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Home » News » Politics » MPs suspend proposed ‘progressive’ parley reforms

MPs suspend proposed ‘progressive’ parley reforms

Publishing Date : 06 September, 2017

Author : ALFRED MASOKOLA

Longest serving Member of Parliament, also recognised as Father of the House in parliament, Slumber Tsogwane this week moved to prevent parliament from adopting what many MPs across the political aisle hailed as a progressive step towards parliament independence.


The constitution of Botswana grants parliament “the power to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Botswana” and further grants parliament the power to regulate its own procedure. It is through Standing Orders that parliament guides it own procedure. Despite the proposed Standing Orders reforms enjoying support across the political parties, the Boteti West legislator vehemently opposed the reforms as he noted that most of them will cause unnecessary delays in the business of parliament. Tsogwane was against Standing Order 60.4 which compelled the Speaker to consult with party whips before suspending a member of services of the National Assembly.

This forced the speaker to immediately adjourn the proceedings and called an impromptu General Assembly meeting, of which a decision was reached to suspend adoption of the amendments pending further consultation with MPs. The General Assembly is a gathering of legislators and the Speaker of the National Assembly where the parliament business and procedures are discussed and agreed. Chaired by the maverick Tati East legislator, Samson Guma, prior to this week’s session MPs had a two day General Assembly meeting where MPs deliberated on the reforms.

THE PROPOSED REFORMS

Notwithstanding that the Speaker’s rulings during proceedings are final, he/she is stripped of using her discretion as the new provision compels him/her to be guided by his/her previous rulings, if such rulings have been approved by the Business Advisory Committee. This is unlike before when Speakers’ ruling were approved or reviewed by Standing Orders Committee, the Business Advisory Committee comprising Leader of the House (Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi), Leader of the Opposition (Duma Boko), Chief Whip (Liakat Kablay) and opposition whip (Wynter Mmolotsi) and the Speaker of the National Assembly.  The Speaker of the National Assembly is however deprived the power of participation in the committee if her rulings are being reviewed by the committee.


Guma who also chairs the resilient Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises, has seen Standing Orders Committee introducing a new committee called Committee on Government Assurances, which shall consist of a Chairperson and seven members. The committee is given the authority to exercise parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over assurances made by the government in parliament including execution of resolutions made in parliament. The committee is also empowered to sit during meetings of the House and as best as possible during times as do not coincide with the sitting of the House to consider urgent matters.


Previously there have been concerns that the executive, overly ignored motions passed by parliament on the basis that, motions, unlike bills are not binding and only act as advisory tools to government and government may only use its discretion to execute them. The introduction of the Committee on Government Assurances is seen as progressive and necessary to make government accountable for its own obligations.


While legislators, especially in the opposition benches and backbenchers had wished to see President Lt Gen Ian Khama appearing before parliament to answer to questions from MPs with regard to matters of national concern, the committee has resolved that, the Vice President, who is also Leader of the House, will step in for the duty instead. Standing Order 40 (B) resolves that there shall be asking of questions by Members to the Leader of the House on issues of national, regional and international importance every other Thursday.

Among the proponents of the President appearing before parliament to field questions from the ruling party is outspoken Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane who has previously expressed that Khama should come before parliament to account to legislators.  
The new standing orders also limit the number of motions which MPs can table in a meeting. MPs are only entitled to two motions per meeting except in a scenario where there are no more motions tabled by other members to be debated. In the previous set-up, motions where debated based on first come basis, meaning the house was at times saddled with the duty to debate consecutive motions belonging to one legislator casting other MPs out.

Amid good reception from MPs across the political divide, Duma Boko, who is the Leader of Opposition’s status, has been relegated. Boko previously enjoyed the same status as Leader of the House, Mokgweetsi Masisi and entitled to make statements on any matter of national importance. The new standing order number 9.3.4 states that “the time allotted to the Leader of the Opposition shall be less than the time allotted to the presenter of the State of Nation Address, the Budget Speech or any other major Government Policy, or the time allotted to the Leader of the House under the Standing Order.

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