UDC to sue Parliament

SHARE   |   Monday, 11 July 2016   |   By Keitebe Kgosikebatho

The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has responded with fire to the Speaker of the National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe’s recent iron fist grip on parliamentary proceedings – they are suing Parliament for flouting set standing orders and being prejudiced against opposition Members of Parliament. Speaking to this publication on Friday after consulting with UDC attorneys, Gaborone Central MP Dr Phenyo Butale said the UDC intends to seek the courts’ intervention on a number of issues which includes the recent rampant fashion of expunging material from the Hansard when voted for by the majority. According to Butale, this was worrisome because the ruling party members were now using the system to frustrate opposition members. “It’s bound to set a bad precedence. This can mean that in an instance where they do not like even a statement made by the leader of opposition like his response to the State of the Nation Address they can use their numerical advantage to expunge it,” he said.

Butale said they will also seek the court’s interpretation of the general conduct of the speaker particularly her failure to conduct proceedings as set and guided by Parliament Standing Orders. The Speaker announced to Parliament recently that she won’t take Points of Order and Procedure during questions time, as she deem s them disruptive. According to Butale, the UDC’s stance in the issue is that the decision taken by the Speaker is tantamount to silencing Members of Parliament. “The Speaker cannot stop a member of parliament from raising a Point of Order or Procedure at any time. Our understanding is that she has to grant it and then make a ruling which will then become final; the speaker cannot silence me before she hears what I want to say,” Butale argued. The biggest issue, according to Butale, is to establish where the authority lies in terms of granting MPs’ Points of Order and Procedure. They want the court to interpret the rules as they are, to determine whether the Speaker has such authority. He could not however disclose whether the matter will be filed as an urgent application, saying they are still seeking legal advice on it.

Meanwhile opposition Members of Parliament for Selebi-Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse and Gaborone North Haskins Nkaigwa were on Thursday suspended from attending parliament business for a week after the Speaker invoked standing order No. 60 which, among other things, provides for members to be suspended from the house. The youthful Selibe- Phikwe West legislator, however, has denied any wrong doing on his side which could have influenced the speaker to name him and cause his suspension. According to Keorapetse, the Speaker was employing tyranny tactics to try and instil fear among opposition MPs, demoralise them and simply intimidate them into toeing the line. Keorapetse argued that his suspension was arbitrary and influenced by emotions. “I only stood on a point of procedure but it would seem the Speaker started this session an angry woman but I am not going to be intimidated; I will fight on,” said Dithapelo. He confirmed that he is part of the opposition’s decision to seek legal advice on the Speaker’s conduct and will along with others wage war against Kokorwe and the BDP’s unjust conduct.