Childline Botswana is disappointed by Parliament’s “business as usual” response on a petition against shamed Nata/Gweta Member of Parliament Polson Majaga, which was submitted on behalf of Non Governmental Organisations(NGOs)
The petition was brought before Parliament last week by Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang, the Sefhare-Ramokgonami MP on behalf of NGOs under the leadership of Botswana Child Rights Network. Childline Botswana said the response was disappointing because it is currently business as usual at the Parliamentary daily proceedings. Childline Botswana, which is the Secretariat of Botswana Child Rights Network believes that the substance of the petition was not discussed while other MPs were uninformed.
“On the other hand we are happy that the petition got some attention,” said the Coordinator of Childline Botswana, Olebile Machete in an interview.
“We applaud the Speaker of the National Assembly, Phandu Skelemani for allowing the petition to be present-ed in Parliament and we are happy that Dr Gobotswang delivered the petition on our behalf because the general attitude is that most people would not want to call out their colleagues. It was very principled of him.”
The proposal by Botswana Child Rights Network was that Parliament should adopt a code of conduct that binds them to suspend any member of the house who is criminally charged with having sexually abused a child or having committed any form of Gender Based Violence. The petition stated that the general assembly should en-courage Majaga to take leave of absence until his defilement case is concluded to protect the integrity of the house and the criminal justice process. Legislators were called on to do so, both in their private space, and if necessary to demand the same from the floor of Parliament. The request was that members should unite behind this position, in a non-partisan manner to ensure that Majaga does not participate in the affairs of the National Assembly until his case has been closed but Majaga has since continued on with his parliamentary duties.
“Majaga’s refusal and the body language of Parliament suggests we are tolerant of the sexual exploitation of children. This is not a fight with Majaga, our position is not in any way pronouncement of his guilt as the matter is before the courts and we will not make any reference to substantive issues related to the matter. We are not requesting for Parliament to overreach and play a judicial role. Our request was for Parliament to take cognizance of child sexual abuse as a serious public health and social matter that requires attention of our highest law making institution,” said Machete.
Machete went on to highlight that at the height of sexual exploitation is power relations between the perpetrator and the victim. In this instance, the accused is not only powerful in the context of the alleged offence, but wields considerable influence and authority over his constituents. The call was for Parliament to play its role in not only sending a message of absolute disdain for exploitation of children, but a further commitment to highest levels of integrity in its stature.
In May 2020, Nata-Gweta Member of Parliament was arrested and charged with defilement of a now 16 year old girl who is also reportedly pregnant. When Parliament resumed its sitting during the 2020 winter session, Majaga was part of the house, receiving considerable time in the National Assembly. During his presentation of the petition Dr Gobotswang said the nation is concerned that Majaga continues to participate in the proceedings of the Botswana Parliament. He recently participated in a Motion brought to Parliament by Yandani Boko, Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East, calling on the President to establish a Commission of Inquiry on Gender Based Violence. Although Majaga did not debate the Motion, he nonetheless voted on two occasions when the matter was brought to a vote by the House. Majaga voted against the spirit of the Motion as brought to Parliament by Boko.
“This is a clear case of conflict of interest within the highest level of the country’s governance. Surely a Judicial Officer cannot be allowed to preside over any criminal case when they themselves have been criminally charged. We therefore posit that the continued participation of Majaga in the business of the National Assembly compromises the integrity of the house as well as the integrity of the criminal justice process that he is currently a subject of,” the Petition read in part.