The Speaker of the National Assembly, Phandu Skelemani was on Friday forced to adjourn Parliament proceedings following the chaos that erupted amongst Members of Parliament (MPs) over the coronavirus (COVID-19) movement permits.
The MPs had wanted to know when the restrictions on movement would be relaxed arguing the country’s economy was at stake. The legislators raised concerns that people’s lives and businesses have been adversely affected by the restriction on people’s movements.
The chaos erupted after Skelemani announced to the House that he had received a message from the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng that he will no longer address Parliament on the issue of movement permits. The dejected MPs were not happy with Morwaeng’s response, stating that he was out of order and disrespecting Parliament.
They, therefore, pleaded with Skelemani through the powers vested in him as the Speaker of the National Assembly to stop Parliament proceedings so that the matter could be addressed at the General Assembly. The irate MPs disclosed that they were overwhelmed by enquiries from the general public who sought clarity on when the restrictions will be relaxed.
Days before Easter holidays, President Mokgweetsi Masisi addressed the nation live on Botswana Television and announced the decision to stop the movement of people across zones over the holidays as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19. It is almost a week since the end of the Easter Holidays and people’s movements are still restricted, something that MPs were not amused about.
The MP for Selibe-Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse raised his concern that the nation is in a crisis and the country’s economy is at risk because businesses were not operating at full capacity. “People’s lives have stopped. What is going on? People want to know if they are on lockdown or what. Matshelo a Batswana a eme.
What is happening? When you stop people’s movement you automatically stop the country’s economy. The minister should account because we are faced with a crisis, kgantele e nna okare ga re na boikarabelo rele boeteledipele,” Keorapeste said.
Sharing the same sentiments, MP for Thamaga/Kumakwane, Pelaelo Motaosane pleaded with Skelemani to request minister Morwaeng to address Parliament. “We
Bobonong legislator, Taolo Lucas supported Motaosane’s plea saying Skelemani ought to use the powers he usually employ to chase disorderly MPs out of Parliament to this time summon Morwaeng to come and address the nation and explain what is going on. “Ke beile mogo wena as the Speaker. Pateletsa Morwaeng gotla go buisa Batswana ka kgang ya di permit,” he said. Following an exchange of words amongst the MPs concerning this matter, Tsogwane said: “After meeting with relevant teams and technical advisors, minister Morwaeng realised this topic was water under the bridge because restrictions are about to end, probably this weekend. Really, he didn’t need to make the statement.”
Tsogwane’s words did not sit well with MPs who accused him and minister Morwaeng of disrespecting Parliament and Batswana. Keorapetse then interjected saying, “Speaker, I think wa bona gore Palamente e nyadiwa gole kahe ke Leader of the House le ene yo Palamente e welang ko tlase ga lephata la gagwe. O raya gore Morwaeng o palelwa ke go tla ha go tlhalosa gore go diragalang, matshelo a batho a eme. It’s been going on since Easter Holidays ended, why can’t they say the restriction will stop right away not over the weekend. Gare kake ra beraka jaana mo Vice President a tlang abo a bua jaana, ke go nyatsa Batswana. Can you force Morwaeng to come and address the nation now?” Minister Morwaeng then commented and pleaded with Parliament to allow him to release a statement on their concerns on Monday instead as the matter was still being addressed. However, Morwaeng's gesture did not please the MPs. Chaos amongst MPs ended up forcing Skelemani to call for adjournment and reconvene Parliament today.