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.”
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.