Longest serving Member of Parliament, also recognised as Father of the House in parliament, Slumber Tsogwane this week moved to prevent parliament from adopting what many MPs across the political aisle hailed as a progressive step towards parliament independence.
The constitution of Botswana grants parliament “the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Botswana” and further grants parliament the power to regulate its own procedure. It is through Standing Orders that parliament guides it own procedure. Despite the proposed Standing Orders reforms enjoying support across the political parties, the Boteti West legislator vehemently opposed the reforms as he noted that most of them will cause unnecessary delays in the business of parliament. Tsogwane was against Standing Order 60.4 which compelled the Speaker to consult with party whips before suspending a member of services of the National Assembly.
This forced the speaker to immediately adjourn the proceedings and called an impromptu General Assembly meeting, of which a decision was reached to suspend adoption of the amendments pending further consultation with MPs. The General Assembly is a gathering of legislators and the Speaker of the National Assembly where the parliament business and procedures are discussed and agreed. Chaired by the maverick Tati East legislator, Samson Guma, prior to this week’s session MPs had a two day General Assembly meeting where MPs deliberated on the reforms.
THE PROPOSED REFORMS
Notwithstanding that the Speaker’s rulings during proceedings are final, he/she is stripped of using her discretion as the new provision compels him/her to be guided by his/her previous rulings, if such rulings have been approved by the Business Advisory Committee. This is unlike before when Speakers’ ruling were approved or reviewed by Standing Orders Committee, the Business Advisory Committee comprising Leader of the House (Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi), Leader of the Opposition (Duma Boko), Chief Whip (Liakat Kablay) and opposition whip (Wynter Mmolotsi) and the Speaker of the National Assembly. The Speaker of the National Assembly is however deprived the power of participation in the committee if her rulings are being reviewed by the committee.
Guma who also chairs the resilient Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises, has seen Standing Orders Committee introducing a new committee called Committee on Government Assurances, which shall consist of a Chairperson and seven members. The committee is given the authority to exercise parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over assurances made by the government in parliament including execution of resolutions made in parliament. The committee is also empowered to sit during meetings of the House and as best as possible during times as do not coincide with the sitting of the House to consider urgent matters.
Previously there have been concerns that the executive, overly ignored motions passed by parliament on the basis that, motions, unlike bills are not binding and only act as advisory tools to government and government may only use its discretion to execute them. The introduction of the Committee on Government Assurances is seen as progressive and necessary to make government accountable for its own obligations.
While legislators, especially in the opposition benches and backbenchers had wished to see President Lt Gen Ian Khama appearing before parliament to answer to questions from MPs with regard to matters of national concern, the committee has resolved that, the Vice President, who is also Leader of the House, will step in for the duty instead. Standing Order 40 (B) resolves that there shall be asking of questions by Members to the Leader of the House on issues of national, regional and international importance every other Thursday.
Among the proponents of the President appearing before parliament to field questions from the ruling party is outspoken Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane who has previously expressed that Khama should come before parliament to account to legislators. The new standing orders also limit the number of motions which MPs can table in a meeting. MPs are only entitled to two motions per meeting except in a scenario where there are no more motions tabled by other members to be debated. In the previous set-up, motions where debated based on first come basis, meaning the house was at times saddled with the duty to debate consecutive motions belonging to one legislator casting other MPs out.
Amid good reception from MPs across the political divide, Duma Boko, who is the Leader of Opposition’s status, has been relegated. Boko previously enjoyed the same status as Leader of the House, Mokgweetsi Masisi and entitled to make statements on any matter of national importance. The new standing order number 9.3.4 states that “the time allotted to the Leader of the Opposition shall be less than the time allotted to the presenter of the State of Nation Address, the Budget Speech or any other major Government Policy, or the time allotted to the Leader of the House under the Standing Order.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.