Ruling Botswana Democratic Party MPs on Friday rubbished a motion tabled by Gaborone South MP, Akanyang Magama, calling for a constitutional amendment.
Magama last week moved a motion which requested the government to amend the constitution so as to ensure and provide for the direct election of the president by the electorate and to abolish automatic succession to the presidency by a vice president on the death, resignation or ceasing to hold office by the incumbent president.
Poking holes in the motion on Friday, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister, Mompati Merafhe, accused Magama and his opposition team of supporting an absurd and chaos-inviting motion.
“This motion is a recipe for instability and chaos. Today countries which practice the same governance are in deep political instability. Kenya is now in flames because of this proportional representation where presidents are directly elected alongside MPs and councilors. Countries such as Lesotho practice the same governance and did not escape the predicament. The mountainous country experienced political upheavals emanating from the system. This country can not afford to risk and destroy a healthy and trouble free system currently in place at the resentment of the few individuals whose aims are to manipulate and enhance their political mileage,” Merafhe charged.
He said for more than forty years the BDP government ruled the country extremely well.
“The first-past-the-post system did this country good. The world is littered with countries that suffer from political instability because of unstable and unsure systems. We do not want this country to plunge into chaos.”
Merafhe, who is also the Mahalapye West MP, indicated that most countries admired the current political stability in the country, adding that most countries he suggested were even contemplating reversing their political systems to embrace the first-past-the-post system.
“Americans say ‘if it is not broken, do not fix it.’ This country can not be run like a fashion shop. I do not know why there is demand for sudden change,” he continued with the onslaught.
Merafhe said it was through good governance and responsibility that the country was in good standing.
He also attacked opposition MPs for personalizing issues when making contributions.
“The motion calls for a constitutional amendment but the opposition personalized during their contributions. Instead of engaging on pressing issues, the opposition team talked about vice president Ian Khama. That is utterly irrelevant. The opposition should have engaged and critiqued the system in place and leave Khama alone,” noted the Foreign Minister.
Merafhe painted the motion “terribly flawed and unprogressive”.
Letlhakeng East MP, Gordon Mokgwathi, said the election is the voice of the people and to deny people the right to elect the president is a gross violation of their fundamental rights.
“The president holds a sensitive and supreme office. He elects the chief-justice and the executive,” said Mokgwathi. “To not support the motion purely on the grounds that it is the brain-child of a member of the opposition is dangerous and retrogressive. Investigations reveal the public is pro-change.”
He said the ruling BDP was anti-change because the proposed system would not work for them.
“BDP governance should have the public interest at heart.”
Last week, Magama informed parliament the Afro Barometer project, conducted in May/July 2005, revealed the public was pro-change.
“The project found 63 percent of the respondents preferred direct election of the president as opposed to 33 percent who wanted the current system.”
On the issue of automatic succession, Magama revealed the project identified 57 percent of respondents wanted the current system to change as opposed to 41 percent who wanted the system to be retained.
Molepolole West MP, Daniel Kwelagobe, said the motion was without substance since nothing adverse was on the horizon.
“To call for a change for the sake of change is unwarranted.
First-past-the-post system has positively worked to the stability of the country. The indirect election of the president and automatic succession have benefited this country. The latter eludes uncertainty with which the country grappled with during the demise of Seretse Khama when Botswana found herself entangled without an immediate successor,” Kwelagobe said.
He took parliament down memory lane reminding the House that tangible and positive electoral reforms have, in the past, been adopted.
The government, he said, adopted and embraced the ballot papers against the disk as proposed by the opposition in the past.
He said countries, which include Italy, were contemplating discarding proportional representation.
“The proposed system breeds uncertainty and chaos which some countries are currently grappling with,” he observed.
Though she did not mention the names of the countries, Local Government minister, Margaret Nasha, scoffed at neighbouring countries which she said were struggling because of the same proposed political system to the extent that one of the countries’ inflation rate has reached an unprecedented high.
“Our neighbouring countries are struggling, with one of them experiencing uncommon inflation in history. We do not copy anything like one of our neighbours which has even permitted gay and lesbians to have rights,” Nasha said.
None of them said how these situations across the border were related to the system of government they have.
Proportional representation is in place in Zimbabwe and the country is hard-hit by inflation while South Africa has recognized the rights of gays and lesbians.