Following his suspension from Parliament, Leader of Opposition (LoO) Dumelang Saleshando has instructed attorneys, Martin Dingake and Paul Muzimo to institute legal proceedings against Parliament Speaker, Phandu Skelemani.
The Maun West legislator was on Tuesday suspended from participating in the business of the National Assembly for a week following a vote by Members of Parliament subsequent to a ruling by Skelemani.
Prior to the suspension, Skelemani had on Monday told the House that he was not satisfied with the evidence the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President had presented before him to substantiate allegations of corrupt practice in awarding of government tenders and urged the LoO to withdraw the claims.
This issue started during the emergency meeting of Parliament in April, when Saleshando alleged that there had been a direct awarding of a government tender for the value of P13 million to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s sister, and that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) councillors were also being given COVID-19 tenders in processes that were not above board.
But Saleshando refused to withdraw the corruption claims, and on Tuesday his attempts to provide more evidence were quashed by Skelemani who then invoked Section 60 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, which empowers the Speaker to name a member who has committed an offence of disregarding the Speaker’s authority, then calling upon Chief Whip Liakat Kablay to move for the suspension of the offending member from the National Assembly.
Kablay was called upon after opposition Whip and Tonota MP, Pono Moatlhodi declined to move the motion saying it was undemocratic and unfair and therefore he could not discharge the task.
Meanwhile, addressing the media on Wednesday alongside opposition legislators who had boycotted Parliament for the day in solidarity with him, Saleshando said freedom of speech and freedom of expression are critical for a legislator. “The Speaker wants to elevate himself to a level of a judge by prescribing what evidence is to be brought to parliament. He rejected the evidence I brought to him on Tuesday after he failed to state what kind of evidence he wanted,’ he said.
Saleshando said they decided to go the court route to stop the Speaker from continuing to suspend Members of Parliament at his pleasure.
Still on the issue, several opposition MPs amongst them Tshekedi Khama of the Botswana Patriotic Front slammed Skelemani for favouring the Botswana Democratic Party legislators and accused him (Skelemani) of supporting corruption.
Palapye legislator, Onneetse Ramogapi stated that even though the electorate wanted them to boycott Parliament and return with Saleshando after the end of his suspension they decided to boycott the house just for a single day and resolve the matter legally.
Bobonong legislator, Taolo Lucas said they were fed up with the conduct of the Speaker and stated that they would not hesitate to fight back if he continues treating them unfairly.
Opposition whip Pono Moatlhodi has since Saleshando’s suspension been appointed acting LoO while Baratiwa Mathoothe of the BPF is acting opposition whip.