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Kokorwe adopts iron fist tactic on MPs

Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe

Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe this week scolded Members of Parliament (MP’s) across the political divide for the proclivity undesirable behaviour inside the ‘respected’ law making institution. She has promised to apply Standing Orders strictly, and has already ejected two legislators from Parliament.

This publication has established that Kokorwe made the nerve-jangling remarks during the General Assembly this week as parliament resumed business of the 11th parliament in Gaborone. In normal practice the Assembly ensues every Thursday when parliament is on session.

According to a ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator who spoke to Weekend Post on condition of anonymity, Kokorwe signalled a speaker who is ready this parliamentary session to put any non-compliant law maker into line.

“She raised alarm about objectionable conduct by some law makers across the political aisle which she said leaves a lot to be desired,” the source revealed.

With a determined tone, she was concerned with the indiscipline displayed among law makers and did not dilly-dally that parliamentary Standing Orders which govern the house will be applied and executed with “urgency”.

When explaining the MP’s behaviour, Kokorwe is said to have pointed out that some legislators “just come to parliament business to register and then disappear into thin air while they accumulate sitting allowance.”

“They come for 2 or 5 minutes and later vanish knowing very well they will nonetheless still be entitled to it (sitting allowance) as per the law and procedure,” the speaker asserted.

It was highlighted that the arrangement is prejudicial as some abiding legislators come to parliament from the daily sittings at 2 pm until 6pm during parliamentary business, and while others only customarily come to register.

There was also concern that Ministers hardly ever show up for parliamentary business. Instead of being present at parliament particularly to answer questions posed by other law makers, uneasiness was maintained that ministers are habitually deficient.

“After the observation that ministers are rarely in the law making organ’ daily business, it was deliberated that when parliament session is ‘on’ ministers movement at kgotla meetings should be condensed extensively.”

“They should be there at parliament to answer questions postured to their ministries,” Kokorwe maintained.
 

Although a categorical pronouncement was not reached on the matter, some MP’s felt that those who are absent for whatever reasons, should at least inform the country’s President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, Parliament Speaker Kokorwe or their political party Chief Whips.

On the contrary, some however maintained that: “no one can recall us from parliament even if we are absent for whatever reason except the constituents.”

According to Kokorwe, the Parliament Standing Orders are very clear and she will enforce them with a sense of vigour in the current session and going forward.

It is understood that section 60.4 of the said Standing orders give chief whips power to move a motion in parliament, to suspend an MP for one week for indiscipline, if they continue after being reprimanded by a speaker.

Just this week, Kokorwe invoked the Standing Order and suspended Selibe Phikwe East law maker, Dithapelo Keorapetse synchronously with colleague representing Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa from parliament for an effective whole week.

Both the MP’s are from opposition, with Keorapetse from Botswana Congress Party (BCP) while Nkaigwa is from Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). The parties have been accusing Kokorwe of “biasness” when applying parliamentary Standing Orders saying she was rather kind to her Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which endorsed her into office.

Speaking to Weekend Post after Kokorwe slapped them with a one week suspension, Keorapetse stated that he “wanted to stand on a point of procedure but was misconstrued by the speaker and he was subsequently thrown outside”.

“The suspension is for the whole week,” he confirmed. He said he was disenchanted with Kokorwe’s verdict nonetheless. Kokorwe could not be reached for comment at the time of press. This suspension means that Keorapetse and Nkaigwa will miss out on deliberations and sitting allowance for a week.

Gaborone Central legislator Phenyo Butale was also forcefully removed from parliamentary buildings by security officers last year after his failed bid to successfully table a motion back then calling for an update of the water and electricity crisis bedevilling the country.

Kokorwe’s stance is said to be a way of protecting Botswana parliament from disruption similar to those common during the neighbouring South African Parliament sessions where the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has on several occasions brought parliament to a standstill demanding answers over wide ranging issues which they deemed critical and urgent.

In most cases, when they were not answered satisfactorily they often resort(ed) to disruption of parliament and habitually that led to their forceful ejection from parliament buildings. 

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WeekendPost: Why did you move between the Attorney General and the Bench?

Ian Kirby: I was a member of the Attorney General’s Chambers three times- first in 1969 as Assistant State Counsel, then in 1990 as Deputy Attorney General (Civil), and finally in 2004 as Attorney General. I was invited in 2000 by the late Chief Justice Julian Nganunu to join the Bench. I was persuaded by former President Festus Mogae to be his Attorney General in 2004 as, he said, it was my duty to do so to serve the nation. I returned to the Judiciary as soon as I could – in May 2006, when there was a vacancy on the High Court Bench.

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