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The Importance of History

SANDY GRANT
An intriguing, important but slightly irritating report ‘London minutes blast Motumise case wide open’ appeared in the Weekendpost 22-28 April.

This report suggested that the record of the pre-independence constitutional talks in London showed that Seretse and Masire had ‘allegedly stated that as heads of the executive they intended to stay out of the realm of appointment of judges and leave that privilege to the Judicial Service Commission.’ It continued ‘ a member of the British Delegation apparently agreed to Khama and Masire’s words responding ‘in essence that in that case, the executive can exercise a formal role of appointment while the JSC can act a more practical role.’  Let’s now consider the importance of this report.

Apart from the particular issue relating to the appointment of judges it is obvious that a record that provides any sort of background to the constitutional talks is of enormous importance. What is so surprising, however, is that it seems to have taken fifty years for many of us to discover that such a record existed in London – although this should hardly come as a surprise to anyone.

The WeekendPost explained that the Law Society of Botswana got wind of the London record from a local newspaper article but without providing any further detail about this article.  It was then that Law Society of Botswana representatives flew to London to check. The surprising implication was that information about this document only came about by chance although UB academics could, if approached, have helped to clarify matters.

They would certainly have helped us all to know the degree to which the constitution was imposed or agreed after discussion with the country’s leadership. But let’s now look a little closer at the Weeknd  Post’s report. It would appear that this information could not have been received first hand. The use of that awful and much overused word ‘allegedly’ generates immediate concerns.

Note that Seretse and Masire ‘had allegedly’ stated that as heads of the Executive…’ they wanted this and that.  That word allegedly suggests uncertainty as to whether they did or they didn’t – which is surprising given that such a document would be a record of certainties not uncertainties.  But then again it must be very unusual to describe both Seretse and Masire as heads of the Executive.

Normally there can be only one head of an Executive which the British recorder would well have known.  But then there is the question of who

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at such conferences proposes and who agrees? I am going to assume that the British with their enormous experience in drafting constitutions would have taken the lead going through a possible constitution article by article with the Botswana delegation.

When it came to the appointment of judges they would have suggested that there were alternative ways of appointing judges – which one did Seretse and Masire prefer? Next time someone looks at that particular document could we please be assured that their subsequent report contains no ‘allegedlys’. Next, a change of topic but another news item, my attention being caught by a single sentence in the Telegraph’s report, ‘SADC Standby Force to establish Joint Operation Centre’ (April 12).

This states, somewhat surprisingly, that ‘the Government of the Republic of Botswana (has) allocated to SADC 19 hectares of land to cater for the establishment of the SADCS in Rasesa in the Kgatleng Tribal area’.  The implication here, if I am not mistaken, is that the decision to give the 19 hectares was taken some time ago.

But how could this be- the process by which the government obtains land for its needs, usually by compulsory purchase, is tricky and time consuming.  In this instance, the Kgatleng Land Board had to be involved because only it could know what land was possessed by who? Given the difficulties in assessing and providing compensation, it has to be assumed that this process must have been started at least two years ago.

How come that it is only now that we hear about it? But where is this 19 hectares located – to the north and east of Rasesa presumably. But where? And lastly, another change of topic, a BBC news item of the 22nd April should make some of us think again.

This reported that on 21 April 2017, Britain went a full day without using coal power for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. If we take the Industrial Revolution to have occurred in the period roughly between 1760 and 1820 we are left with a simply staggering change.

If we split the difference and opt for 1790, we have to note that coal there was not used for the generation of electricity for the first time for 227 years! What does that tell us about the prospects of viable coal extraction here?



Etcetera II

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