Labour movement against Masisi’s remarks


The country’s labour movement has condemned President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s comments on the impending constitutional review stating that his actions are pre-empting and influencing the process.

Following promises by his administration that Botswana will embark on a constitutional review, Masisi has continued to reiterate that promise during his countrywide engagement meetings with Batswana.

When addressing a Kgotla meeting recently in Selibe-Phikwe, Mmadinare and Tobane, Masisi said the process would soon commence. The President then dwelled on the involvement of chiefs in politics as one of the things the review should consider.

This raised eyebrows amongst some sections of the society including labour movements, as they said the President’s comments were influencing what he believes the review should focus on before the process even starts.

Many wondered if this is how the process should start before the terms of reference are set.

Now the labour movement says the President’s remarks could erode the legitimacy and objectivity of the process.

In an interview, Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) deputy secretary-general, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said they are concerned to hear the President discussing issues that he wants to be part of constitutional review before the process starts.

Motshegwa said Masisi should initiate the process and allow it to run without influence of the Office of the President.

“Now we are concerned that the President continues to make statements that seem to pre-empt the process of constitutional review. He should allow the process to run without the influence of Office of President. If he is not careful, this will erode the legitimacy and objectivity of the process,” Motshegwa told Mmegi.

He said as far as the constitutional review is concerned, Masisi’s role should be limited to launching the process by way of appointing the Constitutional Review Commission. He added that the Constitutional Review Commission should have diversity in terms of its composition.

Motshegwa added the Constitution should be people driven, with Batswana allowed to voice their suggestions without influence.

His counterpart at the Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), Thusang Butale said they are concerned that the President has time to talk about the constitutional review while delaying to launch the process. He said they have been following the President’s recent remarks on the constitutional review.

Butale said the President had promised during the previous State of The Nation (SONA) that the process will commence during first quarter of 2021.

“But we are going into another SONA next week and we will be keen to hear what he (Masisi) will say about the Constitutional Review drawing from what it entailed last year,” he said.

Butale stated that the labour movement had requested a meeting with the President to get an update, but were referred to the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng.

“We wrote to Office of the President, but we were directed to engage with Morwaeng. We responded saying that we wrote on the basis that in March this year the President had met with public sector unions to brief them on the intention to review the Constitution and how the process will be. And we felt that as federations we also need to be given an update,” he said.

Butale added they are also concerned that there is no timelines set for the process, which raises questions about the government’s commitment to initiating the process.

The labour movement’s remarks comes just a month after BOFEPUSU and BFTU launched a position paper on the Constitution review they wish could be a basis to constitutional reform in Botswana.

During the launch of the position paper, the labour movement warned political parties against hijacking the much-anticipated constitutional review, to allow for a transparent, genuine and inclusive process. The federations said government should be seen to be sincere, honest, open and supportive of the Constitution making process while allowing the civil society a spot to contribute.

The position paper also suggested that after the review commission is set, there should be terms of reference with the referendum being used as the adoptive measure of the final product.

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