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UDC threatens to walk-out of Parley committees

Publishing Date : 02 December, 2019


The main opposition party, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), is resolute and will fight to the bitter end with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), to have an equitable and proportional representation in the Parliamentary Standing Committees.

There are 23 Parliamentary Committees from which five are Inter-Parliamentary Committees and already the latter’s members have been elected with 18 committes expected to be voted for next week. It is from the five international parliamentary committess that the UDC has read malice from their counterparts and raised a complaint.

“We have already submitted a complaint over the unequal representation of the inter-parliamentary committes in which you will have five BDP members against one of us. There should be equal and proportional representation in these committees, the BDP is ruling how can they police themselves,” UDC spokesperson on Parliamentary Reforms and Culture, Pono Moatlhodi asked rhetorically.

UDC which ammased 15 constituencies from last month’s General Elections, is unwavering in their stance and has threatened that should the BDP maintain ‘selfishness’ in other committes to be voted for next week, they will walk-out. “If our complaint fell on deaf ears, we will defintely walk out of those Standing Committees including from the inter-parliamentary committees because clearly it will be all about the BDP. But remember we were all voted for by Batswana to oversee their assets,” Moatlhodi who is also the opposition whip threatened.

The 2014-19 Parliament had a bad start owing to the selection of committee members. Back then, all the 20 UDC members walked out of the committees as a way of protest to show their displeaure on biased committee selection. The then Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Kokorwe refused to soften her stance, leaving opposition only with Public Accounts Commitee, to Chair. The Standing Orders compels that the PAC be Chaired by an opposition member.

 “If they do like what happened in the past we will even write to some of the international organisations so that they know that there is unfair practice in Botswana, despite being hailed as a shining example of democracy. That way, we know that they will not be allowed to have  a say in those events,” posited Moatlhodi who is representing Tonota constituency at the National Assembly.

The selection was made this past Thursday, with the results expected to be out on Friday (yesterday). This week all the legislators wishing to be in any of the 18 committees, submitted their names to the National Assembly Secretariat for consideration. The voting is done by the August House accross the political divide.

As is, the BDP which has 38 MPs plus six that were Specially Elected as Members of Parliament (SEMP) has 18 members eligible to seat in the committees. On the other hand, UDC has 15 while Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) has 3, with Alliance for Progressives (AP) with a single member. It is from this corner that UDC wants reasonable representation.

Apart from unfair representation, the UDC laments that it is Batswana or Parliamentary business that will suffer the most. This, Moatlhodi says, is because if a member for instance is sitting in five committes and they (committees) clash, the other one will be at a disadvantage.
Following the protests immedeately after the 2014 elections, the BDP through its then Chief Whip, Fedilis Molao compromised so that the National Assembly business could not be compromised. Out of 18 Standing Committes BDP got 9 while the remaining 9 was divided between UDC and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) MPs. The storm was over, and business continued. This could be what Moatlhodi is hoping for this term.

While the opposition is adamant that it has a case to abandon Parliamentary committees, the BDP on the other hand, is of the view that the opposition should understand that they are a party in power. The BDP has always been of the view that the commitee representation numbers should reflect the number of one’s seats in Parliament. The BDP Chief Whip, Liakat Kablay told this publication that they are likely to have  a 50-50 representation but revealed that it is all about democracy as those with many members will win.

The Botswana Parliament is created by Section 57 of the Constitution and it is composed of the President and the National Assembly. The role of Parliament is to make laws as stipulated in Section 86 of the Constitution, which states that: ‘Parliament shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Botswana.’ In this way it means Parliament exercises legislative powers as one of its core mandates. In addition, Parliament performs functions such as representation, scrutiny and oversight



Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?