Parties Warned Against Hijacking Constitutional Review


TLOKWENG: The labour movement has warned political parties against hijacking the much-anticipated constitutional review, to allow for a transparent, genuine and inclusive process.

Different speakers during the launch of the constitutional review position paper developed by the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) and Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) warned that the process of constitution review could turn rough, highly contested and end up leaving the vulnerable compromised if it is not conducted with integrity. The launch of the paper was held at Oasis Motel on Friday morning. BOFEPUSU president, Johannes Tshukudu said the constitutional review should be treated as a national, not a partisan project.

Tshukudu said because President Mokgweetsi Masisi made the pronouncement that the country will embark on a constitutional review, there is already a feeling among the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members that this is “their project”. He said the delays by the government to start the process brings into question the commitment on the part of the ruling party to embark on the review. “Minister Morwaeng has been asked about this in the past and it is difficult for him to come up with clear time frames for this exercise,” Tshukudu said.

The federation’s deputy secretary-general, Ketlhalefile Motshegwa 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.

“There has to be an Act of Parliament to govern the entire process of review and the critical constitutional principles that should inform and shape the constitution must be agreed upon before the process starts. Politicians and political parties should not hijack or frustrate the process of genuine constitutional review and deadlock breaking mechanisms must be mutually agreed in advance,” Motshegwa said. He said the referendum, as the final adoptive act must be issue-based. Professor Justice Key Dingake, who presented the lessons learnt from other countries said, “The people lie at the centre of the constitution-making process”. He said: "We are the sovereign power and we ought to dictate what’s in the constitution”. Justice Dingake said before anything, there is a need to ensure that the process is fair, balanced and unites the nation. He warned that a constitutional review could be a rough, highly and intensively contested project, which could see “the weal thrown under the bus”. Pusetso Morapedi of Botswana Centre for Public Integrity called for the integrity of the process to be protected, as it is crucial to the end product. Morapedi highlighted that the whole process starts with empowering civil societies. “We want a fair and inclusive process. At the centre of a review of any law, are the people. So they must be empowered,” she said. While calls for a constitutional review come a long way, the two federation’s constitutional review position paper comes in the wake of Masisi’s promises that his government will initiate a review of the constitution. Masisi’s BDP pledged during the 2019 General Election campaigns, in its party manifesto that plans are underway to revise the constitution as demanded.

The President once again reiterated this promise during his maiden speech. In their position paper, the federations outline the process that should be followed for constitutional review and areas of the Constitution that need to be amended for a mature and functional democracy. BFTU’s Thusang Butale said although government is reluctant to shed light on the timelines for the process, the labour movement has taken a proactive step towards pushing for the review as well as soliciting support.

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