Home » Columns » Can BDP MPs and Councillors sponsor Dr. Moitoi’s presidential bid?

Can BDP MPs and Councillors sponsor Dr. Moitoi’s presidential bid?

Publishing Date : 12 March, 2019

NDULAMO ANTHONY MORIMA
EAGLE WATCH


Dr. Pelonomi Venson Moitoi’s decision to challenge His Excellency the President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) presidency has no doubt thrown the spanners into the works.


It is not only the BDP presidency which is at stake here. The state presidency is at stake because in terms of Article 34.1.3 of the BDP Constitution (“the Constitution”), “the President of the Party shall, when the Party is in power, be State President.” If H.E Dr. Masisi loses the Party’s presidential elections, he will attain the unenviable records of being the shortest serving BDP President and the shortest serving State president. But, most painfully for him, the former president, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama would have prevailed following their feud which has been festering since he assumed office.  


On the other hand, if Dr. Venson Moitoi wins she will attain such enviable records as being the first to challenge for the presidency and win; the first BDP female president and the first female State president. Indeed, her name will, forever, be etched in our country’s history. Because it will be the first time since the birth of the Party that a sitting President of the Party is challenged, it has raised several constitutional questions within the BDP.


Last week we discussed the question whether the elections for the President of the Party should be through bloc voting or they should be by secret ballot at a National Congress. Article 29.1 of the BDP constitution provides that “when the Party is in power, the President of the Party shall be elected by secret ballot at a National Congress of the Party called by the Central Committee during every General Election Year…”


We concluded that the plain interpretation of Article 29.1 is that since the BDP is in power and this year, 2019, is a general election year, the Central Committee is obliged to call a National Congress of the Party at which the President of the Party shall be elected by secret ballot.  With H.E Dr. Masisi leading Dr. Venson Moitoi in as far as regional nominations are concerned, another constitutional question has arisen, namely whether Dr. Venson Moitoi can still make it to the presidential election slate at the forthcoming National Congress.


In terms of the BDP constitution, there are two ways in which one can be a lawful candidate for the party’s presidential elections. This is either through Article 29.2 or Article 29.3. Article 29.2 provides that “Each Region may nominate and submit one name of an aspirant candidate in good standing from any Region to the Secretary General not less than twenty-four hours before the commencement of the National Congress.” This is the route through which H.E Dr. Masisi seems set to reach the presidential election slate.


Article 29.3 provides that “Any other member in good standing of the Party may submit their name as an aspirant Candidate for the post of President of the Party to the Secretary General of the Party, not less than twenty-four hours before commencement of the applicable National Congress upon being sponsored, in writing, by not less than fifty delegates to the National Congress.” This is the only route through which Dr. Venson Moitoi may reach the election slate.


Yet, Dr. Venson Moitoi’s detractors claim that not even this route is available to her. This, they say, is because Members of Parliament and Councillors, who are her last hope in terms of sponsoring her as per Article 29.3, cannot sponsor her since they lack such mandate because they are not delegates from regions and branches.


Before we express an opinion on this view, we need to elucidate the provisions of Article 29.3. In terms hereof, if Dr. Venson Moitoi is a member of the BDP in good standing she will submit her name as an aspirant Candidate for the post of President of the Party to the Secretary General of the Party, not less than twenty-four hours before commencement of the applicable National Congress upon being sponsored, in writing, by not less than fifty delegates to the National Congress.       


There is no doubt that Dr. Venson Moitoi is a member of the BDP in good standing. There is also no doubt that she will submit her name as an aspirant Candidate for the post of President of the Party to the Secretary General of the Party. The question is: can Members of Parliament and Councillors validly and lawfully sponsor her? To answer this question, we need to determine whether Members of Parliament and Councillors are delegates to the National Congress.


Article 26.4 provides a list of the officers and/or bodies that are entitled to attend the National Congress. Those entitled to attend the National Congress are all members of the National Council; eight delegates from each Branch selected in accordance with the rules made by the Central Committee; all Councillors; and four observers per Constituency in terms of Articles 26.4.1; 26.4.2; 26.4.3 and 26.4.5 respectively. The latter have no voting rights.


Members of the National Council are members of the Central Committee; Members of Parliament who are members of the Party; all Regional Chairpersons and Secretaries; All Branch Chairpersons and Secretaries; all members of the Inner Executive Committee of the Youth Wing of the Party; all members of the Inner Executive Committee of the Women’s Wing  Committee of the Party; One Councillor from each Branch and members of the sub-committees of the Central Committee as per Articles 27.3.1; 27.3.2; 27.3.3; 27.3.4; 27.3.5; 27.3.6; 27.3.7   and 27.3.8 respectively. The latter have no voting rights.


In terms of Articles 26.4.3 and 27.3.2, therefore, Members of Parliament and Councillors are entitled to attend the National Congress. In other words, they are delegates to the National Congress. As is the case with all other members of the National Council, the delegation of Members of Parliament and Councillors to the National Congress is not by Regions and Branches, but is by law, that is, it is in terms of the Constitution itself.


The fact that Members of Parliament and Councillors are constitutional delegates does not grant them less status and/or rights and obligations compared to delegates from Regions and Branches. In fact, legally speaking, all delegates to the National Congress, and indeed to any other structure of the Party, are constitutional delegates because it is the Constitution which makes provision for who shall attend the National Congress and/or any other structure of the Party.


Consequently, even when party members, at Regional and Branch level, purport to delegate a member to the National Congress or any party structure and/or forum, they are, in effect, merely breathing life to the delegation already conferred by the Constitution.  Therefore, even the eight delegates from each Branch selected in accordance with the rules made by the Central Committee and the four observers per Constituency are constitutional delegates with the same rights and obligations as Members of Parliament and Councillors.


In any event, it would be an absurdity if the BDP Constitution were to be interpreted to exclude such integral members of the Party as Members of Parliament and Councillors from sponsoring a candidate for such a pivotal position as president of the Party. Inarguably, the purpose of the BDP Constitution, read as a whole, is to give all the Party’s structures and membership the right to participate in the election of the Party’s office bearers, either by sponsorship or voting.


Limiting such right for Members of Parliament and Councillors would be an unreasonable and unjustifiable limitation liable to be set aside as unconstitutional to the extent it violates the letter and spirit of the Constitution. In conclusion, therefore, it can be safely concluded that Members of Parliament and Councillors can, as part of the fifty delegates to the National Congress, in writing, sponsor Dr. Venson Moitoi should she seek to rely on Article 29.3 to reach the presidential election slate. 

Cartoon

Polls

Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?

banner_14.jpg
banner_12.jpg

POPULER BRANDS