Thursday, October 1, 2020

BDP seeks to give the president more powers

Scores of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members are worried over what they call the ?Mugaberisation? of the Botswana presidency following proposed Constitutional amendments that seek to transfer power from the party structures and concentrate it in the hands of the president.

The proposed amendments, recommended by a task force headed by former minister Tebelelo Seretse and which were presented before the party National Council yesterday (Saturday), will only be debated at the party congress in July.

One of the proposed amendments, which is meeting strong resistance inside the party, seeks to give the president power to take final disciplinary action against any member, including expulsion from the party, without making reference to the party disciplinary structures.

Currently, the ultimate disciplinary authority in the party resides with the Final Disciplinary Committee, a structure made up of the president and four nominated members.

Another amendment seeks to close out the party general membership from the appointment of party chairman ? the most powerful position in the party. Under the proposed amendment, the national Vice President who is appointed by the President and endorsed by the party caucus will automatically become the party chairman.

To ensure that there is no dissent in the party structures, further amendment to the party Constitution is being proposed to ensure that decisions of the caucus are binding. Those who fail to toe the line of the parliamentary and council caucus could find themselves at the mercy of the President who would be the ultimate judge.
BDP acting Executive Secretary, Fidelis Molao, confirmed the proposed amendment Friday morning, but could not say how the party membership is receiving them because ?structures have not furnished us with submissions on their position.?

The debate over presidential powers is currently a sensitive issue and is believed to be the undisclosed reason why Professor Kenneth Good was declared a prohibited immigrant from Botswana.

In a paper that Good wanted to present shortly before he was declared a prohibited immigrant, he argues that Botswana?s political system ?is highly elitist, with power centralized in the presidency. Its two presidential transitions, in 1980 and 1998, took place without elections, were determined by a tiny elite, and involved successors who had no popular constituencies whatsoever.

?The state president enjoys panoply of constitutional and de facto power. He is elected indirectly by a parliament in which the BDP?s vote has fallen to 52 percent while its biased electoral system has still given it 77 percent of seats.

??The constitution gives him the power to decide without consultation with cabinet or parliament. He can constitute a commission of inquiry into any matter; determine whether it sits in public or in private, and whether its report is made public.?
Good further argued that ?commanding both the state and the predominant BDP, all three presidents – Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae – have readily exercised their powers to subordinate the law and the constitution to the political exigencies of the time.

Parliament was removed from the succession process. In appointing Ian Khama as vice president while he remained paramount chief of the Bamangwato, Mogae violated Masire?s earlier constitutional amendment.

??There is need for a debate on the wisdom of automatic succession of the vice president to the presidency. The current practice … shuts out everyone else – including the elected representatives, the MPs – from the process of choosing the country?s head of state.?

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