Saturday, July 4, 2020

Botswana stalls to ratify African Charter on Democracy

BY THOBO MOTLHOKA

The government of Botswana remains one of at least two countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) yet to sign and ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance.

While the country has for a long time been hailed as a beacon of democracy in Africa, it has been sluggish in recognising key human rights protocols such as the Charter on Democracy, and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

After years of dilly-dallying the country finally succumbed to pressure, signing and acceding to the Gender Protocol in 2017.

It has been 12 years now since the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance was adopted on 30 January 2007 as the African Union’s main normative instrument to set standards for better governance across the continent.

Botswana has again remained behind other regional countries in adopting the charter.

“Botswana is currently studying all aspects of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, as well as relating the provisions of the Charter to all relevant domestic legislative instruments prior to considerations for ratification,” says Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi.

“It is important for the Government to scrutinise the legislative landscape of the country in so far as it relates to the provisions, demands and expectations enshrined in the Charter in order to ensure full compliance upon ratification,” he told Sunday Standard. The processes of such considerations, Molefhi said, are ongoing.

The objectives of the Charter include promoting adherence, by each State Party, to the universal values and principles of democracy and respect for human rights.

It calls for adherence to the principle of the rule of law premised upon the respect for, and the supremacy of, the Constitution and constitutional order in the political arrangements of the State Parties. “State Parties shall ensure that the process of amendment or revision of their constitution reposes on national consensus, obtained if need be, through referendum.”

The objectives aim to promote the holding of regular free and fair elections to institutionalize legitimate authority of representative government as well as democratic change of governments. “State Parties re-affirm their commitment to regularly holding transparent, free and fair elections in accordance with the Union’s Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa.”

Botswana is expected to go for what looks set to be the most hotly contested General Elections to date, this coming October, 2019.

The decision by President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s estranged immediate predecessor Ian Khama to form his own opposition party to challenge the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is unprecedented in Botswana. The objectives of theAfrican Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance also include prohibiting, rejecting and condemning unconstitutional change of government in any Member State as a serious threat to stability, peace, security and development. The Charter aims to promote and protect the independence of the judiciary; Nurture, support and consolidate good governance by promoting democratic culture and practice, building and strengthening governance institutions and inculcating political pluralism and tolerance among other objectives.

It also aims to promote the fight against corruption in conformity with the provisions of the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption adopted in Maputo, Mozambique in July 2003.

The Charter was inspired by the objectives and principles enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the African Union, particularly Articles 3 and 4, which emphasize the significance of good governance, popular participation, the rule of law and human rights.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.