Some members of Ntlo ya Dikgosi (House of chiefs) have called for the utmost holistic review of the Botswana constitution in its entirety to address the current challenges bedevilling the country, and not just trivial face-lift amendments.
The members’ call come at the backdrop of the controversial debate of the constitution (amendment) Bill, 2016 (no. 3 of 2016) which seeks to increase the number of Specially Elected members from 4 to 6. The object of the Bill is also to increase the number of Ministers and Assistant Ministers by 2 each.
When debating the contentious Bill, which was nonetheless passed by a slim vote of 16 to 14 following spirited and robust deliberations, some dikgosi including outspoken Specially Elected Chief, Thabo Maruje II Masunga submitted that the ancient constitution which is still in use as it is, needs a holistic overhaul.
When speaking to WeekendPost shortly after Ntlo ya dikgosi session at the Parliament buildings in Gaborone this week, Maruje asserted that the country should come to a conclusion to look at this constitution “as a whole”.
“The current constitution needs outmost overhaul, we should address this constitution,” he insisted.
Understandably Maruje’s view echoes that of many members of Ntlo ya dikgosi who do not have the courage and confidence to clearly spell it out.
He even suggested that specific areas “they” (some dikgosi) want reviewed include the issue of equity which still has certain challenges. In particular he made reference to the issue of tribes which are recognised by the constitution as major tribes while there is no mention of many other tribes living within the borders of the country.
“That on its own spells out something,” he said adding that “as a Kalanga if a foreigner asks me where I am in the constitution I will be so embarrassed to tell them that I feature in it only in vague language.”
“You know the constitution guards against what might happen, so am saying the issue of equity should be looked at,” he maintained.
In addition the Specially Elected Chief said Botswana has been in a middle income bracket for many years and therefore needs a new constitution that will address current issues affecting the country today.
“Does the constitution still address the issues currently affecting Batswana? Does it still address the issue of Botswana classification of a middle income economy which is not clear it will be for how long?” he asked rhetorically before explaining that, “my view is that Botswana is a mature democracy and there are many issues that are coming out; as much as we are a middle income country it hasn’t translated to betterment of the people,” he stated.
“The understanding is that to forge ahead as a nation we still need to revisit how we are founded pertaining to the supreme document- constitution,” he asserted as he stressed that the holistic review will renew the nations’ aspirations and reflect on what we have achieved as a nation since 1966.
“50 years into our democracy, we have done well and I think we have to appreciate ourselves as a nation. Every Motswana has played a key role in these years. But my view is that 50 years going forward there must be a look at superlative law because there are emerging challenges and they need a new set of dialogue and another set of laws,” he added.
He maintained however that parliament should diligently perform its role of making laws, and playing a watchdog and oversight role, and there should be a separation from the highly powerful executive.
His view is, the constitution must respond to the current challenges and should not be limited by an old constitution as is the case today.
“It is now becoming a limitation, it can’t respond to current situations. It’s a sign that something is not right.”
According to Maruje, something that takes precedence like a constitution cannot be changed willy-nilly but rather wholly.
“The constitution is the blueprint in which Batswana have decided to be governed, but if you change the constitution, it cascades to the governance structure as well. So if you are going to impose 2 more people (Specially elected legislators) we have to soberly ask ourselves if we indeed need this or not,” he further stated.
“I have a serious concern with it because the constitution remains a very important document in the sense that if there is anything that you touch in the constitution there must be a consensus.”
Botswana’s heritage is clearly defined by the constitution including the kgotla system where communities are consulted. Maruje argues that there was no consultation with regards to the review as only the government gazette, which he said only speaks to a certain audience was used. “The kgotla system, dipitso and other forums are there. They can only be strengthened to continue playing their role,” he asserted
“So we should not deny Batswana the power to access information, freedom of information, freedom of association and the freedom to be consulted as they ultimately give a citizen the power to arrive at a particular decision,” he further stressed his point. Constitution should be written in indigenous languages
According to Maruje, we have hidden much knowledge by not writing some crucial documents like the constitution in Setswana,” such documents could have been written in Setswana, Sesarwa, Sekalaka, Sehumbukushu, and any other language spoken in the country.”
“Now we are talking the developments goals which says we should not leave anyone behind, that means we must try to push anyone at the back foot or who are behind the power to self-determination because it influences the way he thinks, acts, and the mental and psychological state. So I think time has come and yes English is our official language, that we can’t change, but equally languages must be able to empower,” he noted.
He also mentioned that the constitution should be included in the education curriculum. “I believe Batswana must be taught the constitution and the ultimate goals so that they can make part of the debate on it and that every Motswana can execute what they think is the right thing or needs to be done as espoused for by the constitution.” Of Kgosi Kgafela and Bogosi Act….
Maruje’s view on Kgosi Kgafela’s issue is that Bogosi be the given role to be part of a society of Botswana and not have political interference nor give power to a minister to de-recognise a Kgosi.
“I still don’t understand how because bogosi plays an oversight role on the overall running affairs of the government. I believe kgosi ke kgosi ka morafhe so morafe must be the one deciding on the fate of the kgosi.”
“Giving the minister the power of authority over other key institutions going forward will be a problem,” he highlighted while maintaining that Bogosi Act also needs to be reviewed.
Is Maruje joining politics?
The vocal member of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, Kgosi Maruje II says he has no intention of joining politics. “this issue has come out so many times and is starting to worry me personally, and now I always have to dispute that am not a member of a certain political party!” he exclaimed.
“Let me put it on record” he further said, “I am not a member of any political party. I don’t have a membership of any political party and I will give you that assignment to go find out.”
He further stated that, “”I can only join politics if Jesus says something. I will wait for that phone call from heaven. If it comes, there will be no question about it because I believe that as a Kgosi God has given me enough grace as not everyone can be a Kgosi.”
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.