Monday, June 5, 2023

What the hell is going on in our country?

I plead that for now we defer the debate on my headline which I know for sure our conservative readers will find uncouth and not suitable for a family newspaper like this one. I am so sorry. It can’t be helped. Dear reader, please excuse my unrefined language but also, try to understand the circumstances that led to this rather harsh and somewhat unpalatable headline.

I had to ask the question, albeit in such a shocking and distasteful manner and it’s only because of the shock and disbelief that caught me, off-guard, as you will find out as you read on. It can be explained. I had to use ‘hell’ just for emphasis. I wanted to relay my disgust and disappointment. When we finally get to debate the choice of my headline, I will argue that it is suitable for the situation we currently find ourselves in. There is no better way to express the shock that engulfed me when I saw pictures taken in parliament showing MP for Gaborone Central Phenyo Butale being man-handled, carried and thrown out of parliament by security personnel.

I bet even a born again Bishop would respond with a “what the hell” on seeing the pictures that captured the pandemonium that ensued at our parliament on Monday. I mean, how are we, the ordinary citizens, expected to exercise humility and respect in the discourse of our debates on national issues when the same conduct fails to come out of the national assembly which houses men and women of honour?

When a friend of mine sent a text message from Johannesburg asking me what was going on at our parliament, I casually responded back that “well, I know parliament business commenced today”. He sent another message which read, “Dude, I’m told a member of parliament from the opposition was thrown out of parliament”. At this point I was getting irritated as I couldn’t understand what would be so interesting with a member of parliament being thrown out of the house. It happens all the time. Well, that was because initially, I had thought he meant a member of parliament was ordered out of parliament. We are used to having members of parliament being ordered to leave the house by the speaker of the national assembly for various reasons, especially where they are found to be out of order, as would be judged by the Speaker.

It was only after accessing social media that I got to appreciate what my friend really meant when he said a member was thrown out of parliament. He had meant the MP was literally thrown out. It was only then that I understood why he seemed so deeply interested in the ‘throwing’ out of a legislator. It has never happened before that a member of parliament would be lifted out of parliament buildings kicking and screaming. We often see such scenarios on television, happening in other countries and who would have ever thought it will someday happen right here. We need to be worried about what happened at our parliament on Monday. This cannot and should never be tolerated in our country. Initial reports indicate that this unfortunate incident could have been avoided had the presiding officer on the day, Deputy Speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi acted decisively. We learn the fracas ensued after Molatlhegi rejected MP Butale’s request to table an urgent motion on the water and power crisis in the country.

To learn that a people’s representative was denied an opportunity to table a motion on what every sane citizen would agree is a national crisis is so shocking to say the least. To learn that cool heads failed to prevail amongst men and women who we are expected to regard as honourable is such a huge disappointment. The reasons advanced by Molatlhegi for shooting down Butale’s motion are shallow and frivolous. While we are still to know exactly what transpired, reports say Molatlhegi refused for parliament to deliberate on the water and power crisis because BCP MP Dithapelo Keorapetse has already brought forward a question on the similar crisis. I do not understand therefore, how Dithapelo’s intended question would stop Butale’s motion from getting the nod from the Deputy Speaker. It’s a pity that when all that happened, BDP members enjoyed the show because to them, the Deputy Speaker was only frustrating Butale.

They are not bothered that Butale was not trying to talk about power and water shortage at his house but rather, he was trying to be the voice of the many Batswana who are affected by this shortage of these basic amenities. Butale was only concerned about the economic ramifications that this country is suffering as a result of power and water shortage in this country, which in all honesty are man-made and cannot be classified as natural disasters. We are in all this mess because some people in authority are unscrupulous and have connived with foreign criminals to cash in on national projects which cost a lot of tax payers’ money without anything in return. We really need to be worried because what transpired at parliament signals the frustrations that MP’s go through in their quest to represent their constituents.

When MP’s defy the Speaker of the national assembly to the point where they are forcefully removed from parliament then we should all get scared. When the Speaker of the national assembly orders for members of parliament to be physically dragged out of parliament, we should all be worried. No reason can be good enough to justify physical altercations in the national assembly. The kind of hostility that ensued at parliament must be addressed and nipped before it gets bloodier.


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