Op­po­si­tion con­tin­ues to goof off

Lesotho Times - - Leader - Makha­bane maluke

The re­sump­tion of sit­tings of par­lia­ment af­ter the 2015 Christ­mas and new-year re­cess en­acted an­other unim­pres­sive drama which showed there had been no re­hearsal for the op­po­si­tion show. The 8th and 9th Fe­bru­ary in­ci­dents only added to an ear­lier show en­acted by the ma­jor­ity of the op­po­si­tion who had opted not to re­ceive his Majesty for the in­spec­tion of Guard of hon­our for his of­fi­cial open­ing of the 9th Par­lia­ment.

To those across the political di­vide, the re­cent show re­vealed their lev­els of mis­un­der­stand­ing in the work­ings of par­lia­ments. This, how­ever, is un­less that was just a pre­tence in­tended to just amuse the gallery. even then, there was noth­ing to amuse on­look­ers about on such a long awaited oc­ca­sion re­lat­ing to Judge Phumaphi`s re­port. The mere ques­tion­ing of the “Tabling” and in­sis­tence on “pub­li­ca­tion” of the re­port was a lit­tle too much to be made by an MP. Only an MP who learnt par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure and prac­tice from a text book au­thored by an­other fresher MP whose mem­ber­ship ended im­me­di­ately with the end of their in­duc­tion as new MPS could ques­tion thus.

A more in­ter­est­ing scene of their drama was when a large num­ber of them re­sponded pos­i­tively to the hon Speaker`s call for those who had not re­ceived copies to stand up. Some com­men­ta­tors viewed that as a ploy to es­tab­lish and show, to on­look­ers and the world, that there were many who ac­tu­ally had keen in­ter­est to re­ceive copies and par­take in the pub­li­ca­tion of the doc­u­ment which oth­ers had thrown away.

Ab­sence of the op­po­si­tion dur­ing their stay­away may have had a neg­a­tive im­pact on many-es­pe­cially the new com­ers who only learn as they go. had they for­got­ten that the house is guided through Stand­ing Or­ders? It was only when the Speaker in­voked the nam­ing sanc­tion of the dis­or­derly that some re­alised their show was not in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

how one PR mem­ber, known for his out­spo­ken­ness in the english lan­guage in the house, re­sponded to the im­pend­ing ac­tion re­vealed that the op­po­si­tion was caught un­aware. That honourable mem­ber was heard from ra­dio broad­cast of pro­ceed­ings, shout­ing a plea to the Speaker, this time in Se­sotho: “hon Speaker, we know you have the power (rea tseba u na le matla). Please do not re­duce our num­ber (se ke oa re fokotsa...” That sounded more se­ri­ous; but was very be­lated be­cause the Chair could not pick the more se­ri­ous in the midst of a cho­rus where ev­ery­one in the op­po­si­tion had his/her mi­cro­phone on and chant­ing any­thing, un­recog­nised.

The ap­proach of the hon Speaker on the two oc­ca­sions was an­other valu­able les­son - for those with knowl­edge of what has to be ex­pected of world-class Pre­sid­ing Of­fi­cers. She was very dex­trous: in the right hand, she held a suc­cu­lent car­rot (calm­ness, tol­er­ance etc), which ac­tu­ally sent a wrong sig­nal to the op­po­si­tion to in­ter­rupt even more, with some hope to have their way.

It was only when the Speaker`s left hand un­leashed a stick that the op­po­si­tion re­alised the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of their un­re­hearsed per­for­mance in a house of par­lia­ment. To con­firm they were shocked, they all left the house to­gether with their named col­leagues. Could this have been a show of sol­i­dar­ity or just a tac­ti­cal with­drawal to avoid fur­ther hu­mil­i­a­tion? The lat­ter is a strong pos­si­bil­ity, know­ing they have con­sid­er­able fear of de­feat in the house, as sig­ni­fied by their choice to stay-away.

There was their other mis­un­der­stand­ing: that SADC had pre­scribed for the re­port to be pub­lished and not tabled. Such ar­gu­ments only re­vealed the cal­i­bre of some of our MPS. SADC could not go to the ex­tent of so pre­scrib­ing. It is doubt­ful if it even both­ers about the work­ings of each of its mem­ber par­lia­ments which are very dif­fer­ent? It is ob­vi­ous there is still much to learn, and th­ese MPS may have al­ready lost valu­able time through their stay-away.

Such sad lessons ought to also be chal­lenges to par­lia­ment it­self. By de­fault, the open­ing event co­in­cided with the State of the na­tion ad­dress (SONA) in South Africa. Sit­ting of par­lia­ment there had its unique in­ci­dents. A lot could be learnt from the South African op­po­si­tion. Most of their points of or­der had their ba­sis in their ap­par­ently and re­cently adopted Joint Stand­ing Or­ders. Our op­po­si­tion MPS were in­ter­ested in ir­rel­e­vant is­sues like tabling, pub­li­ca­tion of re­port and wish not say Bri­gadier but Lt.gen­eral.

Par­lia­ment of Le­sotho has to in­tro­spect. It has to re­think how it ini­ti­ates its MPS to be ef­fec­tive; par­tic­u­larly how to keep MPS from pre­vi­ous par­lia­ments in a good shape for new com­ers to learn some­thing from them. The usual ori­en­ta­tion of MPS into a new par­lia­ment can never be ad­e­quate.

Many par­lia­ments con­tin­u­ously ori­en­tate their MPS, fo­cus­ing on se­lected sub­ject ar­eas like “Mak­ing Stand­ing Or­ders work” etc. In some par­lia­ments, political par­ties do drill their MPS on how to op­pose etc. Some even give at­ten­tion to their mem­bers who rarely speak in the house. Oth­er­wise, some of our MPS will re­main stuck and con­tinue not to know what goes with “tabling” or “pub­li­ca­tion”, ir­re­spec­tive of the ex­is­tence and clar­ity of Stand­ing Or­der No. 22.

An­other chal­lenge is the ex­er­cise of re­view­ing Stand­ing Or­ders. Yet other par­lia­ments have adopted a tra­di­tion to re­view their SOS at the end of ev­ery term. Be­fore then, there is pro­vi­sion for Ses­sional Or­ders which have to ex­pire. This, how­ever, is de­pen­dent on suit­able de­part­men­ta­tion, with staff who are in­deed a re­source to par­lia­ment.

Ten­den­cies of the cur­rent op­po­si­tion re­mind one about some teach­ing by the for­mer Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Com­mon­wealth, Don Mckin­non, that the op­po­si­tion has not to be “spoil­ers”, on ad­dress­ing one CPA As­sem­bly in Bangladesh, where lo­cal op­po­si­tion par­ties had stayed away from the As­sem­bly as their form of protest against their own par­lia­ment. events which fol­low the Le­sotho op­po­si­tion de­pict them as such spoil­ers. They de­serve to be his Majesty`s loyal op­po­si­tion and op­pose con­struc­tively. l Makha­bane Maluke is a For­mer Deputy Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary, Min­istry of Law, Con­sti­tu­tional and Par­lia­men­tary Affairs (BCP Govern­ment); for­mer Clerk of Se­nate (2002-2010) and for­mer Mem­ber of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Sec­re­tary Gen­er­als of Par­lia­ments of the In­ter-par­lia­men­tary Union; for­mer Mem­ber of the So­ci­ety of Clerks-at-the-ta­ble of Com­mon­wealth Par­lia­ments and of the SADC Par­lia­men­tary Fo­rum, and for­mer MP (8th Par­lia­ment) for Bo­batsi No 80 con­stituency (DC ticket).

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