The constitutional edifice built by the colonial government was meant to sustain a democracy in its infancy. As a country we have grown out of it. The ultimate responsibility was and still is, upon us, to develop it to answer our realities.
The drafters of our constitution left the door sufficiently open for legal executive indiscretion. A reckless concentration of power on the executive weakened oversight institutions and reduced them to tools of the very people whose excesses they were created to censor. The agent now is the principal.
An overly powerful executive was able, within legal bounds, to lay to partial waste, the once seemingly stable constitutional edifice. By simple stroke of the pen, an executive was lawfully expanded to outnumber the backbench making the executive arm of government the de-facto and de-jure law and policy maker, rendering same almost irrelevant to the legislative function. The ruling party backbench trembled its way through voting procedures to legitimise legislative obscenities through long tense nights. The captured University south of the national stadium, caught the sycophancy, donating doctoral degrees and singing praises to invisible merit.
Off the cradle, we had the blessings of some men of modest indiscretions who were able to tame their pecuniary, aesthetic and amorous passions for the greater national good. Save for amorous passions, which some enjoyed with immodest severity, they indulged with restraint. They were good, patriotic men of forgivable fallibilities not unlike yourself.
Murphy’s law caught up with a sleeping nation spoilt with liberties and relative opulence. Political and economic hit-men had been lurking in the constitutional shadows. A de-facto dictatorship was able to fit nicely in constitutional apparel. A nation was derailed from its path of virtue; raped and pillaged with constitutional authority and impunity in broad daylight. In the wanton desecration that followed, hallmarks of a democracy such as regular free elections survived, but with little or no significance. Fairness had long been relegated to oblivion. State media hardly covered the opposition. Even the Ombudsman squealed. It was an exercise in futility.
The fate of our democracy was saved by the constitutional bell. When it sounded, on March 30, 2018, fair elections stood on the trapdoors. The death warrant had been coined and read in a night session of parliament. A killing machine, itself corruptly procured, was on its way from India for the ultimate end of a democracy for which a proud people had become internationally renown. It was all constitutional.
Every dissenting voice was answered with an immediate, “there is nothing in law that prohibits the President from doing so” or with a flat; “the constitution has served us well”. Parliament stood by, scared, numb and mum. Men and women said things in private that they could not repeat in public. The people returned to the Stone Age
Those without testicular or clitoral fortitude sold their souls in exchange for tenders, positions, favours and the privilege to be the executioners of their citizen brethren. The nation’s treasury was put to the sword and sometimes, the citizen and foreigner too. “One or two killings cannot dent the nation’s reputation”, they said, as the body bags filled up and fear spread like a wildfire. Somewhere, in Gaborone, a family wept the loss of a father or son and looked down upon a casket in which their own lay slain with twelve state owned bullets. The taxpayer funded the defence of those responsible, bringing home the memories of Tiananmen Square, where the bullets that killed the riotous slain were charged by the government to the accounts of their families. When they were convicted, an almost immediate pardon. A terrified nation was told, rudely, to take some long leaps and jump to hell. Meanwhile the treasury doors had been flung wide open. It was a party by private invitation. Levies were exacted upon a population wrestling with taxes and debt, never to be accounted for. The Auditor General would report that P4,9bn was unaccounted for at the national treasury. Levies went uncollected (so we are told). Hundreds of millions allocated to projects went missing, national projects failed, mining companies closed shop, the ranks of the poor and unemployed swelled, educational standards plummeted and international relations soured.
Things would get worse. An overly powerful Speaker of Parliament, chosen without regard to fairness and against whose decisions there was no practicably urgent recourse, was decreed from the government enclave. The backbench revolted and sought to vote with an incensed opposition at war with itself and with its enemies. The rebellion was legally defended but the effort somewhat surprisingly failed. Against all odds, a glimmer of hope was seen in a judiciary largely mortgaged to the executive. The legal defence cost the taxpayer in excess of P8 000 000 according to reliable sources. The public funded its oppression.
I am simply saying fellow citizens, that there is urgent need for wholesale constitutional reform. That is the least President Mokgweetsi Masisi, can do for us.