Madam Speaker Gladys Kokorwe, was livid last week on the lack of quorum in parliament. It is an old story that comes on and off in Our Parliament, Our Pride.
Why should this be the case? Parliament can pass a law(s)to stop the rot of defrauding the treasury with impunity. Why is Parliament reluctant to end this thieving of public funds by representatives regarded as honourable?
They are elected by loyal Batswana who believe their loyalty should be rewarded with the integrity of representatives they are loyal to. Why should Honourable MPs want to take the poor of the poor, for a jolly ride? Instead of spending public taxes prudently in the interest of the nation, the men and women elected to the peoples’ representative institutions get there to fend for themselves alone and forget the rest; having squandered the public resources, they shed crocodile tears when expected to deliver public services pleading lack of funds! The racketeers have no conscience. Do they think, they alone have been created in the image of God and the voters in the image of Lucifer, the outcast? Incidentally they swear by God and the angels, the hypocrites!
When the pseudo-Honourables slink away after marking themselves as present for the day, to entitle themselves for a pay they don’t deserve, do they believe nobody sees them, or do they cock a snook at Batswana and play untouchable? They deceive themselves if they imagine, they are what they are not; fact is they are under unflagging surveillance; when judgment day arrives they are bound to repay the debt with compound interest ,whether alive or dead! I am certain the ‘Honourables,’ condemn stock-theft and pick-pocketing. Question is: How may their fraud be different from stock-theft and pick-pocketing? When ordinary Batswana daily workers threaten to synchronise their work input with their monthly salary, we, the public, foremost being the dishonorable pillagers, the workers are condemned for cheating and doing harm to the economy. We forget the ordinary workers get the cue from the MPs, who should be their models.
Madam Speaker’s last week’s lament isn’t the first and I dare say, it wont be the last, if drastic steps aren’t devised to cut this delinquency. As far as I know there isn’t much to choose between the ruling and opposition party MPs. I should know, for I have been there. What used to make matters worse in my days was there used to be a pub in the precincts, which I think might be closed now with our prohibitionist president calling the shots! What was interesting in those days, was that whenever there was going to be the division of the House - that is voting on some bill - then you would have all the ruling party members including the Princess Marina in-patients, in full attendance. The ruling party does not entertain its MPs loitering in corridors when legislative power hangs in the balance.
What is important for rulers, is never to lose a motion by default, in favour of the opposition due to lack of quorum. Now that public servants are to be allowed to operate businesses, we can expect Parliament to be in double jeopardy, quorum and staff going AWOL for business self-interest, since the clerks will now join MPs in delinquent conduct! The event of parliamentary bye-elections affects all parties equally, I am not surprised the opposition had only four members on Wednesday August 6, 2015, both the ruling party and the opposition were out in Good Hope-Mabule canvassing for votes. The remedies to this situation are many.
The first obvious remedy is to draft appropriate rules. The rules must stipulate minimum time in the House for an MP to be paid an allowance, for instance three hours excluding tea time; though it isn’t every Motswana voter who has a television set, I agree with Madam Speaker, that Parliamentary debates be televised; this would serve a dual purpose: the voter would be able to know whether his/her MP attends Parliament to doze off or play around with condoms; secondly it would enable voters to see whether their MPs attend Parliament at all or are always AWOL.President Khama’s attendance may not be compulsory, but he should attend conveniently to answer questions that specifically refer to him. It happens in other parliamentary democracies, why not here?
Another rule should be for MPs to inform the speaker in advance when a member will be absent, so that if the number of absentees in one day affects the quorum, Speaker could cancel the following day’s sitting. This would be a mark of respect to colleagues and also a way to conserve public funds wasted by drivers driving to and fro to cater for passengers who use government transport for freebies.
Another way to improve MPs attendance could be adoption of the system of picking Cabinet Ministers outside Parliament. MP Cabinet ministers have divided loyalty between voters and the president. Eliminate the excuse of MPs being away on Ministerial duties, you eliminate the excuse for Ministers undermining parliamentary quorum. Separation of powers will thus be enhanced.