Africa-Press – Botswana. The continuing debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill of 2024 reveals a Parliament divided on its merits, with some legislators arguing for a comprehensive review while others express concerns over the process and specific amendments.

Those who support the Bill had underscored its depth and the necessity for the amendments while those opposing call for further consultation and adherence to broader democratic principles.

The Bill, tabled for second reading by Minister for State President, Mr Kabo Morwaeng, was referred to Ntlo Ya Dikgosi for their submissions mid-April after its first reading in Parliament.

Some legislators argued that the report on the proposed amendments was comprehensive and had the support of a broad group of stakeholders.

However, others felt that the submissions with the highest preponderance of voices from citizens were not adequately captured.

On day four of the debate, Specially Elected MP, Ms Beauty Manake, said she was taken aback by those opposing the amendment, who suggested it was a political gimmick by the ruling party to win the hearts of Batswana.

Ms Manake argued that such claims were misinformed, noting that the intention to amend the Constitution had always been in consideration.

In 2011, the Bill was first noticed in Parliament by then Minister for Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi, but was later withdrawn.

She observed that the proposal for 10 Specially Elected MPs (SEMP) aimed at bringing a diversity of skills to Parliament.

She stated that the 10 SEMPs would address existing gaps, such as lack of women participation in politics, and would also include other marginalised groups.

“There is a saying that women do not have thick skin, so how many do you expect to make it to Parliament under the circumstances?” she asked.

She said the voting members of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi would ensure fair representation of all tribes and provide neutrality in representation.

Ms Manake also condemned the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) for claiming the report on the Constitution amendment lacked credibility.

She pointed out that BOCONGO, with its 44 affiliates, never conducted a survey on the diversity of skills in Parliament yet opposed the appointment of Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs).

Mochudi East legislator, Mr Mabuse Pule, supported the Bill, noting that the constitutional review was long due, save that it was only delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

He criticised some leaders as enemies of progress for opposing every initiative, emphasising that the review process was a promise in the 2019 Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) manifesto hence could not be retracted.

Mr Pule also condemned BOCONGO saying it was quick to criticise the review process and the report when it should have been proactive in educating the public about the Constitution.

“Botswana is a republic and one of its cornerstones of democracy is consultation,” he said.

He highlighted that Batswana were duly consulted through kgotla meetings nationwide, with input from civil society groups and individuals included in the commission’s work.

He expressed satisfaction with the report’s inclusion of fundamental rights to health, education, shelter, and work, as well as protection for intersex persons and persons with disabilities.

“It is very important that the Constitution enshrines these rights so that intersex persons can choose their gender,” he said.

Bobonong MP, Mr Taolo Lucas criticised the Bill, claiming it showed modified submissions with new insertions made without adequate consultation.

He voiced concerns over deviations from the majority consensus during consultations, which called for the direct election of the President and opposed increasing SEMPs.

Mr Lucas argued that after the report’s release, the commission should have conducted further consultations with Batswana.

He asserted that the Bill lacked comprehensiveness and failed to incorporate international best practices and primary declarations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

He also lamented the omission of rights to potable water, clean environment and social security, arguing that rights to education, health and work were unachievable.

Thamaga-Kumakwane MP, Mr Palelo Motaosane, expressed satisfaction with the report, praising the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution for its liberal inclusions of recommendations related to policy, primary legislation and the Constitution itself.

“I am content with the consultative work of the Commission.

What the report entails is what was gathered from the people,” he said.

He urged legislators not to derail discussions or view the review process as a complete overhaul or rewriting of the Constitution.

Mr Motaosane supported the proposed amendments making provision for rights to health, education, shelter and work.

He also advocated for inclusion of some headmen of record in the Electoral College for selecting or electing members of Ntlo Ya Dikgosi, noting their significant role within Bogosi.

In addition, he supported measures to ensure that a retired President who had served an aggregate period of 10 years was ineligible for election to any political office.

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