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It is time to recover our lost glory

A dictator, approximately two metres tall, is leading an African country down the path of reconstruction and economic development. Don’t celebrate just as yet. He is simply fixing what he and other ethno-political criminals destroyed many years back.

Like his counterparts strewn across the African landmass, this gentleman is perfectly indictable for genocide and for offences of which feminine consent is an essential element.

The European court for errant African presidents and Eastern European political thugs, headquartered in the Netherlands, has signalled a desire to take him in and possibly, to house him forever. Somehow, he is trying really hard to mask his gory past.

Scared of prosecution, he did what many African presidents do when they approach the end of their constitutional terms. He amended the country’s Constitution and did away with presidential term limitation. He will likely die in office. African dictators are bound together by the kindred fortune of undesirable longevity. Of course, it is antithetic to constitutionalism to amend the Constitution for the benefit of one person. Constitutions are national instruments to be amended only in the public interest. That is why, for all the many excesses we have endured over the past 10 years, there is something to say about our past ruler.

He never tried to tinker with the Constitution to extend his reign or to increase his powers. He left the Constitution as he found it. He simply exploited its many weaknesses. When he wanted to increase Cabinet posts to kill backbench dissent, he did so.

When he wanted to appoint pliable Judges of the High Court and the Court of Appeal (CoA) he did so. When he wanted to stuff up the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) with political appointees, he did so. Of course the standard answer from the government enclave was invariably, “there is nothing illegal about it” even as ethics were butchered on the altar of tight-lipped legalism. That doesn’t, however, subtract from the fact that he stepped down when he had to. It is not easy waking up one morning to hitchhike a creaky kite to Mosu when just a few months back, you had tens of serviced and fully fuelled choppers on call. When I saw his picture next to that single engine aircraft likely borrowed from some pesticide company, I almost wept. But that is constitutionalism exemplified. I am not complaining at all.

I was happy to hear, the other day, that the President seeks to push through some constitutional amendments, amongst others, to enable him to fill executive posts with non-politicians. It is not the substance of the reform that I am celebrating, though. It is the glimmer of ambition for constitutional reform that I find exciting. The question is, as to how far

he will be willing to go. There are wide-ranging reforms to be undertaken and what he aspires to do is only one of them. Far from piecemeal reform, we need a comprehensive constitutional review. We have to move to a post liberal dispensation that places checks on executive power and upholds the institutional integrity of oversight institutions. The JSC, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Independent Electoral Commission, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, the Ombudsman and the Judiciary, amongst others, need to be freed and insulated constitutionally, from executive influence. There are post-liberal models to benchmark with. As a country, we can reclaim our position as a continental leader in constitutional and institutional governance. We do not have to rely on fictitious reports funny named international bodies to craft our image.

We have learnt, through experience, over the last 10 years how vulnerable our Constitution is. It is too basic and too pliable. It has very few, if any, checks and balances to executive power. By simple instrument of public appointments, our democracy can be laid waste. I recall a time when I was at the DPP. Our then chief, now Judge of the CoA, had just left on judicial appointment. We were leaderless for sometime. It was a period of grave anxiety. We knew the higher offices hated our guts.

The Executive felt besieged, perhaps even witch-hunted, by the DPP office. Young magistrates were telling Cabinet ministers when to stand and when to sit down. The response was emphatic. The next DPP was pooled from the DIS, an institution blindly loyal, politically unaccountable and under the iron grip of the President. Well, there was nothing illegal about the appointment, after all.

Whenever key constitutional reforms are suggested, the tendency from those who benefit from our constitutional vulnerability is to parrot; “it has served us well”. It is a nonsensical argument, if one at all.

You don’t upgrade systems because they have not served you well. You upgrade because there is room for improvement and because you desire to take your game to another level.

If the President achieves a single constitutional amendment, there will hardly be anything to commend him for. We have seen that before. If he can have the fortitude to engineer key reforms for constitutional and institutional governance, he will leave a legacy the nation will be grateful for way past the day he will be wheeled off the parliamentary floor. And I might just shed a tear for a president.

Chief On Friday



covid 19 positive people from neighbouring countries

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