Tuesday’s session of Parliament adjourned after exactly 29 minutes after questions and other motions were moved to later dates due to the absence of key ministers.
On average, Parliament sessions last for four hours, but on Tuesday, members left 29 minutes after convening, with frustrated opposition MPs reading sinister signs into the absence of some ministers. The MPs said the absences were a ploy by some Cabinet ministers to avoid or delay answering ‘controversial’ questions asked in Parliament.
On Tuesday, a question on the intended purchase of Gripen aircraft by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) went unanswered due to the absence of Defence, Justice and Security minister, Shaw Kgathi. Another question on the role of the newly established Tourism Intelligence Services was equally deferred to a later date, as Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism minister, Tshekedi Khama could not be found.
Deputy Speaker, Kagiso Molatlhegi could not provide answers as to why the ministers were not present. Kgathi had also been scheduled to table the Prisons (Amendment) Bill of 2017, Interstate Transfer of Prisoners Bill, 2017 and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Bill, 2016.
Opposition MPs said the frequent absences was now a habit. Francistown South legislator and opposition whip, Wynter Mmolotsi demanded that the Leader of the House address the issues.
“The procedure of this House is that we are supposed to have the Leader of the
Gabane/Mankgodi MP, Pius Mokgware said for ministers to miss Parliament and not provide an excuse or explanation was unproductive and also undermined the National Assembly. “There is a reason why we are asking these questions and there is a reason why we want them to be answered at the time we have put them up,” he said.
“For it to be delayed for another month, simply because the minister did not turn up and did not even give an excuse or simple explanation, is not right.” However, the Deputy Speaker said the issue should not derail the business of the House.
“We are not going to waste time arguing on that. “It is troubling that the ministers are not here to answer, but we cannot spend the whole day on that and we have to continue with other matters,” he said, shortly before Infrastructure and Housing Development minister, Nonofo Molefhi moved to adjourn the session.