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Majaga notices motion on direct election of President

Publishing Date : 21 April, 2016

Author : JASON RANTHATSA

Member of Parliament for Nata/Gweta, Polson Majaga is to table a motion in Parliament requesting the government to carry out a referendum on the possibility of direct election of the president of the Republic of Botswana.

In a candid interview with Weekend Post, Majaga contended that, through the referendum, Batswana would decide on how their country should be governed.

He observed that when the current constitution was crafted, the nation did not have a say, adding that all amendments in the constitution do not necessarily reflect the aspirations of the people. He cited the automatic succession and presidential term limits encapsulated in the constitution arguing that people were never consulted on the matter only for Parliament to approve it.

Majaga contends that democracy should be enhanced as the country approaches fifty years of independence.

“Referendum is a form of a direct democracy because it provides constitutional changes that need people to assent to and it is entirely up to people to decide. I want the nation to decide whether they want direct election of the president or not,” he explained.

The legislator stated that he is a strong proponent of the direct election of the president and it was not up to Parliament to decide on the matter but the people through a referendum.

“The president has many powers under our constitution and wields so much authority so I wonder why Parliament should elect him on behalf of the people,” he asked rhetorically.  

Majaga was speaking in reference to chapter 4, section 32 of the constitution which states that the President of the republic shall be determined by the number of parliamentary seats his party has won in a general election.

Majaga continued on to say that it is high time Botswana’s ‘shining’ democracy status be put to test. Asked if he has the support of fellow ruling party legislators, Majaga said even if they vote against his motion, he cares less since the generation to come will know that he once advocated for direct election of the president in Parliament.

In recent years, another ruling party legislator, Samson Guma called for the direct election of the president. The clarion call for presidential elections especially within the ruling party has become common with some members believed to be covertly pushing for it.

In a similar motion, Majaga also wants cabinet ministers not to be selected from sitting Members of Parliament as the current status quo. He asserts that cabinet ministers are constrained and overstretched as they have to meet the demands of the ministry and the constituency they represent.  He went on to say that, should ministers be selected from outside Parliament, the President would be able to bring experts with a wealth of experience to head the ministries.

“I believe ministers should focus on their ministerial portfolios and account to Parliament. In the current system, Permanent Secretaries are the ones who represent ministries during their meetings with the Public Accounts Committee instead of ministers,” he explained.

He also shared the same sentiments with opposition legislators that selecting ministers from sitting MPs was weakening Parliament as those ministers automatically become part of the executive.  The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has 16 backbenchers and it is expected that they will be reduced to 14 as two more ministries are to be created.

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