Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has kick-started the process of lobbying civic society and Members of Parliament (MPs) towards a process that will lead to constitutional reform in the country.
The federation, which is the biggest and the most influential labour movement in Botswana this week held a forum where various organs of civic society deliberated on the matter of constitutional reforms. BOFEPUSU comprises of four public sector unions; Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated, Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) and other auxiliary trade unions outside the public sector scope.
Speaking at the conference organised by the federation this week, BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said the aim of the discussion was one way initiating debate that would eventually lead to constitutional reforms. He noted the importance of legislators in taking part in the conversation including in future because they are the core of constitutional reforms as lawmakers. “We had invited all MPs and political parties, but the turnout is not what we expected because our MPs are the main target of this gathering as lawmakers,” he said, commenting on lack of participation by MPs in the conference.
Several MPs and politicians were however in attendance, among them Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader Dumelang Saleshando, Tlokweng MP Masego Segokgo, Mogoditshane and Ghanzi North MPs Sedirwa Kgoroba and Noah Salakae respectively. The constitutional reforms talks have never really had buy-in from influential people. As per the current constitution, major constitutional reforms require a national referendum, a process that can only be set in motion by parliament majority.
Different speakers from the civil society alluded to reforms in the judiciary to make it more democratic and independent from the executive. “It would be in the best interest of democracy that judges are appointed by parliament, not the president,” said Attorney Carlos Salbany. “Although the judiciary’s role is not to make laws but to interpret laws, one way or another through court rulings [judicial precedents], the courts make laws.”
1997 CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
In the mid-1990s, ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was forced to undergo major constitutional reforms, for the first time since independence. The reforms were brought in by a number of factors at that time. BDP was going through turbulence, owing to factional infightings in the party. The polarity in the party saw the party Young Turks and other progressive individuals in the party pushing for reforms. Individuals such as Kabo Morwaeng, a rising star in the party; Jacob Nkate the party’s youth league leader; Sidney Pilane a resilient lawyer within the party, were instrumental in bringing about reforms in the party.
After a period of self examination, the BDP top brass relented and acceded to the reforms. In 1997 BDP enacted the new political reforms that were highly welcome across the political divide. The newly introduced constitutional provisions included; introduction of the 10 year presidential tenure limit; reduction of voting age from 21 to 18; introduction of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as well as the controversial automatic succession section.
BDP CONGRESS’ 2015 CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
BDP is currently sitting on the 2015 congress resolutions in which the party delegates adopted the possibility of exploring electoral and political reforms. Political Education and Election Committee (PEEC) Sub-committee chaired by former Barataphathi stalwart Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri was mandated with the task. At the heart of the reforms are several proposals such as adoption of hybrid electoral system encompassing First Past The Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR).
For the first time in history, the BDP opened up to the possibility of introducing political party funding, a subject that has been a ‘taboo’ within the party. Political funding was part of the debate and discussions held by the regions with the view of adopting the idea or maintaining the state of affairs. Political party funding has attracted a number of credible proponents in the last few years that are of the view that, a matured democracy like that of Botswana should have by now embraced such an initiative. Among them is the late former President Sir Quett Ketumile Masire who said that failure to do so may result in political parties sourcing funds from undesirable organisations in foreign countries. The reform talks have their own opponents within the BDP as influential members of the central committee who believe the introduction of Proportional Representation or hybrid system as proposed by Ntuane will essentially hand over power to opposition in 2019.
PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION AND WOMEN REPRESENTATION
Botswana has continued to fare badly in the ‘The Global Gender Gap Index’ report in the category of political empowerment, a reminiscent of the country sidelining of women in policy and law making decisions. In light of this, BCP Women’s Wing President Daisy Bathusi has proposed the introduction of the proportional representation as the only way that will ensure that more women are brought in parliament.
She said the current environment, where women are expected to compete with men through the First-Past-the-Post system has proven that it will never be friendly to women representation in the country’s law and policy making institutions such as council and parliament. The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time.
The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income group. The category of political empowerment measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in minister-level positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, it includes the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.
At present Botswana has only six female MPs out of 63 seats, the recent entrant to the list being Bogolo Kenewendo who was sworn in last year following constitutional amendments in the last session of parliament to increase the number of specially elected MPs from four to six. The low number of female MPs has been attributed to the country’s electoral system which emphasises that winners in the legislature are only elected through first-past-the-post, an enduring system for women.
In Africa, Rwanda outclassed the whole world in political empowerment, according to the 2016 report. Rwanda remains the country with the highest share of female parliamentarians in the world, with 64 percent of representatives in its legislature being female. Neighbouring South Africa which was ranked 13th overall is ranked ahead of Botswana in the category of political participation, with a ranking of 7th position. Other African countries which were ranked ahead of Botswana overall include Namibia, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Burundi.
In the past there were efforts to increase representation of women in parliament through the special election nomination dispensation. In the 9th parliament MP for Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso tried to trigger constitutional amendment to increase the number of specially elected MPs from four to eight of which four seats will be reserved for women. The motion was opposed famously by then Specially Elected MP Ntuane, who argued that increasing the number of special parliamentary seats may not be the best way to increase women's representation in Parliament.
Ntuane suggested that it would be better to change Botswana's electoral system to proportional representation than to add new Specially Elected seats in Parliament. He argued that the voters were not in favour of increasing the number of special MPs because they dilute the power of the elected MPs.
Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.
Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.
Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.
One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution
Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.” Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.
She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age. Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.
Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.
Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.
For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.
Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.
The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare. Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.
According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned. It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.
“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said. Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.
The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.
The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.
The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.” The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana. It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.
“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.
Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.
“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversiﬁcation of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly. It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).
“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.
Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.
The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.
“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said. The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.
The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.
“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.
After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.
They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.
“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.
They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”
They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.