Can Ramadeluka Seretse still be Vice President?

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Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Dikgakgamatso Ramadeluka Seretse, lost the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s Serowe North-East constituency’s primary elections to his nemesis, Kgotla Autlwetse. While Seretse got a paltry 1 478 votes, Autlwetse got an estimable 4 084 votes. In this article, I attempt to answer the question of whether or not, following this historic loss, Seretse can still be Vice President post the 2014 general elections.

Admittedly, prior to Seretse’s loss, this would have been an absurd question. As argued before, owing to the preservation of the Khama and Seretse dynasty, militarization and centralization of the presidency strategies, Seretse would most likely be the next Vice President. Being President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s cousin, a former soldier and a MoNgwato from the central district, Seretse would most likely get the nod ahead of such possible contenders as the Ministers for Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Onkokame Kitso Mokaila, and Education and Skills Development minister, Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, whose only ‘sins’ may be tribe and gender respectively.

I wish to submit that following Seretse’s loss, were it not for the ruling BDP and President Khama’s propensity to amend and/or manipulate the law for political expediency, it would be certain that Seretse cannot be the next Vice President. This is because in terms of section 39(1) of the Constitution of Botswana, a Vice President “… shall be appointed by the President from among the Elected Members of the National Assembly who are citizens of Botswana by birth or descent, which appointment shall be endorsed by the said Elected Members.”

Barring manipulation of the law and political maneuver, having lost his party’s primary elections, Seretse cannot stand for parliamentary elections during the next general elections and, therefore, cannot be an Elected Member of the National Assembly. He can only be a Specially Elected Member of Parliament (MP) in terms of section 58 (2) (b) of the Constitution of Botswana.   On this point alone, we could be certain that Seretse cannot be the next Vice President since, as a Specially Elected MP, he would be ineligible for appointment as Vice President. We, however, submit that, knowing the capriciousness of the BDP and President Khama, Seretse can still be Vice President.

Firstly, despite winning the BDP primary elections, Kgotla Autlwetse may still not go to Parliament. He too knows that. No wonder he is reported to have declined to speak to the media about his election victory. The BDP and/or President Khama may make Autlwetse disqualified, in terms of section 62 of the Constitution, for election to the National Assembly for ‘insolvency’ and/or ‘bankruptcy’or‘conviction’ for any offence connected with elections to the National Assembly in terms of section 62 (1) (b) and (2) of the Constitution of Botswana respectively. In that case, the BDP will have no candidate for the Serowe North-East constituency and will, therefore, call fresh primary elections.

Secondly, the BDP and/or President Khama can negotiate with one of those who won the BDP primary elections, including Kgotla Autlwetse himself, especially in safe constituencies, to abdicate their position. If agreeable, the person can be rewarded with an appointment, especially a diplomatic position. Alternatively, if the person approached for ‘voluntary’ abdication of his or her general elections’ candidature resists, President Khama and/or the BDP can suspend or even dismiss him or her from the party or make him or her disqualified for election to the National Assembly in terms of section 62 (1) (b) and (2) of the Constitution of Botswana supra.  In either case, there would be a vacancy and the BDP would call fresh primary elections for the constituency, and ensure that Seretse stands unopposed. If he goes on to win the general elections, Seretse would then be eligible for appointment as Vice President.

Thirdly, though this would have been unimaginable before President Khama’s presidency, it is possible that if after being made a ‘parliamentary candidate’, the only obstacle to Seretse being an Elected Member of the National Assembly is(an) opposition parliamentary candidate(s), such unscrupulous methods as making the opposition candidate disqualified for election to the National Assembly in terms of section 62 (1) (b) and (2) of the Constitution of Botswana supra, giving the opposition candidate(s) incentives to defect from their parties and not contest elections, rigging of elections, etc. can be used to ensure that Seretse stands unopposed during the general elections. That will assure him of the much needed status of an Elected Member of the National Assembly, a pre requisite for the Vice Presidency.

Fourthly, the BDP, which is likely to have the requisite majority in Parliament after the next general elections, can amend the Constitution to make Specially Elected MPs eligible for appointment to the Vice Presidency. In such a case, President Khama would, as expected, appoint Seretse as a Specially Elected MP following which he would be eligible for appointment as Vice President. Recently, asked whether he would accept to be a Specially Elected MP should President Khama elect him, Seretse said, “Let’s wait for that time.”

Fifthly, if the BDP fails to amend the Constitution due to an insufficient majority in the National Assembly or inadequate time and/or regards it as politically inexpedient, President Khama may rely on a distorted interpretation of the law to ensure that Seretse becomes Vice President. President Khama may appoint him as a Specially Elected MP and then appoint him Vice President. This, he can do, following legal advice to the effect that, in the absence of an express definition in the Botswana Constitution itself and/or the Interpretation Act, CAP.01:04, the phrase‘Elected Member of the National Assembly’ includes a Specially Elected MP since a Specially Elected MP is endorsed through election by Elected Members of the National Assembly.
Clearly, the aforesaid interpretation would be erroneous both in itself and in terms of the liberal and positive rules of statutory construction as espoused at sections 26 and 27 respectively of the Interpretation Act, CAP.01:04. However, following such precedents as the one set by the High Court during the recent case where the opposition unsuccessfully challenged President Khama’s decision to postpone the Francistown West bye -elections, the courts are likely to hold that the Vice President’s appointment is not subject to judicial review, it not being an administrative action, but an executive action. Also, the BDP and President Khama may invoke the disreputable section 41 of the Constitution of Botswana which protects the President in respect of legal proceedings.

Sixthly, and as a last and very unlikely resort, if all other options fail and/or become legally and/or politically untenable, Seretse can stand as an ‘Independent’ Parliamentary candidate in which case he will become available for the Vice Presidency if he wins the general elections and becomes an Elected Member of the National Assembly. The reason I make this seemingly absurd suggestion is that the BDP and Seretse himself seem to believe that Seretse lost the primary elections because they were ‘tainted’ by public servants’ votes. The BDP and Seretse may, therefore, yield to the advice that since during the general elections there is a wider and more aggregated pool of voters, his chances of winning the general elections exist if he were to stand as an ‘Independent’ Parliamentary candidate and later ‘cross the floor’ to the BDP after elections.

Prior to President Khama’s presidency, alleging that the BDP and/or the state President could resort to such deprived strategies for political expediency would be ludicrous. The antithetical is now true. For example, following the 2011 public sector strikes, the BDP abused its Parliamentary majority and amended the law to make teaching an essential service.

Considering that the BDP is likely to have a majority in the next National Assembly, which majority will be increased by the Specially Elected MPs, whose election is controlled by President Khama and the BDP, if the BDP and/or President Khama resorts to the aforesaid strategies, Seretse’s endorsement as Vice President by the National Assembly would be guaranteed.
Therefore, despite losing the Serowe North-East constituency’s primary elections, Seretse can still be the next Vice President. Recently, Seretse was quoted by the media saying “You cannot determine my political future on the occurrence of one incident… To say it is the end of my political career would be foolhardy…You can still participate in politics through a number of ways.” I submit that these ‘number of ways’ may include the possible strategies I  have postulated above. Also, specifically, Seretse implied that he still has presidential ambitions and believes he can still be President by saying,   “Ambitions are just ambitions. After all for one to be a Vice President he has to be chosen by the sitting President, so even if I had ambitions, it was still up to the President to elect me if he so wishes.” EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS LETTER HAS BEEN EDITED FOR LENGTH.
Ndulamo Anthony Morima