'Direct election of President impossible'

SHARE   |   Thursday, 19 November 2020   |   By Bakang Tiro
Morwaeng Morwaeng

Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Thato Raphaka, has dismissed suggestions that Botswana should introduce direct election of the president.

Raphaka said the proposal by opposition parties that the direct election of President be included in the envisaged Constitutional review is impossible as it may take time and Botswana is not ready. Members of the Parliament Standing Committee on Government Assurances had asked Raphaka when the direct election of President will be considered. A similar motion had been brought to Parliament last year by Nata/Gweta MP Polson Majaga, but was rejected by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) majority.

Majaga's motion had also called for cabinet ministers to be appointed from out of Parliament, saying it will nourish Botswana's democracy. “Government is committed to review the Constitution. It will not entail direct election of President and appointment of cabinet ministers. That would be a lengthy process, which is also expensive in terms of running the elections,” said Raphaka rejecting the suggestion outright.

General Counsel at Office of the President (OP) Dittah Molodi concurred with Raphaka that for now direct election of President in Botswana is still not necessary but it can be considered later. He said the Constitutional review will determine which sections of the Constitution will be dealt with first but Kgalagadi South MP Sam Brooks differed saying it is not good to conduct the review in piecemeal. Brooks, who is part of the committee, buttressed that there is a need for complete overhaul of the Constitution rather than amending certain sections because the whole document is outdated.

Political analyst Lesole Machacha observes that OP is not committed to the direct election of the President as demonstrated by the ruling party's deliberate decision to quash Majaga's motion. He said Botswana is ready to administer Presidential elections as the exercise is very simple just like that of voting MPs and Councillors, insisting that a referendum can also be a way for people to decide. “It is unthinkable that in a democracy, a President who is not popularly elected should still be enjoying the sole right to choose a future President for the nation. This current setup that we are voting in makes the Presidency to look like chieftainship, which is hereditary,” he argued.

Machacha further argued that the concentration of power in a President who is not elected by people defeats the whole notion of liberal democracy and doctrine of separation of powers.

Sefhare/ Ramokgonami MP Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang, who is the vice President of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) said direct election of President and state political party funding are long overdue. Dr Gobotswang confronted Raphaka regarding OP’s lack of commitment to implement a resolution on political party funding passed by All Party Conference (APC). “Former Presidential Affairs Minister Nonofo Molefhi chaired the committee on state political party funding that I was part of. There is a document that is shelved about this issue,” he said.

Raphaka conceded that there is a document that was agreed on during the APC but said OP is committed on state political party funding but cannot commit when Botswana will introduce it.

Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Spokesperson Justice Motlhabani said time has come for Botswana’s democracy to evolve in order to continue being hailed as beacon of democracy.

“Democracy is not static and after close to 55 years of independence, Parliament must rise to the occasion in an apolitical manner by amending the Constitution to introduce Presidential elections. There is no doubt that Batswana should be electing a Head of State directly,” he said.