Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Francistown South MP Wynter Mmolotsi has raised an objection to Botswana’s automatic succession of presidency saying it gives the ruling party presidential candidate an unfair advantage over opponents.
Responding to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) this week Mmolotsi said the system, adopted in 1997, was not what they thought it would be. “It gives the ruling party an advantage all the time because opposition parties have to contend with a competitor who is in power before he gets elected,” he said.
The ruling party president, Mmolotsi said, goes to the elections carrying all state apparatus, using official fora like the Kgotla while his competitors are on foot.
“This can never be fair especially in a country well known for its high democratic credentials. These resources are for Batswana and not for any political party and all must enjoy them. The sooner we get rid of this system, the better.”
Mmolotsi is not the first politician to speak against automatic succession. Even the late President Sir Ketumile Masire, who introduced the system to pave way for his successor, former President Festus Mogae, has at least once come out to express regret at introducing the system.
Masire said a president’s term in office was erroneous in that it leads to a situation where the vice president automatically becomes president before taking a party to elections.
“I admit the blunder on our part. It has already been done, Mogae set a precedent and served 10 years in office and so Khama has to,” he was quoted in the media at the time.
Speaking during former President Ian Khama’s tenure, Masire said Khama could solve the problem by serving his full term, adding the other two years to ensure that the next Vice President took his party through to the 2019 general election and only becomes President upon winning.
Those against the automatic succession have often argued that in a democracy like Botswana the right to choose a President should rest with the people. They have described the system as the BDP’s then strategy to solve its internal problems by making an amendment that took away from Parliament the right to elect a new president in the event of the incumbent’s incapacitation.
Responding to SONA this past week AP Vice President Mmolotsi also called for the introduction of direct election of the president so that Batswana can have a direct voice on who should become their president.
“The constitution of Botswana gives the president so much powers and it is desirable that a person wielding so much power should be directly elected by the people,” Mmolotsi argued.
He also used the opportunity to call for funding of political parties and making of legislation that criminalizes sourcing of funds from outside the country. “We all know of governments that are controlled from outside by corrupt syndicates, billionaires, cartels and mafia groups. We do not want to see that happening in Botswana.” He said in the just ended general elections, parties were heavily funded from outside Botswana with outsiders having invested heavily in political parties with the hope of getting something in return. “If the government continues to ignore calls for reforms then investors from elsewhere will ultimately turn of country into their private property.”