The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) applauds the Honorable Member of Parliament for Gaborone Central, Dr Phenyo Butale for bringing before the House of Assembly a motion that: a) Calls on Government to expand the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana to include socio-economic and cultural rights so as to ensure justiciability of such rights. b) AND, FURTHER, to take the Constitutional Amendment Bill proposed herein to a referendum process in keeping with the provisions of section 89(4) of the Constitution.
BONELA has consistently maintained that constitutionalizing second generation rights such as the right to health, right to education, right to decent living wage, reflects the need to protect the most fundamental interests of Batswana in having resources that are necessary for the exercise of their well-being.
BONELA further argues that the effective realization of the rights currently provided for in the constitution depends on these socio economic and cultural rights- Of what use is the right to dignity if one is illiterate because their parents could not afford to send them to school? Or of what use is the right to life if one is denied basic health services because they could not afford it?
In addition to the above, a solid culture of socio-economic rights, rooted in justiciable constitutional provisions, can help to ensure that vulnerable groups, especially poor people are entitled to a fair share of national resources and are able to enjoy the material conditions essential for their dignity and well-being.
Conclusively, the most effective way to recognize and enforce these rights is to include them in the constitution which is the supreme law of the state. Amending the constitution to accommodate these rights also raises a political expectation that the provision of services is a legitimate and expected role of the government.
We therefore urge Honorable Members of Parliament, to act in the best interest of Batswana, particularly those most vulnerable and poor members of the society, by positively engaging and considering the aforementioned motion brought before parliament with the view to improve the quality of life of all Batswana.