Days after complaining bitterly about the impartiality of Kagiso Molatlhegi as parliament speaker, the Gaborone North MP, Haskins Nkaigwa, says that he is exploring ways to table a motion of no-confidence in the former. However, even with such conviction and intent, the MP realises that the odds are stacked against him.
“To table such motion, I will have to consult him and I don’t see him allowing a motion that questions his impartiality,” says Nkaigwa, adding that he is unhappy with the way both Molatlhegi and his boss, Gladys Kokorwe, conduct parliamentary proceedings. “They are never neutral and allow ministers to evade questions put to them by MPs.” To back up the latter assertion, he cites two questions that were asked in parliament recently. The first relates to a question on a plot in a Gaborone ward (Bontleng) that Nkaigwa says the Botswana Democratic Party unlawfully appropriated and doesn’t have records that support its claim of ownership.
He faults the Minister of Lands and Housing, Prince Maele, for insisting, in his answer to a parliamentary question, that the BDP owns the plot. The second relates to a question about a corporate housing complex that is currently being developed in Gaborone North. Nkaigwa’s understanding of the matter is that the land on which this complex is being built was allocated on the understanding that it would be used as an old-age home. The plot was on civic/community land which, in terms of the law, cannot be commercialised. “I have inside information about this issue because when I was mayor of Gaborone, I saw correspondence relating to this plot.
The Town and Country Planning Board rejected the application for change of use but this decision was later reversed upon appeal and against what the law says,” Nkaigwa says. The issue came before parliament in the form of a question and Nkaigwa says that the speaker thwarted efforts by MPs to seek more precise answers about this plot. Standing Order 5.1 (b) says that the Speaker shall preside over parliamentary debates with complete impartiality and shall protect the freedom of speech and debate in the National Assembly and its committees. “I do not believe indeed you are presiding with impartiality,” Nkaigwa told Molatlhegi last week, echoing a sentiment that his Umbrella for Democratic Change colleagues share.
His main gripe was that only BDP MPs were being called upon to contribute to a debate on the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Mr. Speaker, I do not have confidence on you chairing this parliament proceedings. I do not know how I am empowered by this Standing Order, maybe to preside or to introduce a motion of no-confidence on yourself,” the MP said. In response, Molatlhegi said that if Nkaigwa was feeling bored, he should step outside rather than provoke him and try to delay the house’s proceedings. Nkaigwa says that since he can’t give advance notice of his no-confidence motion, he will explore the possibility of tabling it on an urgent basis which is something that parliamentary rules allow.
“I have had to explain to my constituents that my ability to present issues that affect them before parliament is severely hampered by the speakers’ bias against us as UDC MPs,” he adds. In the past, one of the ruling party’s own MPs, Ignatius Moswaane of Francistown West, has likened Molatlhegi to a “prison bully.”