There was drama in Parliament this week after leader of opposition Duma Boko compared President Ian Khama to a demon. This is how the debate went:
BOKO: I repeat what I have said about your President, our President, that he is like a demon propitiated only by human sacrifice and suffering. He has brought nothing but huge disaster upon our country. As he staggers into his retirement, he will forever be haunted by the guttural cries of the many people whose lives he has wrecked, and the silent tears of the workers of this country whose livelihoods he has brought into rack and ruin...
MR MOLATLHEGI: Procedure. Ke a leboga Madam Speaker. Ke re ke botse tsamaiso ya Ntlo e gore, a go a bo go siame gore Motlotlegi Boko a tshwantshanye Tautona wa lefatshe le, le saatane yo o ratang setlhabelo sa batho? Ke sone se a se buang ka Setswana. A ke tsamaiso ya Ntlo e Madam Speaker?
MADAM SPEAKER: Order! Order! Honourable Boko, take your seat. Ke a tle ke le kope lotlhe from both sides gore fa re bua, re ka bua our facts di utlwala, mme re bua ka tlotla. Go tlotlana rona le go tlotla ba re buang ka bone. Standing Order 23.2 ... (interruptions) ... o se ka wa bua fa ke bua Honourable Kgoroba. Standing Order 23.2 ya re, “the name of the President shall not be used disrespectfully during the debate”. Honourable Boko, baakanya.
MR BOKO: I have not used anybody’s name disrespectfully and I have not violated any Standing Order. I maintain, I am entitled to express my views in relation to how I see things. When I describe a person in a particular manner and compare him, I am entitled to do so, because anything other than that, would amount to a content regulation of free speech and it is unconstitutional. I make that point, I make it with humility, but I make it forcefully.
MADAM SPEAKER: Standing Order says, you should respect.
MR BOKO: I have respected. The Standing Order does not prevent me from saying what I feel and saying what I should say. I have respected, I still continue to respect, but the truth must be told.
MINISTER OF DEFENCE, JUSTICE AND SECURITY (MR KGATHI): Point of order. Madam Speaker, kana tota Ntlo e, e go beile foo ka go go tlotla. When you pass a ruling o re o kopa gore mokaulengwe a boele mafoko morago, then he demonstrates gore he is going to disobey, this House is out of order. Ke kopa gore before we can continue, Standing Order 59.1 se tlhalosa gore, the Speaker’s ruling is final. If this House is going to continue with the Honourable Member a supa tlhoko tlhompho mo go wena, this House is out of order and we
are not going to permit gore go ka nna jalo.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order! Order! Honourable Members, ke santse ke gatelela tlotlo. Honourable Boko, bua puo ya gago, mme o supa tlhompho, o tlotla. Ka tsweetswee, boela mafoko ale kwa morago, o bo o tswelela le speech sa gago.
DR P. BUTALE: Point of order. Thank you so much Madam Speaker. I always say in this House that I am really worried about the blatant attack on our freedom of expression as Members of Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition holds a view and this view is the one that he expressed. I have said it before, that I also hold a view
that the President who was here the other day speaking, he is the worst President we have ever had. If you are
going to criminalise a view that I hold, then there is no use for me to be in this House and for me to have been elected. We plead with you to say that please, protect our freedom of expression, which is foundational to any democracy, which is also facilitative. So, if you are going to tell us how to feel about the President, then you are not doing your job of being impartial.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order! Order! Ka re, fa ke ema fela fa, ke bo ke re, Honourable Dr Butale o tshwana
le sekebekwa, ga ke go buise sentle, so, a re tlhopheng mafoko. Honourable Boko...
MR KEORAPETSE: Point of order. Madam Speaker, ke ne ke kopa gore the Parliamentary Counsel (PC) o ka
re thusa. The Constitution in Section 12(1) provides for freedom of expression and I just want to understand from
him whether that freedom of expression also includes freedom to hold opinions unfiltered or unencumbered.
I just want the PC to clarify that and if that is the case, then we are good to go.
LEARNED PARLIAMENTARY COUNSEL (MR CHIKANDA): Thank you Madam Speaker. As you may know, the freedom of expression is not absolute. If you have a right and it infringes on other people’s rights,
then it means you may be…
MR KEORAPETSE: Sorry Madam Speaker. That is not my question. With the greatest respect, that is not
MADAM SPEAKER: PC, let him clarify his question.
MR KEORAPETSE: Madam Speaker, that is not my question. My question is very simple. Section 12(1) of the Constitution of the Republic provides for freedom of expression and I am asking, if that freedom of expression also includes the freedom to hold opinions? That is my question.
MADAM SPEAKER: She has been asking for procedure. Before I call on the PC, let me call on
Honourable Unity Dow.
MINISTER OF BASIC EDUCATION (DR DOW): Thank you Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, I stand on
a point of procedure to suggest as follows; it may well be that Honourable Boko is correct that he had a right to express that opinion but I think the issue is, the Speaker has made a ruling and I am sure as a lawyer, he knows
that. The Speaker has made a ruling; it may be a wrong ruling but the procedure of this House is that you obey
it, you follow it and you raise the issue in the Assembly outside. The procedure of this House is as follows; the
Speaker makes a ruling, the Speaker like a Judge, like any other person is not always correct but what is our
procedure when that happens or when you believe that has happened? You still obey and you comply with that
particular order, you continue, you raise the issue and perhaps I believe we have a procedure actually to make
sure that we can review Speaker’s rulings in terms of our procedures. The reason we do that is, if for example
you disagree with the Speaker, you may hold a very, very strong view; that is incorrect. If every time we
disagree with her, then we argue with her, we would have a disorderly House. Therefore, my proposal is that
a ruling has been made, a ruling that I am not saying is correct and I am not saying it is incorrect, it is not for
me to say that but a ruling has been made and I think Honourable Boko must in terms of our rules comply,
even as he is unhappy. That is the procedure of this House Madam Speaker. Thank you.
MR CHIKANDA: I was still trying to put forward the point that the right to freedom of expression is not
absolute and anyone is entitled to give his opinion but subject to the rules, and here the rule is Standing Order
23.2 which says that you must respect the President as you express your opinions. Thank you.
ASSISTANT MINISTER OF INVESTMENT, TRADE AND INDUSTRY (MR G. B. BUTALE):
On a point of order Madam Speaker. Thank you Madam Speaker. I believe that we should keep the decorum of this House as it has been in the past. If for some reason the Leader of the Opposition feels that it is okay to call other people demons, we will take that as a declaration of war and we will reciprocate when we respond. Madam
Speaker, we do not really want to go down that gutter route and therefore, I plead upon my professor, my good professor, to just withdraw those demonic words so that we might continue with this good decorum and honour
MINISTER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT (MR TSOGWANE):
On a point of order Madam Speaker. Just to buttress the point made by Honourable Butale, really if we do not want to respect anyone in this world, but at least we must respect the rules of this House. If we are to be honourable as we seem to be enjoying that title of being honourable, let us be honourable and respect the rules of this House and maintain the decorum of this House. We cannot come here and talk as if we are in a beer hall and start insulting others. That is not acceptable.
MR KHAN: On a point of order Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, thank you very much for allowing me to speak. Let me first say this whole issue has come about because Honourable Molatlhegi has translated what the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, my President was speaking in English. So he translated into Setswana and as you know from the past, even yourself, you translated when you permitted in this House that we can say, “shut up” to another Member when another Member is interfering while we are talking. If you say it in Setswana gatwe, “didimala.” Didimala go a letlelesega. It is polite and acceptable. Now ka gore o ranolela kwa Setswaneng from English, it sounds aggressive and everybody’s blood pressure is going up. I think we should just keep calm. Honourable Boko is doing a wonderful job. He was giving his expression of what he feels. Let him continue and finish and we will then respond to him. Thank you very much Honourable Speaker.
MADAM SPEAKER: Honourable Boko, ema o bo o baakanya, o bo o tswelela le speech sa gago, rona re ne re se reeditse re se ja monate. Tswelela le sone, mme o baakantse.
MR BOKO: Thank you very much Madam Speaker. I will use a different set of words. I will withdraw those under protest, but withdrawn, and use the following words about the President; that he behaves like the Gods in a Sophoclean tragedy; aloof, implacable and pitiless. That is what I say. He behaves like the Gods in a Sophoclean tragedy. [Daily Hansard – 07 December 2016]