Friday, September 25, 2020

BCP should prove their worth by leading calls for electoral reforms

A few weeks ago, a strangely loquacious woman, claiming to be from the ranks of the BDP called our office.

Before she could even introduce herself she was singing lyrical asking me just what it was that I held against her party.

I was shell shocked, but still managed to politely tell her that I did not hate the BDP.

I said something to the effect that I had strong reservations about many of the party’s policies.

Never a woman to hold back her views, she proceeded to tell me how Botswana was in many ways comparable to the United States where, apparently she once lived and, she volunteered, also studied law.

She took particular exception to my recurring theme that Batswana should be allowed to directly elect their President.

Not even in America was Barrack Obama directly elected, she said, before rambling on and on about electoral colleges and stuff.

But it was her passionate argument that Batswana are not yet politically sophisticated to be allowed to directly elect a President that left me astounded.

Batswana have to be guided gradually before they are allowed to make such big decisions and that is what the BDP is doing, she said.

It was at that time that I asked her if I could call her later as I had to attend to something urgent.

Actually there was nothing urgent to attend to – only I could no longer stomach her condescending arrogance.
With her patronizing attitude literally filling me with nausea, I had to find a way to disengage.

There is nothing wrong, inherently wrong, with boasting that we are one of the most democratic countries in Africa as we like to do.

But in so boasting we should also be generous and honest to ourselves as to admit that there are many instances where we are lagging behind.

Truth be said, when it comes to personal freedoms and liberties as provided for by the constitution, Botswana is nowhere near South Africa which is by any account a late comer to political freedom.

In fact, South Africa is so far ahead of us that our meaningful competitors would be the police states of South East Asia.
Thus a cogent case exists for Botswana to start talking about electoral reforms.

A directly elected President should be a point of departure.
Former President Festus Mogae resisted the debate of a directly elected President.
Given his liberal and entrenched democratic ideals, it was a lack of enthusiasm that to this day I am unable to adequately account for.

If I recall, Mogae’s line of argument was that a directly elected President would naturally become more powerful than is currently the case as he would directly owe his authority to the people.

I have great respect for Mogae’s immense intellect, but on this matter I am afraid he was being deliberately disingenuous.

Botswana system produces one the most powerful presidencies in the Africa.
And for goodness sake, before our American trained woman jumps to her feet, here I am not even talking about the person of the current occupancy just yet.

Rather, it is our cockeyed electoral system that I am referring to.
Thankfully, sobered by the Motswaledi saga even some people inside the BDP are now anxious about power vested on the Presidency.

Excessive though they are, it is not the powers of the President that I am worried about.

In fact, if you asked me, I would say the President’s powers should stay.
What is important is that the President should earn those powers directly from the voter.

Zimbabwe, a country we like to portray as run by a red-eyed dictator has a better system.

Robert Mugabe may be rigging elections every five years, but Zimbabweans are, as of law, allowed, from time to time, to go to the polls to choose who they want their President to be.
That, I think, is the direction our woman lawyer from the United States should be using her exuberance to push the BDP towards.

More crucially that is what should concern Botswana’s 10th Parliament.
For sometime now the opposition BCP has been talking about Proportional Representation.
I think they are barking up the wrong tree.

Proportional Representation is a much more flawed system than the current winner-takes-all, constituency based system that we have.

Under Proportional Representation, real power resides not with the voter, but with the party bosses that draw up the lists. We should guard against taking power away from the voter.

Worse, under Proportional Representation the elected representatives lose any contact with the voter on whose behalf they are supposed to talk.
That cannot be democracy!

Food for thought, over and above a directly elected President, the BCP should talk about the folly of Specially Elected MPs ÔÇô four of them at the moment, even though the BDP gods would rather have eight.

Also, the opposition should talk more about the unpardonable distortions visited on our electoral system by the over 100 lackeys that the BDP nominates as Councilors.

Hopefully that will not take a lot of persuasion as there is already a groundswell of disenchantment within the BDP ranks against this aberration.


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