The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbench has backed the proposed amendments to Parliamentary Standing Orders which are set to be effected in the July sitting.
This comes after Minister in the Presidency Kabo Morwaeng proposed to amend some Standing Orders, among them one that will prohibit members of Parliament from making derogatory statements against the President.
Member of Parliament for Letlhakeng-Lephephe who is also the chief whip Liakat Kablay said in an interview that he intends to support the amendments upon reaching Parliament’s floor, stating that this will ensure that the President is respected.
“People should know that the President is the face of the nation and whatever that is said about the President will drive a disastrous image about this country,” he said.
“We have previously had incidents in which some fellow party members voted with opposition but we cracked the whip, so we are not expecting any of our members to go against party caucus,” said Kablay.
For his part, Member of Parliament for Nata-Gweta Paulson Majaga said although he has not been briefed about the issue, he however stands in support of any bill that seeks to protect the President.
“I do not expect anyone to belittle or speak ill of the President because even the Constitution is quite clear. It is just unfortunate, my observation is that people have too much freedom to defame people,” he said.
However, the opposition has rejected the proposed amendments arguing that it amounts to dictatorship.
Alliance for Progressives (AP) Secretary General Dr Phenyo Butale said, “It is shocking to see this from a government that promised to entrench democracy.”
Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe Dithapelo Keorapetse has threatened to take legal action on the matter as it “violates democratic ethos and perpetuates tyranny of the majority in Parliament.”
Contacted for comment, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Spokesperson Moeti Mohwasa said they have not familiarized themselves with issue and therefore were not in a position to comment.