Sunday, October 17, 2021

Truant ministers cripple Parliament

Parliament business was disrupted on Friday because Cabinet ministers failed to show up to answer questions and respond to motions by the back bench.

Backbenchers across the political divide were unhappy with the absence of most cabinet ministers resulting in the postponement of all 29 motions which were supposed to be tabled on Friday.

A frustrated Gabane-Mankgodi MP Pius Mokgware stood on a point of order and accused ministers for rendering parliament unproductive.

He asked the deputy speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi not “to put the Friday parliament on records as I do not want to be associated with such a record.”

Gaborone Central MP Phenyo Butale said he was not happy with the performance of the day saying, “there was no need for us to have come to parliament because surely we are taken for granted.”

Ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chief Whip and Letlhakane-Lephephe MP Liakat Kablay accused Cabinet Ministers of disrespecting Parliament.

Kablay said he could only reprimand MPs and not ministers as they are the responsibility of the Leader of the House and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dorcas Makgato came to the defence of her cabinet colleagues saying they were not playing truant.

She said MPs like Butale were only chasing headlines by claiming that Parliament was unproductive because ministers play truant. She accused Selibe Phikwe West MP Dithapelo Keorapetse of tabling motions while he was not ready to debate them. This was despite being informed by Molatlhegi that the MP was on sick leave.

Molatlhegi also defended absent ministers saying some were attending the Bi-National Commission (BNC) with South Africa while others like Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Pelonomi Venson were in meetings over the Zimbabwe political crisis. Molatlhegi however conceded that other ministers like Tshekedi Khama had not notified him of their absence before Friday. Molatlhegi said members should not fight over the underperformance of the day as some ministers are doing work for the country. He said either some brought forward motions but are not ready to debate them while some ministers are also not ready to respond to the motions tabled about their ministries. Of the 29 motions Keorapetse had six to debate but was not ready because of health reasons.

Notable motions which were supposed to be tabled among others were: referendum for direct election of president, government to consider political party funding, introduction of widow/spouse allowance, the appointment of a judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the BCL closure, setting up of a coal plant in Phikwe, review of the old age pension scheme, discontinuation of the plastic levy charged by retailers, introduction of youth business clinics in every constituency, establishment of community radio and TV stations, introduction of indigenous languages as a medium of instruction in the Botswana education system, establishment of a new capital city, government to make CEDA forensic audit report public, government to end the BMC beef export monopoly, introduction of financial literacy as a subject and the raise of minimum wage to at least P2000. 00. 

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