We don’t need clowns in the National Assembly

We don’t need clowns in the National Assembly

On November 3, we witnessed unprecedented and un-parliamentary behaviour by some Members of Parliament (MPs). This happened shortly after the swearing in of three new MPs from the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and after the Speaker’s ruling that Ntate Mathibeli Mokhothu, the Deputy Leader of the Democratic Congress (DC), does not qualify for the status of Official Leader of Opposition.

The swearing in of the three new MPs and Ntate Mathebeli Mokhothu’s disqualification as the Official Leader of Opposition proved that the former governing parties (still reeling from a whipping at the June 3 polls) have lost the confidence of most Basotho.
These two events added to the heap of bad news they are already confronted with; a clear case of “when it rains, it pours”.
In their attempt to prevent further loss of the power and influence they once commanded, expect to see increased desperate acts and more clutching of straws by people associated with the former governing parties.

These acts will be escalated because current strategies and tactics to improve their falling fortunes, are not having the desired impact e.g. alleging irregularities at the June elections, and alleging state sponsored torture, harassment and persecution of Opposition Leaders and their supporters.
These are failing to halt their shrinking status as significant role players on Lesotho’s political landscape. No one believes what they say.
The latest fad is the now trite claim that several deaths have occurred in the country as a direct result of the call by the Prime Minister to the police to “tokhotsa” suspected criminals.

Trite not only because they provide no evidence to prove these allegations but also because it has been turned into a slogan that fails to excite and to move people to action. These things suggest parties and leaders who have run out of ideas and are unable to define a new role for themselves. They seem to be struggling to transition from running government to sitting in the opposition benches.
I am diverting. Now back to the action in the National Assembly.

After several failed attempts to restore order, the Speaker suspended further proceedings in the house.
After seeing the behaviour of some of the MPs, I can confidently say that not all 120 of them are deserving of the title “Honourable Member”. Some of them should more fittingly be called “Foolish Clown”.
When we see people, who are supposed to act in our name and on our behalf behaving in a manner that is not “honourable” but foolish, we must be concerned.

Especially because one of our Parliament’s core functions is to represent us the electorate.
We must be concerned when a Member of Parliament casts aspersion, engages in hooliganism and buffoonery, shows contempt for rules and disdains authority. This does not set a good example for the rest of us minnows.

Those who act and speak on our behalf should not engage in such silly things. Their conduct should be beyond reproach. They must be better than the rest of us.
As for whether this is a reasonable expectation or not, I am not sure.
On the one hand, I understand that MPs mirror the behaviours of the society from which they come i.e. they are the microcosm of the good, the bad and the ugly we find in all our villages and towns in Lesotho.
So, yes, occasional foolish behaviour in the National Assembly cannot be discounted.

But on the other hand, I say this is precisely the sort of thinking causing the decline in the level of the quality of debates in the National Assembly.
We have set the bar too low. We have elected even those who represent more of the bad and the ugly elements found in society than the good.
So, to avoid being saddled with having to call clowns “Honourable Members”, we must ensure that only our crème de la crème in society become our MPs. Quality representation will only arise when people known for foolish behaviour are not elected.

This will not be a once off exercise but a process. It will require that we take our responsibility to elect our representatives very seriously e.g.
l electing proven problem solvers and not loud talkers who are unable to control their anger,
l electing people who respect rules not just when it suits them, but all the time,
l electing people who stand for justice and not cover ups,

l electing people who value debate and engagement over those who prefer screaming gibberish and other incoherent nonsense with no fact base,
l electing people with a strong values system i.e. respect, humility and empathy and not people who have no qualms defending the indefensible-impunity, corruption and falsehoods.

The November 3 incident proves that we still have a long way to go before our National Assembly has been emptied of all “Foolish Clowns” i.e. those whose behaviour impugns the integrity of our parliament. Even when they make the correct point that it is wrong for the PM to sanction police brutality, no one listens to them. Just like no one listens to them when they allege a rigged election, or that there is a need for another vote of no confidence motion.

No sane person is prepared to listen to people who show foolish tendencies in a place where decorum and dignity are compulsory.
To curtail the negative impact of “Foolish Clowns”, those in parliament who “exemplify” our collective good and not the bad and ugly in us, must stand up and defend the honour and integrity of the august House by taking very strong measures against all those who embarrass Basotho.
The message needs to be loud and clear that clowns belong in the circus and not in our National Assembly.

Poloko Khabele

Previous Old wounds refuse to heal
Next MPs: lead by example

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