THE OBSERVER: Opposition MPs are reckless, irresponsible and unwise

SHARE   |   Monday, 16 November 2015   |   By Simon Gabathuse

Perhaps one should begin by congratulating honourable Eric Molale in his triumph to be voted in again as Specially Elected Member of Parliament. Quite an interesting election it was with some members of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party fielding the name of the BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane alongside that of Eric Molale who is considered and or was considered President Ian Khama’s preferred choice for the position. Such an act shall form a separate discussion and scrutiny elsewhere to seek and ascertain what it entailed and or what it was communicating.

Eric Molale’s victory was to be expected because it was the same position that he had resigned from to contest the Goodhope – Mabule constituency. The Member of Parliament position was left vacant by the resignation of the Botswana National Front’s James Mathokgwane to join SPEDU.  Eric Molale was to be thoroughly humiliated at the polls by the traditional leader of Barolong Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II. Such was expected considering the ill feelings focused towards Eric Molale in the run up to the bye election. Well, this is not the matter at hand; the matter at hand is the irresponsibile display of ill-mannered characters of the opposition against themselves!
It is reckless, unwise and irresponsible for members of the opposition to abstain from voting in parliament, whatever the reason. The vote they are supposed to exercise in parliament is not necessarily theirs. It is a vote of the people who voted for them into parliament as their representatives.  We all know that the Botswana Democratic Party will always win everything that has to be decided through a vote in parliament because history has taught us so. The BDP has the numbers that they have been given by the First Past the Post system of electoral governance and hence the majority in parliament.  But this is not reason enough for members of parliament from the opposition block to deny the electorate a representation through a vote.

Democracy is not only about winning an election either at party level, national level or in parliament. It is about an opportunity to exercise your constitutionally given vote.  The members of parliament are given that constitutional right to vote on matters in parliament including the voting in of Specially Elected Members of Parliament as was the case in the very past voting of a Specially Elected Member of Parliament.
The whole concept of shunning an election by opposition members of parliament simply because the numbers are not in their favour is contrary to what the opposition expects from the ordinary Batswana. Despite the opposition members knowing that the Botswana Democratic Party has more members nationally, they have continued to go to the polls every five years to exercise their constitutional and democratic right. They have in the process managed in several instances to bring to the national assembly their preferred members of parliament and councilors in various councils being from the opposition. They have also used this to gauge their numerical presence and democratic contribution to national development. 

This is what democracy is about, it is about the opportunity to take part in decision making and we all know that we can’t all win. Are the opposition members now saying to their members that when they develop a feeling that the numbers are not working for them they should thus desist from voting? That is irresponsible and should not be tolerated hence the electorates must stand up and realise that their vote is not being fully utilised. It is not for the first time that we have heard of this abstaining from voting in parliament. The constitution is very clear as well as the standing orders regulating the National Assembly that such voting shall take place in parliament.

Even if the opposition was to become the ruling today, the same constitution and the same standing orders will continue to be used and voting inside the National Assembly shall continue to be a part of our democracy and a constitutionally given right to decide on matters and developmental agenda as a nation.  The opposition contest for general elections even at the constituencies and wards that they are very much aware that their prospect of winning are terribly low yet they still do so exercise their constitutional right and contest in the name of democracy and the people, their members still go out to spend time in the sun for hours to cast a vote in their favour yet knowing the prospects of winning are embarrassing to be an expectation. 

This is so because the opposition uses the results from such general elections to not only gauge their strength and how it continues to grow or shrink but also use that as a test of active participatory democracy. The opposition must know that their actions resonate with their level of intellect and their level of focused thinking. Refusing to vote simply because of fear that the other party has more numbers than you is not a show of greatness of strength but rather a show of irresponsibility, recklessness and a sign of poor judgment. The opposition must not get consumed in trying so hard to show some form of radicalism and militancy because they will have to continue with the same behaviour if elected into power. The opposition must know that they should expect the same behaviour they are exerting once they are in power if at all such will materialise considering their show of childish, reckless and irresponsible tendencies.  There is a Setswana saying that; “molaakgosi waa e itaela”.
The opposition Members of Parliament must get to the proper habit of exercising their constitutional and democratic right to vote in parliament. The people shall continue to be the judge at the polls. The opposition Members of Parliament should not be players and judges at the same time. Democracy does not operate that way. They must get used to the fact that they are players and the nation is the adjudicator. The notion here is to protect the innocent voter, the ordinary Motswana who talks through his or her vote using those Members of Parliament. The expectation from the voter is that those elected shall go to parliament and not only debate laws, developmental agendas but also vote as appropriate when such an opportunity arises. And indeed, such an opportunity did present itself and the members of opposition opted to shun it. It is not about winning, it about democratic dispensation.
I should also be fair to applaud the new entrant in Member of Parliament for Goodhope – Mabule Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II and the Member of Parliament for Tlokweng Honourable Same Bathobakae for refusing to be childish and irresponsible but rather remembered that they have been voted into parliament to take part and not be mere observers simply going to parliament to register their names for daily allowances. Maybe the opposition Members of Parliament should also as sign of protest not only abstain from voting but also abstain from getting daily parliamentary allowance to really show their displeasure.  I call upon the opposition members of parliament to desist from such reckless, childish and irresponsible behaviour.
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