What is good for the goose must certainly be good for the gander but it will seem this does not apply in the case of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s (CPA) elections. There was hue and cry last week Tuesday when it emerged that the rules of the elections were being blatantly flouted by the same legislators who should be their custodians.
In this gathering, the level of debate was poor. Some delegates from lower structures such as provincial parliaments which are equivalent to councils in Botswana, appeared lost and their conduct was un-parliamentary .The situation became clear during debates that the outcome of key vacant executive positions were long determined and all that was needed was a formality to justify the elections.
The key positions which were up for grabs were for the Chairperson of the Society of Clerks- at the Table (SOCATT) Africa Region and those of Chairman of the CPA Africa and Treasurer.
Delegates proposed for an amendment on the 19th August proposing to amend Article 46. The General meeting adopted the proposed amendment and inserted a new sub- article which provides a rotation of branch representation within sub regions. The AGM resolved that the amendments should be implemented with immediate effect.
But the executive committee met the next day and reflected on the decision of the AGM, observing that notices of the vacancies were issued in accordance with Article 47 of the constitution before the amendments were adopted. They claimed that the enforcements were made on August 19 to affect the elections slated for 21 August when the process regarding the elections was started over 60 days ago would mean allowing the amendments to operate retrospectively from the date of the declaration of the vacancies.
They further argued that no modalities exist to implement the new decision of rotation system. Based on that, the executive committee overruled the AGM. But, still the three executives refused to budge claiming that they had received legal advice from someone that they never mentioned. They further appeared to have connived with some members to support them during debate.
Those who were against argued that the 60-day notice was meant to notify the members that there were existing vacancies and it does not mean interested parties should submit their names then.
Ironically, the executives applied double standards as they took the decision knowing that during the elections for the chairpersonship of SOCATT they had agreed that the 60-day notice would not apply. At that time Botswana was the only country which had complied through the clerk of the national Assembly, Barbra Ditlhapo who had submitted her name for the position of chairperson.
Instead the executive agreed that a name of Zambian clerk of the national assembly, Cecilia Mbewe be submitted and she later relegated Ditlhapo to become the Central Africa representative. But when it was time for the CPA elections the executive committee insisted that the status qou should remain leading to the Speaker of Kenya Justin Muturi taking over as the chairperson and Vice Treasurer being handed to a Ugandan MP, Elija Okupo.
There was intimidation even from South Africa. A member of the provincial parliament told MP for Francistown South, Wynter Mmolotsi that he is out of order when he tried to set the record straight.Speaking to Botswana Guardian Mmolotsi said it has become apparent that there is one or two countries that are dominating the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association committees and sub- committees.
“The delegates decided at the AGM that these positions should be rotated for, countries must rotate in these positions so that they should not be any one or two countries domineering. “We came up with a resolution as the AGM that we should start rotating with immediate effect.
Now the Regional Executive Committee because they do not want that rotation to take effect immediately, then decided to go and hold a meeting at which meeting they said the constitution talks about 60-days notice of vacancies just purely to notice that there are vacancies available,” he said. According to him Article 47 of the constitution states that: a notice should be sent 60 days before the general annual meeting.
That notice was set, but they want to misinterpret it to say even nominations should be received in 60 days, but that is not in the constitution.
“What happened was that because they had already determined who is going to become the chairperson and other portfolios, they then decided that against the decision of the AGM that now the 60 days notice will apply and if your name was not nominated then you would not take part in those elections”. Meanwhile, at SOCATT at the time of 60 days only, Barbra Ditlhapo’s name appeared but “when they got here, they connived to take her out and replaced her with the name of the Zambian clerk, which is why we are saying at SOCATT they used different rules and this side they used different, whilst the bodies are the same as it is CPA roles, but because it was not favouring them they decided to say the 60-day does not apply”. This is the second time that countries turned against Botswana.
Many of them supported the candidacy of Dr Phenyo Butale for the presidency of the Pan African Parliament, but at the last moment , South Africa allegedly led the de-campaign of Butale in support of Zimbabwe.