President Ian Khama is reportedly not keen to increase the number of constituencies in the run up to the 2014 general elections on account of austerity measures inspired by the International Monetary Fund.
The Sunday Standard is reliably informed that what may seem to be a belated announcement of the Delimitation Commission by the President following the national census may, in fact, mean that there will be no delimitation this time around.
The government spokesman, Dr. Jeff Ramsay, would not confirm or deny that President Khama will not altogether appoint the Delimitation Commission as expected of him.
“A Delimitation Commission has not as yet been appointed. In this respect, it may be noted that statistics from the latest census are still being tabulated, notwithstanding the release of preliminary results. Any change in the number of constituencies would be a matter for Parliament to consider,” says Ramsay.
The Principal Legal Advisor to the government, Attorney General Dr. Atalia Molokomme, was not available for comment by the time of going to press.
“In a constituency based electoral system, such as the one obtaining in Botswana, Parliamentary Constituencies have to be demarcated and delimited. The process of demarcation and delimitation of constituencies occupies the core of this electoral system. For the process to be fair and credible and to be perceived as such, those who are charged with the responsibility of this onerous task have to be people whose credentials are beyond reproach,” says lawyer Dick Bayford.
He added that the mandate and the criteria to be applied by the commission have to be clearly spelled out.
“These are matters so salutary that they are provided for in the National Constitution,” he says.
According to the Constitution, the Judicial Service Commission shall appoint a Delimitation Commission consisting of a Chairman and not more than four other members at intervals of not less than five nor more than 10 years.
The law says at any time when Parliament has made provision altering the number of seats of Elected Members in the National Assembly; or a comprehensive national population census is held in Botswana, the Judicial Service Commission shall, as soon as practicable thereafter, appoint a Delimitation Commission.
The law says whenever a Delimitation Commission has been appointed, the Commission shall, as soon as practicable, submit to the President a report which shall state whether any alteration is necessary to the boundaries of the constituencies in order to give effect to Subsection (2) of the section of the law or in consequence of any alteration in the number of seats of Elected Members in the National Assembly and where any alteration is necessary shall include a list of the constituencies delimited by the Commission and a description of the boundaries of those constituencies.
The law further says that boundaries of each constituency shall be such that the number of inhabitants thereof is as nearly equal to the population quota as is reasonably practicable provided that the number of inhabitants of a constituency may be greater or less than the population quota in order to take account of natural community of interest, means of communication, geographical features, density of population, and the boundaries of Tribal Territories and administrative districts.
There is a section which deals with “population quota”, which means the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Botswana (as ascertained by reference to the latest comprehensive national population census in Botswana) by the number of constituencies into which Botswana is divided under section 63 of this Constitution.
The law says, “The President shall as soon as practicable after the submission of the report of the Delimitation Commission, by Proclamation published in the Gazette, declare the boundaries of the constituencies as delimited by the Commission.”
The Commission may, by regulation or otherwise, regulate its own procedure and may subject to its rules of procedure, act notwithstanding any vacancy in its membership or the absence of any member and its proceedings shall not be invalidated by the presence or participation of any person not entitled to be present at or to participate in those proceedings.
Botswana currently has 57 parliamentary constituencies.