Labour’s take on constitutional review

BOFEPUSU members during previous conference PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
BOFEPUSU members during previous conference PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

The labour movement has proposed that the impending constitutional review should provide for a wide, comprehensive and fully justiciable Bill of Rights.

Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) want the Bill of Rights to include civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. In their position paper launched last Friday, the two federations also outline the process that should be followed for the constitutional review and areas of the Constitution that need to be amended for a mature and functional democracy. “Additionally, in our view, the new Constitution must include a chapter on national objectives, which sets out a list of obligations, to guide the State in formulating and implementing laws and policy decisions,” reads the paper. According to the federations, these obligations may or may not create corresponding and individually justiciable rights enforceable in a court of law.

The federations are also of the view that the impending new Constitution should impose duties on both the State and private persons, including juristic persons, by making it clear that both the State and every person, including juristic persons, must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and freedoms set out in the Bill of Rights.

They argue that it makes sense to make private power accountable to the law in so far as human rights are concerned in the contemporary era where multinational corporations and other big businesses, may in some circumstances, hold as much power as states or even more.

“The inclusion of justiciable economic, social and cultural rights in the Bill of Rights would represent a significant step forward as well as with many other countries; our Constitution did not protect such rights.” The paper proposes that the socio-economic rights should be comprehensive and possibly include rights to: education, healthcare, food and water, fair labour practices, freedom of profession, trade or occupation, language and culture and marriage. “We also strongly favour socio-economic rights for specific groups, such as a right to: nutrition and shelter for children, welfare for the elderly over the age of 65 years, pregnant women and special educational and medical needs for persons with disabilities.

The federations feel that the Bill of Rights would entrench the right to access official information, by providing that every citizen including juristic persons and the media, in the country, has the right of access to any information held by the State in so far as the information is required in the interests of public accountability. However, they argue that it should be possible to provide for restrictions to this right only in the interests of defence, public security or professional accountability, and to the extent that the restriction is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom. Moreover, the labou,r movement has also proposed the creation of the independent commissions to support democracy.

This includes the Anti-Corruption Commission, Human Rights Commission, the Gender Commission, the Media Commission, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Office of the Auditor General and the Office of the Public Protector. “These commissions/institutions should be independent and not subject to the direction or control of anyone. The President, following a Parliamentary resolution to that effect, may appoint members of the commissions.”

Editor's Comment
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