I cannot agree more Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Magret Nasha on her decision to declare the seat of the Leader of Opposition vacant. Her approach is the most appropriate and wise move.In the interim, I would like to share with the public my considered opinion on the matter to jog her mental faculties and of those legal brains she may wish to consult.
It is common cause that the standing orders recognise that a Leader of Opposition can be generated by a party with a simple majority in parliament, whether that political party is a coalition or not is irrelevant as it will become clearer later. It is also common cause that the UDC has been registered as a political party comprising BNF, BMD and BPP.
In addition the UDC unveiled its voting logo (disc) on the 10th November 2012 at GSS grounds. The voting logo will be used by UDC members, namely BNF, BMD and BPP and any other members, which may join between now and 2014 general elections.
It is further common cause that Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is a political party made up of Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM), National Democratic Front (NDF) (I stand to be corrected speculation is rife that the agreement between NDF and BCP has elapsed) and the original BCP – which had a rainbow logo and a dove smoking dagga.
It is alleged that the BCP is desperately courting MELS of Themba Joina to affiliate to the BCP. So, in the end, the current BCP political DNA comprises BAM, NDF and the original BCP and by extension the BCP is a confederation of political parties.
Similarly, the BNF used to comprise PUSO, Botswana Workers Front and International Socialist of Botswana. Honourable Nehemiah Modubule was a President of PUSO voted under the BNF ticket between 1999-2009. BCP thugs had never asked Hon. Modubule to resign from PUSO in order to become recognised as BNF MP or the Speaker then never rejected Modubule for belonging to two political parties at the same time.
In the present parliament Habano Tlhabano of BAM belongs to BCP and BAM and the speaker never asked him to resign from BAM in order to be counted as BCP Member of Parliament.
Why is it that the UDC is treated differently?
In light of the above synopsis the following facts emerge:The UDC and BCP are political parties registered with the Registrar Of Societies;The UDC and BCP are made up of individual registered political parties, thereby rendering them a coalition or confederation of like–minded individual political parties; or if you like a coalition of willing allies;BAM Member of Parliament for Ngamiland constituency, Honourable Habano Tlhabano, has up to date not tendered his resignation from BAM and crossed the floor to BCP.
Therefore, the BCP has six (6) MPs and BAM has one in parliament, but because of the confederation between BAM and BCP, the nation has always considered Hon. Tlhabano as a BCP member and likewise the UDC treats him as such.
The same treatment accorded to the BAM-BCP-NDF confederation should be accorded to the UDC (BNF-BMD-BPP confederation).Flowing from paragraphs 1 – 4 above, I urge you the Speaker, to also read the standing orders in line with the spirit of Section 32 of the constitution of Botswana. It is my considered opinion that Section 32 (d) of the constitution promotes coalitions/pacts/confederations/alliances between political parties for purpose of taking over the governance of the State.
Section 32 (3) (a) provides that a parliamentary candidate can choose whether to support a particular president and once such a declaration is made, such a candidate will use the voting disc of that presidential candidate. A parliamentary candidate may also choose not to declare which presidential candidate he/she supports. Section 32 (3) (c) states that if a parliamentary candidate chooses to support a particular presidential candidate, such parliamentary candidate must use the voting colour and symbol of the said presidential candidate.
The main crucial provision of the constitution is Section 32 (3) (d) which provides that if no presidential candidate who had scooped more than half (that is 50% + 1%) of the total number of seats for Elected Members in the Assembly, the Chief Justice (Returning Officer) shall declare that no candidate has been elected.
Section 32 (3)(d) of the constitution may assist the Speaker in finding out whether the framers of Botswana constitution intended to prohibit pacts/coalitions/confederations/alliances in the National Assembly of Botswana. If the constitution does not prohibit that, no act of parliament can override a constitutional provision, unless parliament amends section 32(3)(d) of the constitution.
The significance of Section 32 (3) (d) of the constitution rubbishes the argument by the tenderprenuers at BCP that coalition or confederation of parties is not allowed in the National Assembly. As indicated above, the BCP is a confederation of BCP-BAM-NDF whilst UDC is a confederation of BNF-BMD-BPP.
In fact, the BCP has told Batswana that after 2014 general elections it is willing to form a pact/coalition/confederation with UDC to form a government. A pact/coalition/confederation between BCP and UDC can only materialise in terms of Section 32 (3) (d) of the constitution, if no presidential candidate has been declared a winner by Chief Justice. So the BCP quacks must avoid their double speak-cum-cheap politricks. When it suits them, the law allows confederations after 2014 general elections.
When the tide goes against the BCP, the law prohibits confederations before 2014 general elections. How can the same law prohibit confederations before 2014 general elections and allow confederations later? Hypocrites.I implore to speaker to consider Section 32 (3) (d) of the Constitution in making a decision on the issue of the LOO seat in Parliament.
Failure to do so may mean that standing orders do not uphold the spirit of Section 32 (3) (d) of the Constitution; and such an interpretation may have undesirable consequences in 2014 general elections, in the event that no presidential candidate qualifies to have 51% of elected members in the National Assembly.
I also urge the BCP to consider their interpretation and think for the future because if confederations or coalitions of political parties are not allowed, then it means Section 32 (3 (d)) of the Constitution will not be available for UDC and BCP to form a government of national unity or coalition after 2014 general elections.
In a nutshell, I urge Dr. Nasha to declare the seat vacant because currently UDC has seven MPs and BCP has seven as well. The import is that UDC and BCP should go to the drawing board and elect the leader of opposition in a caucus of all opposition MPs; lest the resolution of parliament sponsored by Hon. Maele’s motion to declare the seat vacant should be implemented.
*Khan is the BNF youth league secretary general