coat of arms 600x400  Parliament of Botswana 

 

 

Let me take this opportunity to welcome you members of the fourth estate to this media briefing.

The purpose of this media briefing is to share with you the parliamentary business achieved during this peculiar times of the COVID -19. The outbreak of the COVID -19 has had huge impact on the work of Parliament with far reaching consequences.

 

Introduction

Parliament as one of the three Arms of Government had to continue transacting its business even during the pick of the COVID -19 pandemic.

It was therefore necessary to take the necessary steps to protect the health of Members of Parliament and staff by complying to COVID -19 protocols.

The introduction of live broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings on Botswana Television and Radio Botswana was a very good development aimed at ensuring that the public is able to follow the proceedings of Parliament. It is very important for the public to be informed of what the business transacted by their elected representatives. This was also to complement the fact that members of the public are currently not admitted to the gallery of the National assembly due to COVID -19 protocols.

The live broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings on Botswana Television and Radio Botswana was complemented by live streaming of proceedings on social media.

It is on this basis that the Second Meeting of the Second Session of the 12th Parliament which started on 1st of February 2021 and adjourns SINE DIE today, Friday 16th April 2021. This meeting of Parliament was unique since it was held virtually.  This virtual parliament was the first of its kind in the region. Other Parliaments have only gone as far as hybrid, i.e. mixing physical and virtual.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Clerk and her team comprising of Parliament staff, the Recording Unit, IT Unit, Public Relations Unit and Department of Broadcasting Services and other stakeholders for successfully facilitating the virtual Parliament. 

The adjournment of Parliament sine die paves the way for various parliamentary committees to resume their work of conducting their oversight activities. The work of committees will also be conduct virtual. The media will be informed of the schedules of various committees.

 

Achievements

Through the introduction of live broadcast and live streaming there has been more interest in Parliament proceedings across demographics due to the fact that a lot of people have been able to watch the proceedings on various media platforms. A lot of interest has been generated through this initiative. One of our objective is to improve public participation therefore we managed to achieve it through live broadcast. 

 

Advantages

  1. The main advantage of holding Parliament virtually was that we adhered to COVID 19 Protocols and managed to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 virus.
  2. It enhanced public participation
  3. Increase in ICT update and online Parliamentary Services
  4. It is cost saving 

Way Forward

  1. ICT infrastructural upgrade is needed in the development of speedy content delivery. The introduction of high speed fibre networks as well as 4G and the future 5G networks will enhance Parliament live broadcast and virtual meetings.  
  1. Introduction of the Virtual Parliament Meetings
  1. Introduction of Virtual Oversight Committee Meetings

Challenges

This virtual meeting of Parliament experienced the following challenges:

  • Connectivity challenges which resulted in the disruption of some of the meetings, especially during the early days
  • Power disruptions, which also resulted in the disruption of some of the meetings
  • The experience is that virtual meetings are usually characterised by repetitive exchanges of ‘Can you hear me?’ or reminders to (un) mute the microphone. These problems may seem trivial, but they can hamper the momentum of a meeting.
  • Sometimes Members of Parliament fail to “catch the Speaker’s eye”.
  • It was difficult to maintain the House decorum at times as espoused in the Standing Orders, hence there was need to suspend some of the Standing Orders right at the beginning of the meeting.

At the end of all these we have gained valuable experience and exposure which we are going to use in future. For example, Parliament of Botswana is scheduled to host the 49th Virtual SADC-PF Plenary Assembly Session scheduled for June 2021 and SADCOPAC Conference.

Now regarding the business transacted, please note of the following;

 

1. Government Bills 

Parliament passed the following Government Bills:

  1. Appropriation (2021/2022) Bill, 2021 (Bill No. 2of 2021)
  1. Supplementary Appropriation (2019/2020) Bill, 2021 (Bill No.7 of 2021)
  1. Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Bill No. 3 of 2021)
  1. Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Bill No.13 of 2021)

The following Bill was withdrawn by the responsible Hon. Minister on 7th April, 2021:

  • Standing Committee on Remuneration (Members of the National Assembly, Councillors, Ntlo ya Dikgosi and Specified Offices) Bill, 2021 (Bill No. 4 of 2021)

2.Government Resolutions 

The following Government Resolutions were adopted;

  1. “That this Honourable House resolves to adopt the Report of the Finance and Estimates Committee on the Appropriation (2021/2022) Bill, 2021 (Bill No.2 of 2021).” 
  2. “That this Assembly approves the Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure from the Consolidated Fund in respect of Excess Expenditure Incurred during Financial Year 2019/2020-Financial Paper No.3 of 2019/2020.”
  1. “That this Honourable House resolves to extend its approval of the period of the declaration of Public Emergency by a further six (6) months.”
  1. “That this Honourable House affirms that the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations contained in Statutory Instrument No. 61 of 2020 as amended by Statutory Instruments No. 62. 63,72,73 and 74 of 2020 shall have effect during the period of extension of the declaration of Public Emergency.” 

3.Government Policies

Parliament adopted the following Policies:

  1. “That this Honourable House resolves to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.” 
  1. “That this Honourable House resolves to adopt the National Energy Policy.” 
  1. “That this Honourable House resolves to adopt the Tourism Policy.” 

4.Private Member’s Bill

The following Private Member’s Bill was negated:

  • Electoral (Amendment)Bill, 2020 (Bill No. 21 of 2020)

5.Private Members’ Motions

Parliament adopted the following Private Members’ Motions:

  1. “That this Honourable House requests Government to extend communal areas into Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and demarcate small farms to create land for youth and small farmers so as to expand the agricultural sector.” (Mr. S. J. Brooks, MP. – Kgalagadi South).
  1. “That this Honourable House requests Government to consider increasing the old age pension as soon as the Government can possibly afford.” (Mr. P. P. P. Moatlhodi, MP. – Tonota)

Parliament negated the following Private Members’ Motions:

  1. “That this Honourable House resolves to place a year moratorium on the envisaged adjustments of rentals by the Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) that are to effect in the next financial year as a response to the economic distress imposed by the COVID 19 pandemic on tenants and citizens in general.” Mr. T. B. Lucas, MP. – (Bobonong).
  1. “That this Honourable House resolves to request Government to amend the Independent Electoral Act to ensure the independence of the Electoral Commission and guarantee free elections and democracy.” (Mr. Y. Boko, MP. – Mahalapye East).
  1. “That this Honourable House requests Government to establish a commission of inquiry on COVID-19 procurement and tendering with specific emphasis on all tenders awarded during the State of Emergency.” (Mr. L. Lesedi, MP. – Serowe South)

 6. Question received

During this Meeting Parliament received 559 Questions and out this 265 were answered, whilst 294 are remaining, as there was not enough time to deal with them.

7. Ministers’ Question Time

Parliament received 22 Ministers’ Question Time, and out of these 6 were answered.

8. Leader of the House’s Question Time

Parliament received 5 Leader of the House’s questions and they were all answered.