Parliament should prohibit offensive language

SHARE   |   Monday, 23 November 2020   |   By Thabang Keteng
Speaker of the National Assembly Phandu Skelemani Speaker of the National Assembly Phandu Skelemani

The National Assembly Act(Privileges and Immunities) create in favour of members of the National Assembly privileges to ensure efficient discharge of their mandates under the doctrine of separation of powers. Section 3 of the Act, confers upon the members the freedom of speech. No member may be sued for defamation or prosecuted for criminal libel or sedition in respect of what he says before the Assembly. This is to allow members to candidly, forthrightly without inhibition express their views without the fear of a legal action being taken against them. Even if a cause of action can arise from what was said by the member, as long as he said it within the precincts and before the National  Assembly or any of its committees, he/she is entitled to absolute immunity.

However, the freedom of speech shall not be abused, and members should not use it for their personal interest, hiding under it with the knowledge that they are entitled to immunity. The Standing Orders of the National Assembly attempt, in a timorous fashion to prevent abuse of this right by means of its rules and orders. Members are not allowed to publish offensive, unnecessary and  insulting language as this will now be now to satisfy the interests of the members. Any member who contravenes these restrictions, should be required to withdraw them and failure to do so, the Speaker should order that he be suspended from the National Assembly with immediate effect upon order. If he/she still persists, the Speaker should invite security in the National Assembly to come and help the member perform such a difficult activity if it is. The Standing orders should have that provision which directly condemns the unparliamentary, objectionable, calumnious and unsubstantiated language that requires the intractable member to withdraw and apologize for such language.


*Second year Law student at University of Botswana.

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