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Where is the promised constitutional review?

On the 2019 campaign trail, the nation was promised a comprehensive constitutional review by the party then, and now, in power.

To be sure, talk of a constitutional review had been with us for a long time, seen generally, as an opposition pretext, to better their electoral fortunes. Each time, the subject has been raised, ruling party stalwarts have maintained that the Constitution has served us well. In fact our Vice President not so long ago, suggested that all it needed, was a few amendments, a position inconsistent with what was preached on the campaign trail.

Lawyers, politicians, and the citizenry, generally agree, that our Constitution is overdue, for a comprehensive review. The few that do not, mainly fall within three, broad categories; those who have an investment in the status quo; those who have no idea the Republic can be better than what it is today, and those who simply cannot be bothered. It is true that the liberal Constitution donated to us, by the colonisers, has served us well. But then so has every personal garment, that the same proponents have, in their lives, fixed, or discarded.

There is clear reluctance, on the part of the presidency, to kick the constitutional review process, into motion. The decision is beset with fundamental political concerns.  A review of the Constitution, may not augur well, for those who have an investment, in the status quo. A hybrid model that encompasses proportional representation, for example, would likely see the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) losing its majority in Parliament, given that it no longer enjoys the better fraction of the popular vote. At the rate things are going, by the year 2024, the BDP’s share of the popular vote would have significantly decreased. Add another possibility; namely, change towards the direct election, of the nation’s President. Disaster, would be almost certain. The President and the ruling party would surely, be apprehensive, that political advantages may be materially deleted, or compromised. Ironically, the delay in commissioning a constitutional review, has ensured that the citizenry better understand the merits of the key areas around which, reforms must be made. After half a century, of benefitting from blind loyalty, the ruling party finds itself, faced with the educated voter who demands reasons, for the justification of the status quo. We may well have to accept that President Mokgweetsi Masisi, would unlikely commission a constitutional review, until he is safely, in his second term. If it will be commissioned in this term, it would likely be at a time when its outcomes can be deferred to the next administration.  It is all about personal and party survival. Political insecurities, are standing on the way of national progress.

Yet, a promise was made to the nation,

and, the promise should be delivered. Failure, so to do, only adds to the roll of charges of dishonesty now being liberally read to the ruling party on every discussion platform. There is a need for the ruling party to purge itself of this indictment, which on the face of it, is well grounded. The opposition, point to way too many examples, for their concerns to be dismissed as political gimmicks. The BDP, is a party, in crisis.

There is a further reason, why a constitutional review must be commenced. It is because, so to do, would be in the public interest. Presently, the nation is obsessed with way too much negative energy. National dialogue has become bitter and divisive, and revolves around personalities. We need to see the back of the Khama versus Masisi politics, and to usher in issues that have relevance to the destiny of our country. A constitutional review would ensure that personalities cease to be relevant in our national discourse, and national ideals take centre stage. We must talk about second generation rights, amongst others. We need to whittle down executive power, and to empower institutions. We need to get rid of Section 41, of the Constitution, which permit Presidents to loot, with impunity. We have had 50 years of learning. It is time we call up all the lessons we have learnt overtime, and shape our destiny accordingly. Indeed “our future may be beyond our vision, but it is surely, not beyond our control”. President Masisi’s legacy lies, in expeditiously seeing through a constitutional review. 

The inclusion of second generation rights; the strengthening of oversight institutions, and other institutions of government, will birth a new jurisprudence of socio-economic development, hitherto impossible on account of the inelasticity of the black letter law. The DPP, and the DCEC, must be given administrative independence, and criminal penalties must exist for those that contrive to interfere with the same. Judges and parastatal CEOs, must be publicly interviewed. So much more can be done. We can be a better country. We must script, of new national dream and commit government to a minimum threshold of justiciable socio-economic deliverables.

Every party, that assumes power, must find a set of non-negotiables, including; water, education, public health, shelter, etc. As a lawyer, I look forward to an era when human dignity will be guaranteed in the Constitution.  I beseech President Masisi to fulfill the promise, and to commission the review with expedition. It behooves any leader with ambition, and the love of country, to accept the challenge with fortitude. Your Excellency, please, put the country first.

Chief On Friday

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