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.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.