Parliament has no Leader of Opposition

“On the 23rd day of November 2012, I received letters from the following seven Honourable Members of this House, namely; The Honourable Mr Nehemiah Modubule (Member for Lobatse); The Honourable Abram Kesupile (Member for Kanye South); The Honourable Phillip Khwae (Member for Kgalagadi North); The Honourable Gilbert Mangole (Member for Kgatleng West); The Honourable Wynter Mmolotsi (Member for Francistown South); The Honourable Tawana Moremi (Member for Maun West); and The Honourable John Toto (Member for Kgalagadi South).

Three of the members, namely, Kesupile, Khwae and Toto, were recognised by this House as members of the Botswana National Front party, from the inception of this 10th Parliament to date. The Modubule, was at the inception of this 10th Parliament, recognised by this House, as an Independent Member, but during the course of this Parliament, upon signifying his allegiance and membership to the Botswana Movement for Democracy Party, he was accordingly accorded recognition as such in this House.

Moremi, Mangole and Mmolotsi were all at the inception of the 10th Parliament members of the Botswana Democratic Party, and have during the course of this current parliament changed their political allegiance when they resigned from the Botswana Democratic Party and formed the Botswana Movement for Democracy Party.

The effect of the letters, individually addressed to me by each of the Honourable members, is to notify me that they are now members of the newly formed political party called the Umbrella for Democratic Change, which membership they state, is by virtue of the fact that their respective parties, namely, the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), of which they are members, have in the words of their letter, “ ..... affiliated to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)”.

The members in terms of paragraph 2, of their letter, invoke the provisions of Standing Order Number 7.3, to notify me as the Speaker of the House, that they, “ ... have changed ... political allegiance to the U.D.C”.
Honourable Members, on previous occasions, when a member notified me of his or her change of political party allegiance, it was a straight forward matter of crossing the floor by resigning from one political party and joining the other.

The issue of political party entities acquiring “group membership” of another, never arose in the history of Botswana’s Parliament, neither is it even anticipated in our Standing Orders, and that is why I told this House on Monday, that I needed to inform myself about the complexities involved in this matter, and make a judicious decision.

The provision of the Standing Orders of this House to which the Honourable Members have made reference to, reads as follows; 7.3  Any member who crosses the floor or changes his or her political allegiance shall inform the Speaker in writing as to which party he or she belongs. The Speaker shall announce such information to the House and recognise the political party to which the member belongs.

In support of their letters, the members have each annexed a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change singed and executed by the Registrar of Societies on the 23rd day of August 2012. On the face whereof it is evident that the said political party was registered in terms of Section 6 (1) of the Societies Act, which section provides for the registration of Local Societies.

I am satisfied that in terms of Section 6 (4) of the Societies Act Cap 18:01, the copy of the certificate of registration produced by the Honourable Members is prima facie evidence of the registration of the Umbrella for Democratic Change. The relevant provision of the Act reads as follows-
Section 6 (4)

On registering or exempting from registration a local society, the Registrar shall issue to the society a certificate in the prescribed form, which certificate shall be prima facie evidence of registration or of exemption from registration of the society, as the case may be.

In view of the members letters presented to me, I am now seized with the responsibility to discharge a function thrust upon me by the provisions of Standing Order number 7 of our Parliament, a function I shall refer to as the recognition of parties in the House of Parliament. The provisions of Standing Order 7.3, delineate the parliamentary process of party recognition.

The provisions of Standing Order number 7.3 impose an onus on a member of parliament to inform the Speaker in the event of occurrence of the member crossing the floor, or the member changing his or her political allegiance.

The provisions of Standing Order number 7.3 further describe the manner in which this onus must be properly and fully discharged by the members of the House, and that is, the member - “ .... shall inform the Speaker in writing as to which party he or she belongs”.

The member having satisfactorily and fully discharged this onus, the provisions of the same standing Order thrust upon the Speaker a twofold function, and that is to;-
“ announce such information to the House ... “; and to
“ recognise the political party to which the member
belongs”  

It is notable that the Speakers’ functions are prefaced by the word “ ..... shall. .... “, making the Speaker’s function a peremptory one, once a member has fully discharged the onus to inform the Speaker.

The question that arises for my consideration is whether the Honourable Members have each fully discharged the onus to inform the Speaker of this House that they have changed their political allegiance to the Umbrella for Democratic Change, and whether they have satisfactorily signified that they belong to the new political party.

Each individual member’s letter has invoked the words that refer to a change of allegiance in Standing Order 7.3. Allegiance denotes a duty of loyalty, and in respect of this matter, the members have each expressly declared and pledged their duty of political loyalty to the new party, the Umbrella for Democratic Change.

I must however be satisfied that each of the Honourable Members have satisfied the requirement of Standing Order 7.3, that is, that they belong to the new political party. A member’s state of belonging to a party, denotes his or her membership thereto.

The members in their letters, each state that they are members of the new political party, by virtue of the fact that their respective parties of which they are members have “ ... affiliated to the Umbrella for Democratic Change”.
The member’s respective parties affiliation to the new party, sufficiently denote their association, and membership thereto .

The provisions of the Societies Act, Cap 18:01, more particularly
Section 3 (2) thereof, are particularly instructive as to whether the individual members of the Botswana National Front, and the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) should or should not be regarded as members of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, by virtue of the mere fact of their respective parties membership to the new party, and it provides as follows;
Section 3 (2)

“Where any body of persons, whether corporate or unincorporate is a member of an association, all members of such body shall be deemed to be members of such association”.

The effect of the foregoing provision is to create a deeming effect, that is, by virtue of a body corporate, which corporate is constituted by a body of persons, becoming a member of an association, the Act in those circumstances, automatically confers membership of the association to the individual members of the body corporate who are members of the said association.

I am therefore satisfied that, the Honourable members, from whom I have received letters, pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 7.3, are members of the Umbrella for Democratic Change party, and have sufficiently demonstrated their change of political allegiance and pledge of loyalty thereto in this House.

I accordingly accord them recognition in this Honourable House individually, as members of the Umbrella for Democratic Change. I cannot conclude this ruling without reference to the provisions of Standing Orders 7.3 and 9.1, and the possible effect thereto by my ruling today. The provisions of which standing orders read as follows;

“A party with majority seats in the House shall be recognised as the “official opposition party”.”
“there shall be a leader of the opposition, who shall be the official spokesperson of the majority opposition party in the House”.

The effect of my ruling on this 28th day of November 2012, is that there are two parties in the opposition benches of this House, namely, Botswana Congress Party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change and they each command a membership, of seven members in the House.

Consequently we have a hung opposition, and it is my ruling that non of these parties meet the requirements of Standing Orders 7.2 and 9.1, and in the result, this House has no official opposition party. It is my ruling therefore, that the Botswana Congress Party shall effective from this ruling cease to be the official opposition party, and the 

Dumelang Saleshando ceases to be the leader of opposition, which position I accordingly hereby declare vacant.
My office shall shortly hereafter, undertake the appropriate steps to satisfy the formalities of Standing Order 14 in respect of House sitting, to reflect the new party complexion of the House, as well as ancillary rearrangements in respect of our committee structures, and political party whips.
I thank you”
Nasha is the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Last modified on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 16:12

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