BY THOBO MOTLHOKA
Member of Parliament for Lobatse Sadique Kebonang has expressed his wish for a direct election of the country’s president. Kebonang , who was dropped by President Mokgweetsi Masisi from cabinet in 2018 following his alleged involvement in the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) looting scandal , asked the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration whether there are plans to introduce direct election of the President of Botswana and if not, why.
In his response Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs Machana Shamukuni said the government had no plans to introduce direct election of the president.
“Government has not identified the need to amend the law, to allow for the direct election of the President of Botswana. I must hasten to state that provision for the direct election of the President is a major political reform.”
He said however that the government had resuscitated the All Party Conference to provide a forum where political parties meet to discuss political reforms.
“In the few meetings held so far with representatives from political parties, many issues have been identified and recommended to Government for consideration. All Party meetings provide an ideal avenue for deliberation of issues such as this.”
He also said the direct election of the President will require the amendment of the Constitution.
For his part Member of Parliament for Francistown South Wynter Mmolotsi said amendment to the constitution should not be a problem because it is done by Parliament itself. He said direct election of President would give Batswana an opportunity to elect a better president than the incumbent. “We are at the mercy of the incumbent President…” Mmolotsi said.
Assistant Minister Shamukuni said there was nothing undemocratic about the current electoral system. “In other jurisdictions and other renowned democracies like the United States they use indirect election of the President, even in the Federal Republic of Germany and all these democracies.” He said the government had not established the need to change to direct election of the President.
“You are confused about the United States because their direct election of the President through Electoral College, President and Vice President are elected as a pair. That is why in the case of a vacancy, the Vice President takes over,” Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse intervened. “What I just wanted to know from you is whether there are any plans for a comprehensive constitutional review because the call for direct election of the President is just a macrocosm of the larger scheme of compressive review of the Constitution. Are there any plans in the immediate for a comprehensive review?”
But Shamukuni was having none of it. “In the United States, voters elect the electoral college which elects the President; that is indirect election.”