A motion by Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse to have the Parliament resolve to review the constitution of Botswana was rejected on Friday. The motion was rejected after a lengthy debate by MPs from both sides of the aisle. Before it was voted down, MP for Bobonong, Shaw Kgathi said constitutional reviews normally happen when there is regime change giving an example of South Africa when it transitioned from the apartheid government into a new democratic dispensation. According to Kgathi – the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security – the constitution contains 127 provisions, some of which are entrenched and the only sensible thing would be to review it in a piece meal approach by picking provisions that may be found to have been overtaken by time. Kgathi’s other argument is that the review will stretch the country in terms of resources and therefore only a few provisions can only be looked at. Mochudi West MP, Gilbert Mangole,said though he agrees that the Constitution has served the country well over the last 50 years, he was agitating for a constitutional review to align it with the current times. He played down Kgathi’s argument that constitutional reviews can only be necessary during regime change, giving examples that it has happened in Kenya and Zimbabwe without government changes when both ruling parties and opposition in those countries agreed to change it. Mangole said 50 years is a very long time without having reviewedBotswana constitution.
Just like Mangole, Gabane-Mmakgodi MP, Pius Mokgware, said his constituents are also calling for the review of the constitution as a lot is not captured in the current one and needs to be included. Mokgware said a Constitution is used to build the nation and therefore cannot be reviewed in piece meal but rather holistically. Leader of the opposition, Duma Boko cautioned that the constitution is a document that should be handled in its entirety and therefore would need wholesale amendment if it was to be reviewed. The mover of the motion, Keorapetse maintained that most countries in Africa have reviewed their template constitutions given to them by their colonial masters. He said most countries have since decided to write their own constitutions with no input from outsiders, especially their former colonisers. Keorapetse said Botswana is one of those countries with donated constitutions.His argument is premised on the fact that the 1963-1964 constitutional talks held in Lobatse were between the colonial masters, chiefs and representatives of some few political parties that were in existence at the time. He said back then there were no professional bodies such as the Law Society of Botswana and other civil society organisations.As a result, he argued that a few Batswana participated in the development of the current Constitution.