Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has advised against the reduction of the powers of a sitting President.
This is according to a report by the BDP’s four-member team which was appointed by President Mokgweetsi Masisi to advise the party regarding the Constitutional Review.
The report which will be presented to the Presidential Constitutional Review Commission led by the former Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo indicates that in developing their submission, the BDP was alive to the national principles of Democracy; Development; Self-reliance; Unity as a basis for Kagisano and; Botho.
The constitutional review is enshrined in the Party’s 2019 electoral Manifesto. The committee states that the commitment to review the constitution was also publicly declared by President Masisi at various public fora. The output of the team’s assignment is a discussion document or report for the Botswana Democratic Party on the envisaged constitutional review.
The committee led by David Magang has stated in the document that the Executive Power of the Republic of Botswana vests in the President who can exercise such Powers either by him or herself directly or through subordinate officers (Section 47(1).
In exercising these powers, the president acts in his or her own deliberate judgement and is not obliged to follow advice tendered by any other person or authority.
“However, parliament can by section 47(3) confer executive functions on persons or authorities other than the President. The Supreme Command of the armed forces of the Republic vests in the President under section 48 (1), however, Parliament through section 48 (4) may regulate the exercise of the Supreme Command of the Armed forces.
“We recommend that the Powers of the President be retained as they currently exist because Parliament can by section 47(3) and 48(4) regulate or reduce those powers where necessary,” the report says.
On the summoning, Prorogation, and Dissolution of Parliament, the committee indicated that consideration should be made whether the President should continue to enjoy powers to dissolve Parliament as contained for example, in section 87(5) where there is a disagreement between the
President and Parliament over a Bill passed by Parliament, or in terms of Section 92 where a vote of no confidence in the Government has been passed.
The report states that in terms of Section 90(1), each session of Parliament shall be held at a place within Botswana as appointed by the President.
“Prorogation (Discontinuance without dissolving) of Parliament: section 91(1) Dissolution of Parliament: Section 91(2). It is our considered view that the Power to call for a seating of parliament, Prorogation, and Dissolution should constitutionally be given to the President.
“Our view is that the only other possible office would be that of the Speaker. However, given that the Speaker of Parliament is not an elected official, it may not be a good idea to give the Speaker such powers.
“It will create two centres of power. We, therefore, recommend that the President retains the Power to call for a seating of, to prorogue and to dissolve Parliament as currently obtains,” reads the report, which has already been presented and adopted by the BDP National Council.
The BDP Committee pointed out that the election of a country’s chief executive is an extremely important undertaking and a process of how to do so must be appreciated and be clearly articulated in the envisaged constitution.
There obtain different ways that countries use to elect the president. In Botswana, the committee said the president is both the head of state and head of government.
His or her election to the presidency depends on the legislature, that is to say, the party with the majority members of parliament presents the president to Parliament, says the committee.
According to the committee, there obtain other ways and such as one where the president is both head of state and government but his election does not depend on the legislature as he or she is directly elected by the people.
It is reported in the document that a hybrid of the two also exists where there is a dual executive with a directly elected head of state and a head of the government that is selected by both the head of state and legislature that is where there is a president and a prime minister.
“We advise that the status quo where the president derives legitimacy from the legislature remains. Thus, the current system where the origin and survival of a president depend on the legislature is advised. “This, in our view, is a more workable set up than where a president is directly elected and his party may be a minority in parliament leading to an undesirable situation where, parliament being the law-making body, may disagree with the President to the extent of a threatened Governmental paralysis or shutdown.”