Republic of Botswana - Office of the President
Below for your information is an electronic copy of letter sent to Mr. Peter Fabricius of "The Star" newspaper in South Africa, which was published as a letter to the editor:
Re: Your analysis in the Star newspaper of 4/3/05 entitled:
"Will Botswana democracy cave under pressure?"
With respect to the above, as you should already be aware, I am not at this point in a position to comment on the matter of Kenneth Good's deportation as it remains before our High Court, and is thus sub judice. The most I can and have said is that the common suggestion that his deportation order was brought about by a (in my own honest opinion completely unoriginal) seminar paper is presumptuous.
With respect to some of your other conclusions, however, I thought I should endeavour to correct a few seeming misconceptions with respect to our Constitution as it relates to our Vice President's likely succession to the Presidency in 2008:
1) Under our Westminster style Constitution it is Parliament that is elected for a period not exceeding five years, not the President. The life of a Parliament may be shorter if either a) the Executive (President) decides to dissolve Parliament, in order to call for earlier elections, or b) Parliament itself passes a vote of no confidence in the Executive.
2) That Botswana has held elections at regular (though by no means precise) five year intervals since 1965 is a reflection of the stability, hereto, of successive governments. There is no guarantee that this will always remain the case. It is possible that in the future we could end up having an unstable coalition government, which could in turn result in early elections.
3) Both the President and the Vice President owe their election to Parliament. In the case of the President, Parliamentary candidates affiliated with political parties are usually pledged to their party's Presidential candidate. Thus in last year's election all of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) candidates were pledged to the re-election of President Mogae. If candidates pledged to a particular Presidential candidate win a majority of the seats in Parliament, the Chief Justice of the High Court, as the returning officer, will declare him or her President-elect. If, however, no Presidential candidate ends up being so elected, the matter would have to be resolved by a vote(s) within Parliament itself.
4) The appointment of Vice President can only take effect if it is endorsed by Parliament. Thus, it was Parliament that first elected Khama as the Vice President in July 1998, following his nomination by President Mogae. This occurred shortly after Khama was first elected to Parliament in a by-election (see attached SAPA report of 13/7/98). Subsequently Khama has been re-elected to Parliament, and re-endorsed by Parliament as Vice President, in the context of the general elections of 1999 and 2004.
5) Under the present Constitution no President of Botswana can serve for more than ten years. Mogae was inaugurated as President on 1/4/98 so by law he must step down by 31/3/08. He has repeatedly denied any intention of not serving out his full ten years.
6) The BDP vote percentage has, in fact, changed very little since the 1994 election when it was 54%. It is, moreover, likely that the BDP percentage in 2004 was marginally affected by the failure of any opposition candidate to contest in one BDP stronghold, as well as vote splitting.
7) Given all of the above it is incorrect to suggest that Mogae is suddenly manoeuvring (much less violating the Constitution) to hand over power to Khama. He has already won two general elections with Khama as his running mate! Barring the unforeseen Khama is now inline to become the fourth President of the Republic at the end of March 2008. Thereafter he will have up to the end of 2009 to seek a fresh mandate by calling a general election.
8) Like at least 61 of the 90 nations listed by Freedom House as being "Free" (as opposed to "Partly Free" and "Not Free") in November 2004, Botswana has been and remains a Parliamentary Democracy in which the Head of Government (President Mogae) is ultimately elected by and responsible to Parliament, of which he or she is also a member. If this makes our democracy less than perfect in the eyes of some, at least we seem to be in relatively good company (see attached list).
I hope the above has shed some light on our current Constitutional arrangements, which of course can be amended if consensus for change were to emerge. As the Vice President, himself, observed in a recent newspaper interview (part of his response to the interviewer's question "Don't you support the direct election of the President?"):
"My own belief is that the current system has served us well and that there should be compelling reasons for change. False arguments that it is the democratic norm, when in fact it is more of the exception, are not in themselves sufficient. I would further note that where President's are directly elected (or as in America indirectly elected by an electoral college that is separate from Parliament) it is common for them to appoint their own Cabinet from outside Parliament. There might be merit in such a reform, but any radical departure from the constitutional status quo should be carefully considered and would have to reflect a clear national consensus."
Attachment 1: SAPA News report of July 13 1998:
"KHAMA TAKES SEAT IN PARLIAMENT, ELECTED VICE PRESIDENT"
Lieutenant-General Ian Khama, was on Monday afternoon sworn in as Botswana's vice-president a few minutes after taking his seat as member of the National Assembly.
Khama, the eldest son of Botswana's founding president, Sir Seretse Khama, gave up his job as commander of the Botswana Defence Force to join politics. He was appointed minister in President Festus Mogae's government soon after the resignation of President Ketumile Masire.
On July 4 he won a by-election for the Serowe North Constituency - headquarters of his Bamangwato clan. His election to the country's vice-presidency - by a majority of 40 of the 50 member assembly - was widely hailed by political analysts and observers who regard him as the man likely to bring Mogae's administration into line.
The National Assembly public gallery was filled to capacity as people jostled for seats to witness the swearing in of the Paramount Chief of the Bamangwato tribe - Botswana's largest and most influential.
As Khama entered the chamber, the crowd broke into spontaneous ululation. Applause and more ululating greeted the announcement of the vice-presidential poll.
Mogae, who does not usually attend house sittings, was present to witness Khama's swearing in. The house adjourned soon after the ceremony.
An elated Khama said after the swearing in that he had been thinking about moving to politic for the past two years.
"I allowed myself to be persuaded," he said. "There were a number of people who had been on my back for the last couple of years to go into politics."
Attachment 2: Countries listed as "Free" by Freedom House at the end of 2004 with Parliamentary systems similar to Botswana, would include (list is not exhaustive):
1. All Caribbean members of the Commonwealth
2. Virtually all of the Pacific Island nations
25. New Zealand
30. South Africa
36. United Kingdom