Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Civil society demands separation of powers

Botswana Civil Society Organisations have put forward a list of demands they say the Commission of Inquiry into the review of the Constitution of Botswana must take into consideration.


According to a document seen by The Telegraph, the demands include; the new Constitution must provide for the cabinet to be constituted from outside Parliament. The civil society says this will enhance the doctrine of separation of powers as Members of Parliament will effectively play the oversight role over the Executive Branch to provide accountability.


They also demand that the new Constitution must also provide for meritocracy-based appointment of Cabinet members through a confirmatory process that involves screening and public interviews by a select committee of Parliament.


“This will ensure that Cabinet has effective, efficient and competent duty bearers. The new Constitution must provide for removal of oversight institutions from the control of the Office of the President and assign their reporting responsibility to Parliament,” the civil society says.


The civil society organisations demand that the new Constitution must provide for Parliament to be empowered to approve heads of important oversight institutions (DCEC, Ombudsman etc.) and other high level government operatives (for example the BDF Commander, DISS Director General, Chief Justice etc.)


“With the current Constitution the heads of oversight institutions are appointed by the President, with no criteria for appointment in place. The heads of these institutions do not have security of tenure,” they said.


They explained that all these compromise their independence.
The civil society organisations also want the new Constitution must provide for direct election of President.


“The current status allows for direct election of local government Councilors and Members of Parliament but has no provision for direct election of the president. Like other elected office bearers’, the presidential candidate must also be elected by Batswana,” they said. They added that the new Constitution must provide for impeachment of the President.


“The current constitution does not provide for this, however it is necessary for the sitting president to be elected into power, held accountable and be impeached if s/he is not performing or in cases of gross misconduct whilst in office,” they said. They added that the new Constitution must provide for funding of political parties.


“This is necessary for deepening democracy and accountability as well as enabling more leadership candidates to participate in running for political office. The current status quo does not facilitate for ease of participation in politics by a diversity of experts, citizens and youth,” they said.  They said the new Constitution needs to provide for proportional representation model for elections to increase representation for marginalized groups.


“Currently only a few representatives from marginalized groups are participating. The new Constitution must provide for a living wage (UBI) for the unemployed,” the civil society organisations said.


They said the social protection/safety net programme of Botswana does not cater for the needs of the unemployed, and there is need for the new Constitution to recognize that we have a group of the productive sector members who are unemployed in need of shelter, food, have children to care for, all with different needs.


They also demanded that the new Constitution must provide for removal of “minority and majority tribes.”


“This is in contradiction to the right to equality. It is necessary to have a new Constitution that has looked at all the areas of the constitution that contradict the right to equality of all Batswana citizens,” they said.


The new Constitution must explicitly provide for clear separation of powers between the arms of Government, the civil society said. They said the new Constitution must provide for robust checks and balances between arms of Government.


“Currently the executive arm of Government (cabinet) has overbearing and dominant power over the other two arms (Parliament and the Judiciary),” they said.  Also, currently Parliament is not independent (it is a department under one of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, completely subordinate to the Executive Branch), they said.

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