President Mokgweetsi Masisi has laid the ground for constitutional reforms after indicating that among his suggestions would be having half of cabinet ministers being appointed from outside parliament. Prior to meeting opposition leaders on Thursday, Masisi had stated that he would definitely begin a conversation of constitutional reforms.
“We are considering that [reviewing the constitution] and part of my suggestion is the possibility of having half of the cabinet being appointed outside parliament,” Masisi told the media. Botswana, at independence adopted a constitution which mirrored the Westminster system where Ministers are drawn from members of parliament. Coincidentally, Britain has stated the debate on the possibility of the appointment of non-parliamentary ministers: ‘A prime minister could appoint a small number of unelected ministers of state, who would be answerable to Parliament without being members of parliament.
Masisi’s press conference has been preceded by an announcement that the All Party Conference will be revived and also be reformed to give it a broad mandate. All Party Conference was instrumental in ushering in the 1997 constitutional reforms, which brought among others; 10 years presidential term limit, establishment of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as well as reduction of voting age from 21 years to 18 years. The forum has however been dormant for a period exceeding 10 years. The reforms have been a debate has been ongoing in various quarters including in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and also in the opposition and trade unions.
BDP PROPONENTS OF CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
In 2015, former party legislator, Botsalo Ntuane, who was contesting for the party Secretary General position instigated a debate on what he called the reform agenda. Part of Ntuane inspired reforms is to avail party funding for all political parties participating in the general elections and introduction of a hybrid electoral system, which has the features of both the First-Past-The-Post (currently used by Botswana) and Proportional Representation.
A resolution was passed by BDP delegates at Mmadinare Congress and party Sub-Committee on Political Education and Election Committee (PEEC) chaired by the late GUS Matlhabaphiri was mandated with exploring the feasibility of the proposed political and electoral reforms. The committee has also been tasked with exploring through benchmarking whether consideration should be given to party political funding by government.
Its finding however had never been further discussed in subsequent congresses amid reports that the then former president, Lt Gen Ian Khama was not in favour of the proposed report. In 2016, BDP legislator, Polson Majaga, who is also MP for Nata/Gweta noticed a motion that sought to introduce a direct election of president as well as allow for president to appoint cabinet outside parliament.
Majaga argued that president has many powers under the current constitution and wields so much authority therefore parliament should not elect him on behalf of the people. Majaga was speaking in reference to chapter 4, section 32 of the constitution which states that the President of the republic shall be determined by the number of parliamentary seats his party has won in a general election.
Majaga who spoke in favour of cabinet ministers who not selected from sitting Members of Parliament as the current status quo asserted that cabinet ministers are constrained and overstretched as they have to meet the demands of the ministry and the constituency they represent. He went on to say that, should ministers be selected from outside Parliament, the President would be able to bring experts with a wealth of experience to head the ministries.
“I believe ministers should focus on their ministerial portfolios and account to Parliament. In the current system, Permanent Secretaries are the ones who represent ministries during their meetings with the Public Accounts Committee instead of ministers,” he told Weekend Post then. He also shared the same sentiments with opposition legislators that selecting ministers from sitting MPs was weakening Parliament as those ministers automatically become part of the executive.
The idea of constitutional reforms has also been supported by former party Chairman Moyo Guma who is also a MP for Tati West had the intention of tabling a private member bill calling for direct election of President. The bill is yet to be tabled in parliament.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.