In an age when aging people dye their hair to look younger, it has always been baffling why the parliament Speaker and Deputy Speaker wear white horsehair wigs which they don’t even style. The Leader of the Opposition, Duma Boko, is as baffled and last Tuesday asked the Deputy Speaker, Kagiso Molatlhegi, a question that has been nagging him for some time.┬á
“I have been asking myself where, perhaps in the Standing Orders, the wig that you are presently wearing, Mr. Speaker, is provided for and why you are wearing it, whether we all think it enhances your ecstatic appeal. Why do you use this?” Boko posed, rising on a point of procedure.
It turns out that the dress code prescribed in the Standing Orders (parliament’s rule book) is silent on the wearing of a wig which the Botswana parliament inherited from its colonial masters. Molatlhegi personal preference was that the issue should be discussed at the General Assembly ÔÇô the closed-door all-party forum but the Minister of Lands and Housing, Prince Maele, thought was not necessary because Boko was just being frivolous.
“Mr. Speaker with due respect, I think the Leader of the Opposition is out of order because the manner in which you are dressed is the tradition and culture of Parliament … The same thing applies to something called a mace,” the minister said.
He was referring to a strict protocol of the two houses of British parliament where ceremonial maces represent the authority of the monarchy. The British parliament┬ácannot lawfully meet without the maces which are carried in and out of the two chambers in procession at the beginning and end of each day. According to the website of the British parliament, the┬áHouse of Lords┬áhas two maces, dating from the reigns of┬áKing Charles II and┬áWilliam III.
One of these is carried by the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod┬áand placed behind the Lord Speaker on the┬áWoolsack┬áwhen the House is sitting.┬áIn the Commons, the mace, carried by the Sergeant-at-Arms,┬áis placed on bronze mace brackets, on the table of the house in front of the Speaker. When the Commons sits as a committee of the whole house, or when finance bills are discussed, the mace sits under the table.
Maele said that the Botswana parliament should also observe this mace protocol.
“I do not want a situation whereby he [Boko] is still going to ask where the mace comes from because it is the culture and tradition of parliament for you to be dressed that way and you should have a mace. I think you should have called him out of order rather than just condoning such kind of comment from the Leader of the Opposition,” he said addressing himself to Molatlhegi.
Boko would have wanted to challenge this contention but the Deputy Speaker brought this mini debate to a close, clarifying his earlier statement about the issue being taken up at the General Assembly. There, he stated, all parliamentary processes would have been explained to Boko whom he said was just playing dumb.