Mmegi Blogs :: Time up! Botswana constitutional amendment due!!
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Time up! Botswana constitutional amendment due!!

After 51 years of independence, the Botswana Constitution shouts for amendment.
By Michael Dingake Tue 12 Dec 2017, 23:51 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Time up! Botswana constitutional amendment due!!








Most African countries that gained independence in the 1960s have amended their Constitutions. Many were ‘one-party’ States,  they have moved on to multi-party democracy; some who had presidency-for-life provisions, have now  fixed two-terms; the Republic of South Africa (RSA) the latest kid-on-the-block, has hit the ground running, with Chapter 9 Institutions innovation, to enhance democracy, like all countries that swear by democratic dispensation ought to do.

One wonders where the RSA would be had she not created the Chapter 9 clause? Could she have survived the Nkadla and the State of Capture ructions? RSA is reeling under semi-chaotic political turmoil which without the Chapter 9 Institutions’ provision, she might have been viewed as a pariah, a rogue, a failed State, anything but a democratic State.

Because South Africans had worked very hard for their democracy, they deliberately wanted to see it survive the tempests associated with headwinds that normally assail human government systems. The Public Protector and the Judiciary can be said to be institutions that stand the country in good stead on its way towards a desirable democratic destination.

We have to agree that the democratic system of government, so far the best invention, man the political animal has ever invented, should be equipped with tested and durable shock absorbers as she travels on the bumpy, potholed road to arrive at her destination.

Dynamic life is perpetually changing to renew, rejuvenate and generally improve herself to keep in step with the demands and rhythms of change. In the cyclic mundane life we experience, the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. So we say, ‘Time-up, Republic of Botswana, the Constitution must change!’

Besides the dynamic feature of life and the ideal of constitutional amendments mankind adopts to stay focused, Botswana needs to amend the current Constitution on another account. Our Constitution is far from being a product of Batswana themselves, but an imposition by the retreating Albion! Minutes of the Marlborough conference adopting the Constitution don’t reflect genuine Batswana input. 

No consultation nor attempts to consult was made. A perusal of the minutes reveals that PG Matante, the opposition leader, invited apparently to represent the opposition, withdrew from the conference arguing lack of consultation. Kgosi Bathoen II, ostensibly invited to represent dikgosi, tried to plead with Hon PG Matante to stay the course, but was himself not hooked by the modus operandi of adopting the Constitution. PG, before he withdrew from the conference had read a letter signed by four dikgosi: Bathoen II himself,  Linchwe II, Gaborone and Kgosi Mokgosi III.

The letter read in part (This

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was after the first general elections but before independence in September 1966):  “….. We would request Her Majesty’s Commissioner in whom still remains final word in our country, which is not independent, to take note that we are sincerely apprehensive of the possible consequences of any unilateral measures by the ruling Democratic Party on issues wherein we see the necessity for consultation.

We are fully convinced that the demand for consultative deliberations is a general demand of all our Tribes, and in our capacity as Chiefs, we shall endeavour to discharge our responsibilities to our people by calling Tribal meetings to discuss these issues since Tribal meetings are the only ways in which we can sound the feelings of the people on major Tribal matters.” The letter was addressed to the High Commissioner in Gaborone and signed by the four dikgosi.

At Marlborough conference, Matante, with opposition mandate to propose appointment of a Commission to carry out consultations with Batswana, was peeved the proposal was rejected. He decided to leave as he felt his party’s mandate wouldn’t permit him to participate further in the “……the whole circus of fraud, lies, and self-justifications by the government delegates …”; Hence, PG had to  remove himself completely. Chairperson, Mrs Irene White was unconcerned:  “….the Constitution discussion had to go on…” she announced superciliously. 

The Marlborough conference was overwhelmingly British: Six official government delegates excluding Chairpersons: Irene White MP and A. N. Galsworthy;  five colonial officers from Bechuanaland, and a Secretariat of three! The Bechuanaland delegation was made up of Hon Dr Seretse Khama and Hon QKJ Masire his deputy, and Kgosi Bathoen II.

From the preponderance of the UK representation, one can see how the dice were loaded against Bechuana, in particular those either in the opposition camp(s) and the apolitical masses who couldn’t distinguish disparity between the pre-independence and post-independence  interests!

Precisely what amendments are called for to modernise our Constitution to make it march in step with the 21st century? Amongst the obvious amendments was the equality of ethnic groups. Unless this issue is attended to urgently, things may soon go awry.

It’s an emotive issue. Mmegi  of 6/12/17 carried an article: ‘Bakalanga heave under Bangwato.’ At a meeting in Tutume recently, Bakalanga didn’t mince words about the resentment they felt about being in permanent subordination of Bangwato tribe.

In terms of our Constitution, individual Batswana are equal, but ethnic groups aren’t! We still have major and minor tribes. Could a Constitution have been so archaic, self-contradictory and illogical? We’ve a tinderbox about to explode on our laps!

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