Parliament has adjourned sine die last week Friday. Whilst the House adjourned sine die, it is expected to be convened sometimes in November with the President presenting the State of the Nation address.
The day will mark almost a year since the 11th Parliament started its work since October 2014 general elections. Members will between now and November consult their constituents, attend committee meetings, go on international trips to attend inter Parliamentary bodies meetings and other miscellaneous work. Prorogation of Parliament by the President will mark the end of the first session and all pending business shall terminate and lapse. Characteristic of the 11th Parliament there was drama on the day it adjourned as some members of Parliament from the opposition were thrown out by the Speaker of the National Assembly.
It has been a dramatic first session. Just after the 2014 polls, there was a marathon court case in which the Attorney General sued political parties represented in Parliament over the constitutionality of the Standing Orders in respect of voting for the Speaker and the Vice President. The case had more to do with the ruling party internal issues than any principle of law or democracy. The case was dismissed with costs. The Speaker, her Deputy and the Vice President were elected through a secret ballot against the wishes of the President. Subsequently the State of the Nation was presented and debated by MPs. It was as it is usually the case devoid of any substance in terms of real achievements on major problems facing Batswana. It was full of self praise and the President relished his fraudulent victory and basked on his glory. The victory was fraudulent in so far as he became President notwithstanding majority of the voters rejecting him.
Parliamentary Committees were assembled and in almost all the committee the ruling party chaired and became the majority. The opposition’s protest over the issue yielded little victory. As it is now, these committees are paralysed and dysfunctional. They struggle with a quorum and in some cases chairpersons are incompetent, wayward and truant. It would be very difficult for Parliament to provide its oversight role effectively with dysfunctional committees. There appears no good end in sight over these committees.
Some MPs from both sides of the aisle have been thrown out for flouting rules of procedure and decorum of the House.This issue must be looked at closely because it is not all the time that MPs are wrong. Sometimes MPs are frustrated by the Speakership for selective application of the rules, vacillation, indecision and sometimes outright bias.Truth be told, opposition MPs are frustrated; their contributions are stifled by the biased Speakership, bad rules and arrogant ruling party ministers acting in cohost with the Speaker. What happened on the last Friday is instructive. Government Business took precedence over Private Members Business on a day designated for the latter. Opposition MPs unsuccessfully protested. When the Tax Bill went for committee stage, an opposition MP was ignored when he stood up to move an amendment and instead the Leader of the House was recognised to move a motion to extend the time. During the fracas of protests from the opposition and an attempt by the Speaker to squeeze in the ruling party’s motion, the clock hit 1300 hours and the time was up, however, the Speaker proceeded to to allow extension of the time. These illegal acts should be expected because the ruling party’s arrogance in Parliament and in the running of the affairs of the Republic has grown immensely. The ruling party will abuse its majority and if need be engage in obnoxious and illegal actions to get their way.
Many Ministers of government have become too arrogant, elusive and even liars in an effort to hide their incompetence, failures and blunders as well as lack of delivery of services and public goods by the government. They seldom properly, adequately and honestly answer questions. Ministers have repeatedly crossed swords with MPs over how they answer questions. Sometimes the altercations are between the most of the time lukewarm and hopeless backbench of the ruling party and their Ministers. Questions seeking to make the government to account on matters of corruption and mismanagement or unethical governance, lack of service delivery e.g. Water and electricity issues etc are detested by Ministers. Sometimes substantive issues of national interest are trivialised because Ministers don’t want to account. They are only accountable to themselves and not Parliament. The not so aggressive and inexperienced MPs are saddened and demoralised by this attitude of Ministers and feel helpless. The Speakership has dismally failed to intervene on behalf of MPs and this has on many occasions resulted in degeneration of Parliament into chaos. If this is not attended to soon, fist fights may result and the country would be embarrassed.
What Batswana, civil society, the media and youth groups as well as political parties should realize is that the time has come for the ruling party to go. It has become a national liability, the nation is heavily laden with incompetent, conceited and bereft of ideas leadership in government. These criminals have to go because there is little that the opposition in Parliament can do to change things. The opposition can cry all they want in Parliament, they do not care, they will plunder or pillage, they will oppress the workers, students and women as well as the media. They will pass bad laws and policies unabated with deleterious impact on the nation. They will rundown the economy through handouts and misplaced priorities.
The priority of opposition should be to talk and find a common ground on how they can work together to stop the madness. Trade unions, the church, youths, media, academia and all pro-democratic forces should aide the cooperation efforts in all ways possible.
Opposition parties are already working together in Parliament and councils and should think about working together to not only unseat the ruling party but to bring about a meaningful change that will impact on Batswana positively. Change is the only way forward.