At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that General Ian Khama will become the next president of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). The latter communicates a very clear message that he wants to become state president again but there is already fear within the BPF that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is already planning to frustrate Khama’s return to the State House through its control of ongoing exercise to review the constitution.
In fulfilling an electoral pledge that he made ahead of the 2019 general, President Mokgweetsi Masisi has appointed a commission that has been travelling the length and breadth of the country to elicit views from members of the public on what provisions in the constitution need to be reviewed. The Constitutional Review Commission is headed by former Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo and having spent the past several months holding public hearings in places far flung from Gaborone, is now holding such hearings in places around the capital city. In no time, it will be wrapping up its assignment – which will end with the production of a report.
The constitutional change that was introduced during the administration of President Sir Ketumile Masire says that one can only be president for two five-year terms. However, it doesn’t prohibit return to the presidency after an intervening period. That means that Festus Mogae and Khama can, like Vladimir Putin did in Russia in 2008, run for president a second time.
At one too many hearings of the Constitution Review Commission, some speakers from the floor have proposed that former presidents who have served out two five-year terms shouldn’t be allowed to run again for president. On the face of it, these proposals may appear organic and innocent but some BPF members are convinced that there is a lot of malice built into.
Most BPF members have a long BDP history and so have intimate knowledge of the party and the methods it uses.
“While speakers at the Commission’s hearings may not have identified themselves as BDP, they are actually BDP operatives,” says a BPF member adding that he actually knows some of them personally. “Their intention is to create favourable conditions for formal acceptance of the amendment they proposed. It is clear that the BDP wants to make it impossible for Khama to return to the presidency.”
That is indeed possible because the public consultation notwithstanding, the government, notably President Mokgweetsi Masisi, has the final say on what the new constitution will look like.
When the Commission has completed its work, it will produce a report whose presentation to Masisi will be a pomp-and-ceremony public spectacle headlined by Masisi and Dibotelo. From the report, the government will produce a white paper – being government’s response to the Commission’s report and a blueprint of what will be implemented. If Masisi does indeed want to frustrate Khama’s plans to become president again, the white paper presents such opportunity on a silver platter.