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For the people, by the people

An historic set of events played itself out before a packed courtroom in the High Court yesterday, as the intricate workings of the Republic were laid out for ordinary Batswana to view and critique.
By Mmegi Editor Fri 07 Nov 2014, 14:36 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: For the people, by the people








The case in which the Attorney General, inspired by a complaint by President Khama and his party, has challenged parties in Parliament over the amendment of Standing Orders, has indeed brought democracy closer to ordinary Batswana.

While the Constitution is the bedrock of our social system and the Republic, Batswana in general are rarely aware of it even when they are involved in civil and criminal matters or when they fight for access to enshrined rights such as health and shelter.

For all intents and purposes, the Constitution has hovered above apathetic citizens and only been debated by academia and politicians.

Thus, if anything positive can be gleaned from the events of the past fortnight, it should be that ordinary citizens have been given a front row seat to the greatest demonstration of our democracy at play. A vigorous and spirited discourse on the provisions of the Constitution, its workings and its weaknesses, has been availed to us via the case before the High Court judges.

Already, even the most unacquainted among us will agree that the Constitution appears to have a few loopholes that require more strenuous tightening or revision. The case around the Standing Orders has been ground down to a question of whether the Constitution has been violated by the amendments or not, and it appears the answer is not as clear-cut as one would expect.

Besides providing a snapshot into the pillars upholding the Republic, the case is also critically about the future of this Republic. At present and for the first time in history, we

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have a government that is minus one arm – the Executive, the Judiciary and no Legislature. Even the Executive in this case is limping as no Vice President has been endorsed by Parliament as envisaged by the Constitution.

We have a situation where the Judiciary holds the future of our Republic in its hands and the judgement due out later today will determine the Botswana we will have tomorrow.

It must be noted at this point, however, that while we are delighted that this case has illuminated the Constitution for Batswana, albeit inadvertently, we are concerned about the grey areas that lie outside of the High Court’s jurisdiction.

These areas include long-running issues around automatic succession and the first-past-the-post electoral system, both of which the 11th Parliament needs to urgently apply itself to.

Let the publicity around the Constitution spur even greater examination and discussion of our founding law’s deficiencies with a view towards continuous improvement.

The Constitution should, after all, be a document for the people, from the people and by the people.

                                                            Today’s thought

“To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”

                                                            - Louis L’Amour

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