The Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe has embarked on a nationwide tour to educate Batswana about the role of Parliament in our democracy.
She is addressing Kgotla meetings to explain her organisation’s role, of course, to the ignorant rural poor, some of whose ambition is just to share a table with a minister, Member of Parliament, District Commissioner, or the Speaker of the National Assembly.
The initiative, dubbed ‘Taking Parliament to the People’ is not the first of its kind. Kokorwe’s predecessors - Margaret Nasha, Patrick Balopi and Ray Molomo had done the same during their tenure. Its’ objectives are understandable and fully appreciated.
It is, however, surprising that 49 years after independence, and 15 years after the launch of our national/state television station, we still find it impossible to broadcast live Parliament proceedings. In fact the whole thing is annoying to right-thinking Batswana. Why is it so difficult to adopt and implement this very important step of information sharing and dissemination, a tool of governance in working democracies? It takes just a few resources to undertake this endeavour, such as cameras, manpower, and allocation of a slot in the Btv programming. Live broadcast of Parliament proceedings is the simplest, fastest and cheapest way of taking Parliament to the people.
Legislators should also call for Parliament’s public relations unit to have its own broadcast equipment, just like other ministries and departments such as Botswana Police Service, Botswana Defence Force, Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services, and others.
In fact, Parliament should have its own news or information department, which should be empowered to procure among others television or radio slot. It should be able to produce it own programmes to educate the nation about its role and operations.
We call upon our legislators to also amend their Standing Orders to allow interested parties such as private radio broadcasters and web-based newspapers to air live proceedings or recordings.
There is abundance of avenues for all stakeholders to play a role in taking Parliament to the people, but we are too narrow-minded to open our eyes and take full advantage of the opportunities that are at our disposal. In South Africa for instance, live Parliament proceedings are broadcast on the State-owned SABC and private e-tv. There are countless examples of how our neighbouring democracies are doing their best to take Parliament to the people.
Can we be brave enough and allow the national television to broadcast Parliament proceedings to assist the Speaker in her ambition to educate her compatriots about this august institution.
“We all know what Parliament is, and we are all ashamed of it.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson