in ensuring maintenance of law and order. Like any other system, the school prefect system has its own defects particularly in instances where such privileged students are given unchecked powers over others to the point where they effectively run schools. In many occasions a majority of these student leaders become bullies during the course of their lives. This is so because they often find it difficult to part with privileges they enjoyed at school. They want to continue to exert power and perpetuate their dominance at all levels of society. In the political realm where many of them eventually find home, bullying is apparently rampant and manifests in a variety of ways and is largely tolerated and accepted by many people. It can be evidenced when senior politicians constantly intimidate juniors.

It can also be evidenced when senior citizens abuse their age and status in society and take aim at lesser mortals. On both occasions society does not expect victims of bullying or abuse to hit back. Lesser mortals have to stomach the scars of intimidation and abuse for their entire lives, in a way that suggests that bullying perpetuated by privileged members of our society is an accepted way of life.

In some ways, bullying becomes a legitimate way to showcase power/authority and fuzzy intelligence but most significantly to humiliate others for personal gain in the full knowledge that such others would not hit back for fear of offending traditional values of respect for the elderly and those in positions of authority. This phenomenon is becoming a part of our politics. Cabinet ministers believe that they are entitled to ride roughshod over everyone. They have resorted to using bully tactics to intimidate and humiliate ordinary Members of Parliament with the aim of silencing them. They exploit their privileged positions as members of the executive to bully and shame MPs and anyone who differs with their self-centered view of the world. They have become very sadistic and power-mad as though they were school prefects who have been sanctioned to stamp out smoking. They have promoted a culture that equates questioning President Khama with treason and this threatens the very dialogue that defines our republic.

Think of the comment attributed to none other than the country’s number two citizen, Vice President Merafhe, that President Khama ‘has convinced us as a man who cares for the welfare of the nation’ and therefore perhaps a review of the national constitution is unwarranted (Mmegi, 9 December, 2009).
It has now become fashionable that when they want to destroy your reputation, they tell anyone who cares to listen to their crap that you are a Khama hater.

How puerile! Their mantra is that anybody who challenges president Khama is a traitor. Think of the contempt heaped on those who call for a review of the national constitution. Think of the ridicule visited upon those arguing against appointment of lorry drivers as nominated councilors. I am pretty aware that it is hard to raise this issue of bullying or intimidation in politics without inviting trouble, yet if left to chance, our Parliamentarians will certainly become dummies.

We need to root out bullying and intimidation particularly in Parliament because if it is allowed to mature and become institutionalized, it will be impossible for our law makers to discuss any other issues. It will even be impossible for them to ask normal parliamentary questions that often elicit silly answers from cabinet ministers. The resulting rule of bullying and intimidation by cabinet ministers is the presence of political thugs who roam the streets threatening to beat up everyone who does not sing praise songs in honor of President Khama.

It is a truism that the culture of intimidation and bullying is contagious and should the thugs succeed in silencing the few protesters, Botswana will become a reclusive state. We should be profoundly troubled by these developments. We must save our parliament and by extension our republic and this we could partly achieve by telling cabinet ministers and Vice President Merafhe in particular that if he desires a weak, compliant parliament, if he wants to control MPs and watch over them, if he want to inspect their boots and nails, Parliament is the wrong place for his fantasy.

His deep-seated love for commandeering civilians to wear military behavior and his head boy-like-attitude in parliament is irritating and annoying. When government defended President Khama against widespread criticism in respect of his orders to the Director of Broadcasting Services to broadcast a statement on the suspension of former BDP Secretary General, Gomolemo Motswaledi, we were told that the matter was a national issue.

Then comes Vice President Merafhe who faults MPs for raising the issue in Parliament because ‘it is a BDP issue that has no place in Parliament’. At one point it is a national issue, at another point it is a BDP issue- the Gods must be crazy.

We need not have short memories like dogs that can shamelessly return to feed on their vomit. Parliament will soon convene to debate the 2010 budget proposals and we expect MPs to freely raise their concerns without fear that the senior prefect is watching them.
If Vice President Merafhe has nothing thoughtful to share with the public, he is advised to withdraw money from the national treasury and visit his counterpart in Somalia or take a sabbatical leave.

We will never miss his services as an overconfident parliamentary prefect.


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