Some members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi have indicated that the deficiency of a holistic review of the current old-fashioned Botswana constitution violates the newly established country Vision 2036. The country’s supreme law effected in 1965 and it has never been reviewed holistically since then.
The main contention of the dikgosi is that the constitution should be all “inclusive” and “recognise” all tribes in Botswana as per the Vision 2036. In the country’s new vision, citizens pointed out that the supreme law should be reviewed to reflect their assertion and aspirations of making tribes equal in black and white.
This week, the tribal leaders highlighted during a debate of a motion sponsored by an eccentric Kgosi Galeakanye Modise of the Tswapong Region that the country needs to move with times and change the old law.
Through the motion, Modise had sought “that this Honourable house requests government to start the process of constitutional review, so that Batswana can be afforded an opportunity to make an input on the constitution that would be neutral, respectful and cognizant of every citizen of this country.”
The Tswapong region Kgosi was presenting the motion at Ntlo ya Dikgosi which was also graced by Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Eric Molale, Minister of Basic Education Unity Dow and Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Botlogile Tshireletso who were representing government.
While putting the motion in perspective he asserted: “let me stress that what am saying is that we must have a constitution which treats all citizens equally. To put this into context, it’s not only me calling for making equal our tribes in the constitution but if you can look at the Vision 2036 as well it echoes this very well.”
“Bogosi will be a visible, functional and empowered institution of governance contributing to national development. Bogosi will continue to maintain social order and cohesion. The power of Dikgosi in community development and the management of public affairs will be continually reviewed and realigned to emerging needs. Botswana laws in respect of customary law and common law shall be harmonised. All ethnic groups will have equal recognition and representation at Ntlo ya Dikgosi,” posits the new Vision 2036 on page 26.
Modise pointed out to a fully attentive house when pondering on the highly sensitive and explosive motion that, “it is Batswana who speak through the Vision 2036, they demonstrate that the current constitution does not treat the members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi equally.”
According to Modise, what concerns him most about reviewing the more than 50 years old constitution is that he believes everyone should at this point concede that the supreme law needs an appraisal to conform to the contemporary times.
While he conceded that they all sit in Ntlo ya Dikgosi and look the same, the nation recognises that “our constitution is flawed, has loopholes and is discriminatory”.
“Batswana also indicated that we are not one and the same in Vision 2016. So they want to correct this so that we are equivalents in this house. They stated even in the previous Vision 2016 document page 25 that “in order to achieve transformation and meet expectation of Batswana, the Constitution and legal framework will be reviewed and reformed.”
If the government does not review the law, Modise stated that they will be working against the aspirations of Batswana as espoused in both the elapsed Vision 2016 as well as the new-fangled Vision 2036.
“Other dikgosi should be on the same league with the old known eight major tribes. Bogosi Act implies that we are equivalents but constitution points a different scenario. And the irony of it is that the constitution supersedes the Bogosi Act.”
He said the then amended Section 77, 78, 79 of the constitution did not address the whole constitutional deficiencies currently be-devilling Ntlo ya Dikgosi.
According to Section 77 of the constitution, under subsection 11 (1) (1) “there shall be a Ntlo ya Dikgosi for Botswana which shall consist of not less than 33 nor more than 35 Members which shall be constituted as follows— (a) one person from each of the following areas, which person for the time being performs the functions of the office of Kgosi in respect of such areas- (i) Barolong Farms in the Southern District, (ii) Chobe in the North West District, (iii) Ga Malete in the South East District, (iv) Ga Mmangwato in the Central District, (v) Ghanzi District, (vi) Goo Tawana in the North West District, (vii) Kgalagadi District, (viii) Kgatleng District, (ix) Kweneng District, (x) Ngwaketse in the Southern District, (xi) North East District, and (xii) Tlokweng in the South East District; (b) five persons who shall be appointed by the President; and (c) such number of persons, not being more than 20, as may be selected under section 78(4)(c) of this Constitution.”
Currently, members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi include Kgosi Puso Gaborone of Batlokwa (Chairman of the house), Kgosi Malope II of Bangwaketse (deputy chairman of the house), Kgosi Sediegeng Kgamane from Bangwato, Kgosi Kealetile Moremi representing Batawana, Barolong are represented by Kgosi Botiki Motshegare while Kgosi Mosadi Seboko is sitting in for Balete.
There is also Kgosi Kgari III representing Bakwena, Kgosi David S. Toto II of Kgalagadi South, Kgosi Justice from Moseki, Gantsi East, Kgosi Tjazako Munduu of Ngamiland, while Okavango is represented by Kgosi Disho Ndhowe and Kgosi Lobatse Beslag represents Gantsi West.
Kgosi Kgomotso Boiditswe represents Serowe Region; Kgosi Peter Johane Chika III for Chobe, Kgosi Colly Cock represents Thamaga Region, Kgosi Itsoseng Gaoonwe on behalf of Letlhakeng Region, Kgosi Rapelang Khuwe of Tutume Region and Kgosi Nametso Alfred Kopelo from Molepolole Region.
Maun Region is represented by Kgosi Oleyo Ledimo, Kgosi Thebe Makwa is from Moshupa Region, Kgosi Letso Malema from Bobirwa Region, Kgosi Seate Marumo representing Kanye Region, Kgosi Tshipe F. Tshipe of Mahalapye Region and Kgosi Kgosidialwa Oledile Puso Moalosi for Tonota Region.
There is also Kgosi Kekailwe Moscow Tefiso of Ngwaketse West, Kgosi Galeakanye Modise of Tswapong Region, Kgosi Sekgoma Eric M. Moipolai from North East Region and Kgosi Moeti Monyamane representing Kgalagadi North.
The Specially elected ones include; Kgosi Isaac Titus, Kgosi Moffat Maiba Sinvula, Kgosi Nguvauva Salatiel-Nguvauva II, Kgosi Maruje III Thabo Masunga and Kgosi Tsholo Segwaba.
When supporting the motion Kgosi Masunga III Maruje who has been calling for not only a review of the constitution as well but a holistic approach to it said: “a Constitutional review is long overdue, I agree with Batswana on the Vision 2036 document, I believe it is and should be a holistic issue. So that Batswana can be afforded an opportunity to make an input on the Constitution.”
However Kgosi Kgari Sechele of Bakwena, Kgosi Mosadi Seboko of Balete and Kgomotso Boiditswe of Serowe region shot down the motion insisting that they do not find the need and reason to support it, and that the status quo is fine.
Modise relied his assertion also on section15 of the constitution which states that “Protection from discrimination on the grounds of race, etc. (1) Subject to the provisions of subsections (4), (5) and (7) of this section, no law shall make any provision that is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect. (2) Subject to the provisions of subsections (6), (7) and (8) of this section, no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue of any written law or in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority. 9 of 2005, s. 4. (3) In this section, the expression "discriminatory" means affording different treatment to different persons, attributable wholly or mainly to their respective descriptions by race, tribe, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex whereby persons of one such description are subjected to disabilities or restrictions to which persons of another such description are not made subject or are accorded privileges or advantages which are not accorded to persons of another such description.”
On his part, when responding to the motion, Minister Molale, said the motion touches on the very basic tenets of Constitutionality. “Already neutrality, respect, cognisance of every citizen’s right in this country are enshrined in the very same Constitution that you want to amend.”
“I posit to this Honourable House that our constitution as it is written is adequate, and takes cognisance of every citizen’s right. That is something that we must bear mind to and be knowledgeable of the fact that this constitution is still relevant and will remain relevant for some time.”
So, he added that: “I am positing that this constitution, in as far as the fundamental rights are concerned, is adequate and will remain adequate”. He said to fix that which isn’t broken can actually lead to having to fix more broken things that would have “broke by fixing the unbroken”.
“So I posit that it is not yet time to do an overhaul for our constitution because the laws that are there, in support of the provisions of this constitution are relevant and are effective. So, I further go on to say that to the extend therefore that the mover does not take issue with most of the chapters that make up this constitution, there is no basis whatsoever why the Government should undertake a holistic constitutional review, as opposed to seeking the amendment only of those provisions of the constitution relating to Ntlo ya Dikgosi.”
Molale indicated that the motion as he understands it refers to Ntlo ya Dikgosi and the manner in which Members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi ascend to the house. The OP minister said Ntlo ya Dikgosi as it is, is not a Constituent Assembly and that was done deliberately as it is a House of Representatives.
“When the constitution was amended the country was being divided into 12 districts, and so what seems to be irking some people is why some were/are still referred to as Dikgosikgolo. Remember there is nowhere in the law of this Republic where there is reference to Kgosikgolo. These are perceptions made by people for whatever reason that I would not understand and I have never understood,” Molale pointed out.
According to the OP minister, the constitution as it is and as amended, has provided for election of representatives of Ntlo ya Dikgosi.
With regard to Vision 2036 which was said to be calling for a constitutional review, Molale said the document is straight and forward and only states that “if there is a deficiency in implementing what is stated by the constitution that’s when we can review to improve”.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.