Monday, June 24, 2024

Two former Francistown councillors slug it out in parliament

It is unclear whether the third former Francistown councillor was in the chamber at the material time but for a good five or so minutes, two former councillors of Botswana’s second city slugged it out bare-knuckled last Friday morning.

The slugfest began when Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane, tried asking a parliamentary question about drug shortage without having first notified the Speaker and relevant minister as is standard practice. While parliamentary rules permit this, the arrangement gives the Speaker and the minister a lot of discretion. In exercise of such discretion, the Acting Speaker, Pono Moatlhodi, denied Moswaane permission to ask the question – at which point all hell broke loose.

“Botswana has no insulin and diabetic patients are dying in large numbers,” claimed Moswaane, adding a second later that the recent deaths of two Botswana Democratic Party councillors, whom he didn’t name, was due to the acute shortage of insulin at government health facilities.

Moatlhodi would have deemed the latter allegation to be a little too much because he immediately switched off Moswaane’s microphone. The effect of the latter was limited because, possibly amplified by Moatlhodi’s own microphone, Moswaane’s voice was still audible. He complained about patients being “trapped” at Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital in Francistown and of often having to shoulder the burden of paying their transport fare to Gaborone to get medical help.

“I am not going to allow this to happen anymore,” he charged, adding that the Minister of Health, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti is “useless” and a little later, that he is “corrupt.”

The tirade went on until Moatlhodi instructed four security guards to “throw him out. I have had enough of him.” Undeterred, Moswaane dared the guards to try manhandling him.

“Come! I’ll show you,” Moswaane’s voice was heard to say off-frame.

In the past, the cameras would have stayed on Moswaane as he spat fire but the new see-no-evil-hear-no-evil rules have changed all that. The rules say that when there is gross misconduct by MPs, “the camera shall focus on the Speaker or Chair for as long as proceedings continue or until order has been restored.” In the case of unparliamentary behaviour, “the camera shall focus on the Speaker or Chair and shall do so if he or she rises, but occasional wide-angle shots of the Chambers may be shown.” The standing orders define “gross misconduct” as “incidents of individual, but more likely collective, misconduct of serious disruptive nature as to place in jeopardy, the continuation of the sitting” and “unparliamentary behaviour” as “any conduct which amounts to defiance of the Chair but falls short of gross misconduct.”

Nothing suggests that Moswaane ever got to show the guards what he promised when they showed him to the door. On the contrary, it is the guards who may have showed him whatever it was that was being shown last Friday morning. Minutes after he had been forcibly ejected from the chamber and Moatlhodi was reading him the riot act in absentia, the voice of a UDC MP was heard to ask repeatedly: “Jaanong ene o kgamelwa engKe eng a sa kukiwe?” [Why did they throttle him? Why couldn’t they lift him up?”

Both Moatlhodi and Moswaane have served as Francistown councillors at different times. The third former Francistown councillor in the current parliament, who like Moswaane also became mayor, is Buti Billy the Assistant Minister of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture. By visibility standards that Moatlhodi and Moswaane have long introduced to parliament, the latter has consistently kept a low profile.

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