On Monday 6 July, 2015, the 3rd meeting of the 1st Session of the 11th Parliament will commence.
It is estimated that the meeting, dubbed winter session of Parliament, will end on or around 7 August, 2015. A notice from the Clerk of the National Assembly especially encourages Members of Parliament (MPs) to forward their questions and motions to the office and informs all Ministries to ensure the maturity of Bills they intend to present before Parliament to avert requests for Bills to be dealt with under the Certificate of Urgency.
The winter session of Parliament is very short, about a month. It is going to be even shorter for some MPs who will be in Durban from the 6-12 July on a Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) Plenary Session. Moreover, the month of July is a very important month in politics, political parties go for their congresses.
Themes, questions and motions for the winter session are likely to be informed by what MPs have uncovered during their consultations in their constituencies and other topical issues.
MPs have been meeting heads of government departments and agencies, trade unions and employer’s organisations, VDCs, associations and NGOs and have been addressing Kgotla meetings. Some of the issues which are likely to dominate the session include the power and water crisis. There is likely to be Ministers Questions or Questions Without Notice on these two issues. Batswana are obviously angry and disappointed that after spending billions of Pula at Morupule B Power Plant, the country is still besieged by continuous power outages.
Worse, there is an unreliable water supply and acute shortage in many areas including the capital city. Batswana are eagerly waiting to hear what their MPs will say about these issues. It likely that an urgent motion will be tabled on these issues. Some issues which were not concluded, like debates on the land policy will be dealt with during the winter session.
On the list of motions to be moved, there are 39 motions, of which 20 are for one MP whereas others have 9, 4, 3 and 1 motions each. There are about 7 MPs whose names appear on the list of 39 motions to be tabled. Some motions appearing on the list are ill-conceived, unnecessary and a waste of time. Some should have been turned these into Ministers Questions or ordinary questions. Some of the MPs who intend to table such motions should be properly advised to reformulate them or turn them into questions.
In some cases the issues MPs intend to address through motions can be dealt with administratively through appropriate government offices. During the adjournment, some MPs were attending inter-parliamentary bodies. Some Parliamentary Committees were also sitting for instance the Public Accounts Committee and others.
Some of these committees will use the winter session to meet and compile their reports to be tabled in the following session or if they finish whilst the session is on, may table their reports during the winter session. The committees’ reports with findings and recommendations will be tabled in Parliament for consideration and adoption.
Given the available resources including time, human and material, committees’ reports are likely to be tabled in the next session of Parliament. Some committees’ have failed to meet during the adjournment, for example the committee dealing with Justice, Defence, Security and Government Assurances.
Some committees can sit during the time of Parliamentary sessions as long as they don’t clash with the actual session of the National Assembly while others it is difficult to almost impossible to meet during the sessions.
On the Government Business, there are some Bills which are likely to be tabled. Whilst there is no clear information on which Bills will be tabled, some Permanent Secretaries have hinted on what their ministries are likely to ask Parliament to legislate on.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has hinted that the Minister of State President is likely to table a Bill on whistle blowing. There has been a demand for a law on whistle blowing to revamp the country’s anti-corruption strategy. Moreover, the government, in collaboration with the DCEC and Botswana Institute of Development and Policy Analysis (BIDPA) have been working on an anti-corruption policy which is likely to be also tabled during the winter session if there are no delays.
The winter session is likely to be a busy albeit short session with very interesting issues to be discussed by MPs. The session is likely to have 4 or at most 5 Fridays. The significance of Fridays in Parliament is that these are Private Members Businesses days. In other words, MPs can ask Ministers Questions or Themes or table motions only on Fridays.
Other days are for ordinary questions and debates on what is on the agenda like debating a Bill or some other Government Business issue. Only urgent motions can be debated on a day other than a Friday, unless there is a vote to amend the agenda. All in all it is likely to be an interesting, cold and short winter session.