- Rift between Khama – Masisi result of automatic succession
- No need to amend constitution, says Minister Shamukuni
- Government has resuscitated the All Party Conference
- MPs call for amendment of constitution
Government has no plans to amend the Constitution to allow for the introduction of a directly elected President, Assistant Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Machana Shamukuni revealed in parliament.
Last week, Lobatse Member of Parliament Sadique Kebonang asked the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration whether there are plans to introduce direct election of the President of Botswana and if not, for what reasons.
“Currently there are no plans in place, and Government has not identified the need to amend the law, to allow for the direct election of the President of Botswana,” replied the Minister. Further, he stated that provision for the direct election of the President is a major political reform. That notwithstanding, Shamukuni said Government has resuscitated the All Party Conference to provide a forum where political parties meet to discuss political reforms.
“In the few meetings held so far with representatives from political parties, many issues have been identified and recommended to Government for consideration. All Party meetings provide an ideal avenue for deliberation of issues such as this. For purposes of elucidation, the direct election of the President will require the amendment of the Constitution,” he said.
The answer did not however sit well with Wynter Mmolotsi, Francistown South Member of Parliament (MP). “What’s the problem with amending the constitution. An amendment is done by parliament so it should not be a problem,” he said, adding that what the ruling administration does not realise is that automatic succession disadvantages Batswana and the general electorate who are being denied an opportunity to elect a leader of their choice.
“We are at the mercy of the incumbent President, to choose the next President for us and that particular person would not necessarily be the best to lead the nation. Can’t you see that this automatic succession is the reason why the economic status of our country is deteriorating,” he asked rhetorically.
Shamukuni nevertheless responded to the challenges by the MPs claiming that the system used in Botswana is not undemocratic.
He said it caters for direct presidential election as in other jurisdictions and other renowned democracies like in the United States where they use indirect election of the President as well as the Federal Republic of Germany. “We have not established the need to change to a directly elected President.”
Selibe Phikwe South MP Dithapelo Keorapetse corrected the Minister by pointing out that the USA does not have a system of direct presidential elections. the MP pointed out that in the USA the election of the President is through its Electoral College and that President and Vice President are elected as a pair, which is why in the case of a vacancy, the Vice President takes over.
“What I just wanted to know from you is whether there are any plans for a comprehensive Constitutional review because the call for direct election of the President, it is just a macrocosm of the larger scheme of compressive review of the Constitution,” Keorapetse asked, to which Shamukuni replied there were no plans for such an undertaking.
On assuming office President Masisi has hinted at constitutional reform amid growing calls from all sides of the political isle to update the national constitution to a more progressive document. The office of the President has however denied claims that it would engage in such an undertaking prior to the October general elections.
Automatic succession has been in place in its current format since 1997. It was introduced, in its original incantations that required a parliamentary vote by former President Sir Ketumile Masire who took over from Sir Seretse Khama after his untimely passing.
Under its current format, automatic succession has been widely criticized as being undemocratic and has ushered in former presidents Festus Mogae and Ian Khama.
While the current President Mokgweetsi Masisi benefitted from such a system, his was not a smooth transition. The current rift between himself and his predecessor, Khama is a result of the automatic succession. It emerged that when former President made Masisi his vice president, it was done on the basis of an ‘agreement’ that Masisi would in return make Tshekedi Khama as Vice President, so that he would equally benefit from the automatic succession and become President, which will ensure the Khama’s continuity in the line of power.
Should Batswana be given an opportunity to elect their own President, then it would reduce the fight for power, according to observers. They say that automatic succession can also be used to appoint certain individuals for selfish and corrupt motives. Observers believe that former President Khama wanted to ensure that his younger brother would become President so that their family’s financial interests would remain protected. The Khamas continue to reap the benefit from the tourism sector, which available evidence and media report reveal witnessed policy manipulation to benefit the family at their associates in the sector. The Khama family is also known to have benefitted from the military procurements through a company called Seleka Springs owned by Tshekedi and twin brother Anthony.