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Our Parly must learn to seek bipartisan consensus on urgent public interest matters

KGOSIETSILE NGAKAAGAE
My friends ask me if I have intention of running for political office.

Frankly, I have thought about it. I have, simply, never convinced myself it would be a good idea. You join the ruling party, and you are reduced to a zombie like they want to do with Honourable Ignatius Moswaane and Honourable Mephato Reatile. I know they would chase me away the first time I open my mouth. I would really find it hard saying that President Mokgweetsi Masisi is right on Banyana Farms. I am not an idiot. But the UDC have a similar disease, even if it may be slight different. They insult those who differ with them. I wish there was maturity in our politics. I wish people could differ without being considered adversaries. I wish we could all learn that we differ so much because we all love our country so much. Intolerance for dissent is not just a ruling party trait. It is there in the opposition as well. This disease further manifests in inter-party relations. I am not politically ignorant. I know that by nature party politics are adversarial. But so is our legal system. We fight and trash each other in Court. At lunch, we use the same car to the hotel for lunch. Then we come back and fight and trash each other again. It is not about us. It is about justice. In our politics, it is not about Batswana, it is about the party.

My case is about the emphasis on party politics over the national agenda and whether there is really, a halfway house. I think there is. It makes sense for a political party, especially a party in power, to be obsessed with credit. It is such credit, after all, that betters its chances for reelection. But there is always a point where it becomes toxic. A perfect example presented itself, the other day. Annah Mokgethi, a good woman by me, nearly lost all semblance of hardwon personal dignity attempting to defend a silly party position force-fed on her by alpha males within the ruling party. I am not even sure she has recovered yet from the personal reputational harm incurred. In an instant, she was perceived as a woman who had betrayed the struggle. I know it was all out of pressure from the patriarchal, power hungry, male dominated party caucus. I can say that on this issue, Mokgethi suffered gender based violence.  I still think she should have told them where to get off, or even tendered her resignation. But that was her call, not mine.

At the height of it all, I suggested to my political friends that

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there is such a thing as bi-partisan consensus. The Americans use the coinage a lot. It is about negotiating consensus on a matter where a fight for credit would hurt the public interest. Urgent matters of security, gender based violence, and public health, generally commend themselves for bipartisan consensus. I use the terms not out of disrespect for other party formations. I use it in recognition of the two formations that dominate the parliamentary floor.

Not so long ago, President Masisi paraded party leaders on national television to speak to the nation on the COVID-19, threat and the urgent need for a state of emergency. There was bipartisan consensus as regards the urgency of the matter, even if there were differences over whether the outcomes for which the state of emergency was sought, could not be achieved under the Public Health Act. Of course, the ruling party proceeded to ram the extension of the state of emergency through Parliament. 

The opposition were displeased. It would make no sense, though, to suggest that our political parties have been less than generous in their support of the ruling party’s efforts since. Bipartisan consensus may not have been reached in clear terms. It has, however, been modelled. Much as I hate it when the opposition criticises everything, I hate it when the ruling party trashes anything the opposition says without regard to the public interest. This does not bode well for national progress. In fact, I am wondering whether the President does hold regular consultative meetings with the Leader of the Opposition in recognition of the essential role the opposition plays in our politics.

Back to the violence commission of enquiry motion. Mokgethi’s error was not that she rejected the suggestion of a Commission of Enquiry. It was that she failed to seek bipartisan consensus and sought to replace same with an overtly ridiculous amendment forced onto her through the corrupt alpha males that run our politics. But it didn’t have to be that way.

The ruling party would still have won the limelight in embracing the motion. It would subsequently have taken credit for the resolution of the gender based violence problem based on its outcomes.

It would have extinguished all opposition accusations that it is not serious about gender based violence. It was a chance for seeking bipartisan consensus.

As it is the ruling party succeeded in denying the opposition the political limelight. But they have done that at immense cost to party. They have done that at cost to those most affected by gender violence. Our Parliament must learn to put the citizenry first.



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