• Cabinet ministers dodge motion on former BMD leader
• BDP MP want to have Motswaledi honoured
Botswana parliament was on Friday in a state of paralysis as the absence of cabinet ministers brought business to a halt, at a time when MPs were to table and debate private members’ motions.
Cabinet ministers started filing out of parliament buildings as soon as the BDP Member of Parliament for Tati West Biggie Butale presented a motion calling for government to name one government facility after the late president of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Gomolemo Motswaledi.
Motswaledi died in a car accident in which the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) later alleged it was foul play and instituted private investigations on the cause of death. The motion calling on parliament to honour Motswaledi seemed not to have sat well with some cabinet ministers who quietly sneaked out of Parliament chambers while Butale was on the floor.
Minister of Lands and Housing Prince Maele interrupted the presentation seeking clarification about which ministry will be responsible for responding to the motion. Deputy Speaker Kagiso Molatlhegi delegated the motion to the Minister of Infrastructure, Science and Technology to take notes as the motion was directed to his ministry but it was later placed under the Office of the President. At that moment the assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Philip Makgalemele also walked out of parliament, prompting the deputy speaker to send the BDP chief whip, Fidelis Molao, to call him back. But Makgalemele was nowhere to be found outside parliament and Molao returned empty handed.
Some MPs started raising concerns about the disappearance of cabinet ministers when they had to respond to important issues in their ministries. Butale's motion was deferred to a later date. Reacting to the postponement MP for Gaborone North Haskins Nkaingwa said he wonders why ministers disappeared when Butale was presenting his motion. “I am wondering what is going on. When the name of Motswaledi is mentioned parliament business becomes mixed up,” he said, calling on the deputy speaker to allow the debate on the motion to continue.
Gaborone Central MP Phenyo Butale - who was evidently disappointed - told the deputy speaker that cabinet is trying to hold parliament to ransom. He said parliament should not exist at the mercy of the executive. “We need an independent parliament because right now cabinet ministers have paralysed this parliament and I wonder why we are still here because there is nothing we can do because all these motions will be postponed,” he said.
Francistown West legislator Ignatius Moswaane also registered his unhappiness over the sudden disappearance of ministers and called on the deputy speaker to allow the debate to continue which was turned down. Other motions which were postponed include the one calling on government to come with a policy to protect the interests of the informal sector which was supposed to be presented by Moswaane.
Deputy speaker Molatlhegi admitted that the absence of ministers had paralysed the parliamentary business and promised MPs that he will meet with the leader of the house, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi to discuss the issue.
In an interview later, UDC chief whip Wynter Mmolotsi said that they are not happy with the behaviour of ministers when legislators want to present private motions. “This is an opportunity for Members of parliament to present their motions but if ministers are going to behave like this it is not good,” he said.
Mmolotsi said the suggestion to name a public facility in the name of the late Motswaledi could have made the ministers run for cover. “Maybe they were afraid what rraetsho (President Ian Khama) will say if he heard that they responded to the motion without consulting him first,” said the Francistown South Member of Parliament.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) chief whip Fidelis Molao said that the absence of a few ministers should not tarnish the whole cabinet. “It is not like it is a trend but this is something that happened only today and led to two or three motions postponed therefore we cannot pass judgment on them,” said Molao.