Madam Speaker, I will limit my speech to three principal things that continue to agitate those to whom you owe your powers or lack thereof. First, non-disclosure of information in the House by those charged with executive powers for which they were mandated to perform by the public.
Second, is the making of deliberately misleading statements in the house for purposes such as political expediency or pre-emption of accountability and thirdly the unfortunate trend of using numerical strengths for perverted purposes by those in charge of leading the country.
Non-disclosure of information in the House
It is disappointing that lately, a few of you who wield executive powers deny your colleagues the right to speak intelligibly about issues of concern in the country by denying them access to information. Non-disclosure of information in the House by those entrusted with such is a cancer that must be nipped in the bud. If this sickening practice is allowed to take firm root in your midst it will obliterate the nation’s aspirations to be an informed and educated nation by 2016. On several occasions the issue of non-disclosure of certain information by a Minister in the House or alleged withholding of information from the House by a Minister during a discussion were raised. Some ministers whom I loathe to address as honourable have the tendency of avoiding answers.
Such ministers would, instead of answering questions, tell the house that the information sought is in public domain. May I remind them that they too are in a public domain and their dispensation of duties should be beyond reproach. Let me hasten to point out to those who have fallen prey to that habit that such is a criminal practice and it must stop forthwith.
You should be mindful that any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either the house in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such house in the discharge of his or her duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt of the House even though there is no precedent of the offence.
Making of deliberately misleading statements in the house
Madam Speaker, another ill that abounds in this House is that of making deliberately misleading statements. It is well-settled that making a misleading statement deliberately may be treated as breach of privilege and contempt of the house. As torch bearers of the nation you should be loathe to lies and acts of deceit. However, some of you resort to these evil tactics to fulfil your interests. I implore you, ladies and gentlemen; to label as enemies of the people those who put their interests first at the detriment of Batswana, irrespective of their political affiliation or creed. Those MP’s who are in the habit of misrepresentation of facts must be alienated and punished by those who stand for the good in the house.
Currently we do not see those who put the future of this country in jeopardy punished because many of you honourable MP lack flexible and independent thinking. There are many who have reduced themselves to mere chess pieces in the hands of a select few who are hell-bent on satisfying their selfish ends. Others are mere fawning adulators of the good and the bad done by their master puppeteers and this leaves one wondering where the seemingly strong-willed and principled men and women we met at the freedom squares are. It is time for each one of you to stand up and rise above petty personal convictions, self-aggrandisement and partisan sentiments and be counted as a true representative of the people.
Let me acknowledge the predicament that some of you find themselves in when it comes to voting or making utterances that go against the grains of your parties. However, each one of you must remember that the measure of a man is how true he is to his convictions. It is a fact that some of you have to caucus before coming to this house for reasons of cohesion and coherence on the issue to be debated. Notwithstanding, one’s sincerity on what is right for the welfare of the nation should guide him or her in their deliberation and/or voting in the house. If Batswana are to be a tolerant nation, parliament should become a microcosmic representation of that aspiration in this regard. There must be plurality of thought and tolerance thereof within and across political divides. After all truth is best served when dissent is permitted.
Ladies and gentlemen, remember that your freedom of speech in the House is an essential pre-requisite for the efficient discharge of your parliamentary duties, in the absence of which, you may not be able to speak out your mind and express your views in the House without any fear. The importance of this right for MP’s is underlined in the immunity accorded to you from civil or criminal proceeding in a court of law for having made any speech/disclosure or any vote cast inside the House or committee thereof.
Therefore, during sessions you are to distinguish between partisan thought and affiliations and the needs of your constituents and the nation at large. The expectations and aspirations of your constituency must take the centre stage at the expense of those of a select few avarice-driven and self-seeking minds; your wills must be bent on serving your people and should be guided by principled thought and a resolute mind to execute one’s duties without fear or favour.
There are a few, of course, who have put their positions and persons at risk because of their continued need to do what is right in the eyes of the common citizen and those few are worthy of commendation. Such MP will always be remembered as the embodiment of a parent figure by their constituents.
Speaking of a parent figure, you are justly called mong-ame for that you are expected to exercise a manner or resemblance of a parent figure upon your constituents; for if you will consider the attributes of a good father or mother you shall see how they agree in the person of a Member of Parliament. An MP has power to create or destroy, make or unmake at his or her pleasure his constituency; to give life to it or send it to death; to judge all, and to be judged yet he or she must remain accountable to his people for in their name she or he holds his or her power.
The use of numerical strengths for perverted purposes
Madam Speaker, there is no evil worse than the majority’s use of their strength in numbers to frustrate the efforts of those who wish to improve the general welfare of the people. Lately, we have seen a catalogue of episodes that show that some of you are holding this country at ransom. It is my firm belief that the motions; declaration of asserts: the freedom of information bill: the land audit and many other ideas that were put before this House during the 10th parliament would have benefitted our nation, had they not been dismissed by the power of numbers.
Suffice to say, those who stood against these otherwise good ideas, know they did so against their humane side simply because the motions did not reflect well against their interests. We have seen yet again a litany of unfortunate incidents where numbers were used for perverted purposes: the issue of the secret ballot for election of the Speaker of the House and the composition of parliamentary oversight committees to mention but a few. History will judge those who shoot down good initiatives and use their numbers for partisan gains harshly because they will not only go down as agents of regression, but also as quintessential demons who sold their souls and that of the country to greed.
It is equally wrong for those in the minority in the house to use the public’s good will for purposes other than improving the welfare of the said public. If those who are charged with running the country come up with initiatives, those in the minority should help shape such or provide alternative ideas that would bear better results. It is no crime to put aside political variance and/or hostility when occasion demands.
It is appalling that many of you hibernate until a year before the next general elections. When such characters wake up from their deep slumber, they use whatever resource they have accumulated over their four years of disservice and slumber to entice the poverty-stricken, unemployed, ill-informed citizenry so that they extend their time of slumber in parliament. It is sickening to mention that such unscrupulous MP’s and their parties take advantage of the indignity they render upon the electorate to railroad them into voting for them. During the 2014 electioneering period many constituencies heard for the first time in nearly five years your voices: they for the first time had that ‘compassion’ from you as you bought them free meals: they for the first time had you come uninvited into their fenceless yards with only one ramshackle mud house which you used to put up a poster of your power hungry face. Does it mean your constituents will only get to see and hear you every four years? Have you no pity, ladies and gentlemen for these people you treat like lotus eaters?
Unfortunately, this is how you as individuals and as parties garner numerical strengths. The same strength that you use as individuals and as parties to frustrate well intended ideas in the house. The public is not impressed by your double personalities. You go to them and appear humble, compassionate, but when you get into this house you become too aloof and uncompassionate.
Madam Speaker, let me conclude by saying be like birds to your constituencies not toads. Birds are forever present come good or bad season while toads are only present during the wet season. For those of you with executive powers, desist from the big-brother mentality over your colleagues here in the House. The public is tired of turn-coats; sycophants; and bootlickers for such have corroded principled representatives who are guided by deep seated convictions and service to the people and the spirit of botho.
I thank you for your audience
Koketso D. Koketso