Mmegi Blogs :: Democracy under siege: half-asleep Parliament makes 5 laws
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Monday 18 June 2018, 16:04 pm.
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Democracy under siege: half-asleep Parliament makes 5 laws

Third meeting of the second session of the 11th Parliament came to an end last week Friday amid drama. Last week Thursday/Friday Parliament proceedings went on for nearly 14 hours i.e. from 1400 hours until 0440 hours in the morning and at 0900 hours Friday Parliament was on session again until 1230 hours after midday.
By Dithapelo Keorapetse Fri 19 Aug 2016, 15:14 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Democracy under siege: half-asleep Parliament makes 5 laws








The National Assembly received 17 Bills, 13 of which were passed with 1 presented and read the first time. Two policies were tabled and one was adopted. On questions, 303 were received and 255 were answered. Out of 127 Private Members’ motions received, only two were adopted and one negated. This sounds like a prima facie case of productivity. However, that is far from the truth as shall be demonstrated.

The Bills that were adopted and are awaiting Presidential Assent are Trade Disputes Bill (Bill No. 21 of 2015), Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (Bill No. 17 of 2015, Whistleblowing Bill, 2015 (Bill 19 of 2015), Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill No. 3 of 2016), Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2016 Bill No. 3 of 2016), Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority, 2016 (Bill No. 12 of 2016), Electricity Supply (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill No. 13 of 2016), Botswana Power Corporation (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill No. 14 of 2016), Electoral Amendment Bill, 2016 (Bill No. 10 of 2016),  Ministerial Offices (Maximum Number) (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill No. 2 of 2016), Judicial Services (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill No.15 of 2016), Specified Offices (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (Bill No. 16 of 2016) and National Assembly (Salaries and Allowances) Amendment) Bill 2016 (Bill No. 17 of 2016).

The truth is that the ruling party, in cohorts with the Speakership, has actually hijacked Parliament to do as it pleases. The manner in which Bills are rushed through Parliament is not only fraudulent and undemocratic but is also potentially unconstitutional. The practice must be condemned. The night vigil on Thursday should not be left unchallenged. During the 14 hours of Parliamentary proceedings, five Bills and a policy were passed. The Bills include increase of ministers, Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)/Electoral Act, and the three percent salary increment Bills for MPs, judges and Specified Officers.

The idea of the ruling party was to rush through these Bills and or rubberstamp them without much input of MPs. The opposition held the ruling party accountable by debating all the Bills, including noticing amendments, and the policy throughout the night.

Many ruling party MPs were clearly fatigued and sleepy but stayed put under strict instructions to adopt all the Bills. Some dozed off and only woke up to vote according to their caucus resolutions and went back to sleep. This is not how Parliament should function. A half-asleep and less attentive assembly cannot make proper laws.

As business progressed, the ruling party forced through a motion to curtail debates by, in some cases, reducing the debating time to five minutes instead of the normal 20 minutes and

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in some instances allowing only two debaters from each side. This meant that many MPs couldn’t take part simply because the ruling party was in a hurry to rush through the Bills. That is not how laws seeking to regulate the life of a nation should be dealt with. Making laws in Botswana Parliament has become a less serious affair, a big joke. It shouldn’t be acceptable that Parliament can deal with five Bills in one sitting.

During the night vigil session, some rules of order and procedure were violated by MPs and the Speaker with impunity and if some of the decisions can be challenged, they may be declared null and void. At some stage, the Speaker refused to order a division of the House and in other cases the impatient ruling party MPs blocked the division by switching on their microphones to disable the other side of the aisle’s microphones. In Botswana Parliament, the system of microphones is such that not more than four can function or be on at the same time.

It is disappointing that the constitution permits Parliament to pass laws to change the constitution without the input of the people. This shows that the country’s constitution is obsolete and needs to be overhauled. Worse, some of the Bills which undermine democratic ethos were brought by a Minister who is a Specially Elected MP after being rejected by the voters. This can never happen in any serious democracy.

The Electoral Act amendments, including the decision to do away with supplementary registration, the introduction of the EVMs and the hiking of the amount required from candidates are potentially unconstitutional as they interfere with the most fundamental political right being suffrage. Why should people be disenfranchised over a mere administrative issue? Neither Parliament nor electoral management body should be allowed to interfere with the right to vote through enactment of laws and rules and regulations. President Festus Mogae, in recognition of this fundamental right, declared a state of emergency in 1999 to avert a catastrophe of disenfranchisement of thousands of people. 

When Botswana is supposed to democratise further and or consolidate its democracy, it regresses by making sure that thousands of its citizens are disenfranchised. The EVMs may promote cheating as well and stealing the vote is treason.

Batswana should seek better alternatives of how they can improve their public affairs, Parliament cannot do much for them as it has been hijacked and is manipulated to serve sectorial interests. Parliament clearly is not legislating for the wellbeing of its citizens and in many instances doesn’t even consult them.

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Views From The House
Fri 19 Aug 2016, 15:14 pm
Fri 12 Aug 2016, 17:31 pm
Fri 05 Aug 2016, 12:21 pm
Fri 29 Jul 2016, 12:52 pm
Fri 22 Jul 2016, 12:58 pm
Fri 15 Jul 2016, 11:32 am
Fri 08 Jul 2016, 15:26 pm
Thu 30 Jun 2016, 12:25 pm
Fri 24 Jun 2016, 17:59 pm
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Fri 03 Jun 2016, 15:08 pm
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Fri 26 Feb 2016, 16:38 pm
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