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Consultations remain foreground of debate

23 May 2024

Consultation of Batswana has remained in the foreground of discussions about the anticipated amendment of the Constitution of Botswana.

Presented before Parliament on Monday for consideration, the Constitution Amendment Bill has attracted a debate on whether or not such consultations by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution of Botswana, which lasted for about six months, were sufficient.

As the debate continued, it had become certain that the issue remains a key battlefield between legislators in their efforts to achieve their preferred Constitutional review outcome.

In 2022, Batswana were consulted to share their views on the impending Constitutional review during a tour by the Commission and a subsequent report on the findings and recommendations was submitted to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi for consideration in September the same year.

Contributing to the debate on Wednesday, Lentsweletau/Mmopane MP, Ms Nnaniki Makwinja said she was adamant that government, through the Commission, had carried out more than adequate consultations with all the relevant stakeholders prior to compiling and submitting its comprehensive report on the findings and recommendations made by Batswana.

Ms Makwinja said consultation was an important exercise aimed at maintaining the supremacy of the country’s Constitution.

For that reason, she said it was crucial for the Commission to have included the views of the various organisations, leadership, interest groups and the public, among others.

“Consultation never ends and can never be enough, which is why before President Masisi appends his signature, to endorse the Constitutional amendment, the Bill may be referred to the public in the form of a referendum. What is entailed in the report is not President Masisi’s or Botswana Democratic Party’s interests, but Batswana,” she said.

She argued that the current Constitution had served Batswana well for more than 55 years and the ongoing review was not the first given that parts of it had been reviewed as required.

For his part, Kanye South MP, Dr Lemogang Kwape also reiterated that consultations to get views from Batswana were extensive hence all 57 constituencies were covered.

Dr Kwape said government approved the Constitutional review to address the long standing national concerns and therefore supported the Bill, particularly that the amendments also sought to enshrine, in the Constitution, the fundamental rights to health, education and work, as well as to strike and bargain.

Though some MPs argued that the Bill did not capture some suggestions by some Batswana to have direct election of the President, Dr Kwape said he instead supported the proposed amendment that disqualified former Presidents who had served 10 years from partaking in active politics.

“This promotes democracy and good governance, in line with Botswana’s reputation as a model for good governance,” he said.

He also supported the proposed increase, in number, of both Ntlo ya Dikgosi members and Specially Elected MPs.

Sharing her views, Specially Elected MP, Dr Unity Dow opined that the Constitutional Amendment Bill would not pass if it did not go through all the critical stages it ought to.

“After going through the first and second readings, as well as the committee stage, the Bill still has a waiting period of three months before it could be voted upon and pass. The Bill needs not less than two-thirds of National Assembly member to vote in its favour,” she said.

Additionally, she said it was unlikely that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) would be ready and prepared enough to run both the general elections and the referendum in one year, given time left before the general elections scheduled for October.

Boteti East MP, Mr Setlhomo Lelatisitswe said the Constitution, as a supreme law, promoted unity and a sense of belonging, among the nationals.

Mr Lelatisitswe said Botswana’s sovereignty, as a republic, rested with the people and hence a Commission was tasked with consultations.

He added that it was therefore befitting for government to review the country’s Constitution to suit the interests of Batswana.

Member of Parliament for Mmadinare, Mr Molebatsi Molebatsi said the impending review was the comprehensive inquiry although there had been some Constitutional Reviews in the past. Mr Molebatsi said the previous Constitutional review exercises only focused on some specific sections of the Constitution.

He therefore, applauded government appointing the Commission to consult Batswana and in turn responding to the national call for a Constitutional review. ENDS

Source : BOPA

Author : Lorato Gaofise

Location : GABORONE

Event : parliament

Date : 23 May 2024