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Floor crossing- Why now?

Diba Diba

Amendment is intended to address issues beleaguering BDP not the nation- Diba

Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng will present to the National Assembly a bill, which calls for constitutional review on floor crossing.

The bill, which was published in the Government Gazette of July, 17th, 2020 was met with mixed reactions as some argue that it is one of the strategies by the ruling party to stop its Members of Parliament who are alleged to be on the verge of floor crossing from quiting the party.

The Voice Staffer, DANIEL CHIDA speaks to a number of political experts to get their views.

Diba Diba – Chairman of Botswana Law Society

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The president and his party campaigned for elections on the promise of a comprehensive review of the constitution. This was repeated after the elections.

At the opening of the current legal year, I had, in my capacity as the chairman of the Law Society of Botswana, called on the president to speedily deliver on this promise.

It is therefore disappointing to see the president going against his promise, reaping to shreds the social contract he signed with citizens.

We expected a comprehensive review instead of a piece meal amendment of the constitution. We are not convinced that there’s any urgency to the intended amendment such that it cannot wait for the promised comprehensive review.

If the ruling party believes in the amendment they are free to agitate for it and convince the citizenry of the necessity to include it in the review of the constitution.

As it is, the proposed amendment seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to the reported threats by members of parliament from the ruling party to leave the party.

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In that regard, the amendment is intended to address issues beleaguering the party not the nation – the interests of the party are prioritized over those of the country.

In the same way that we should never legislate for an individual, we should not amend our constitution to serve the interests of a political party.

The country’s constitution should not be used to keep members of a political party in the straight and narrow or to address failure of leadership in any political party.

We urge the president and members of parliament to defer this proposed amendment and instead bring us the long awaited review of the whole constitution.

Let us respect the country’s constitution and not fiddle with it for narrow, partisan interests.

Zibani Maundeni- Political Analyst

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Floor crossing serves the important role of safety netting, for both individual members of parliament and for political parties.

Where members of a political party can no longer work together, defection or splitting or floor crossing are designed to resolve political differences without threatening to destroy the political party.

Without floor crossing, a party in parliament risks suffering internal instability and risks an internal explosion.

As the constitutional amendments seek to discourage floor crossing, it threatens political parties in parliament and work against party democracy.

By discouraging a disgruntled member from crossing the floor, the amendments promote endless internal infighting, which works against party stability.

So, while the amendments seem to protect political parties in parliament, they actually expose them to endless infighting and to political instabilities.

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Discouraging floor crossing through these amendments, political parties are shooting themselves in the foot.

Kagelelo Kentse- BDP Chairman of Communications

The reason why we don’t see a lot of mekoko in parliament is because voters relate a candidate to a party.

That is why some constituencies are called BDP or opposition strongholds; it’s because of the historical voting patterns.

Now if voters elect you as their representative to parliament under UDC and the individual wants to cross to BDP its only fair to go back to them and say “kana lo ntlhophile maloba ke na le UDC mme ke eletsa go ya ko Domkraga.” (You voted for me under UDC ticket but I now wish to cross over to the BDP) Some elected you because of the party you belong to, some voted you because of the individual you are but marrying you to a party symbol still, it’s unfortunate we can’t quantify that.

We have a traditional party loyalist/voter – these ones will always vote the party no matter the candidate, we then have undecided voters who can either be impressed by the party especially its president who will decide that we voting this MP because we want Masisi as President or will just vote for that particular individual.

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Lastly we have a swing voter who realistically can decide on the day of elections which party/individual to vote. Nna ke tlhopha Domkraga, nna ke tlhopha Morwaeng (but Morwaeng ke Domkrag essentially).

My view is that the voter is important and cannot be taken for granted in the entire process

Justice Mothabane- BPF Spokesperson

The new bill seeks to entrench dictatorship in Botswana and take away the power of the people. Party central committees under the envisaged legislation will be able to expel members of parliament and councilors willy-nilly thus reversing the people’s choice.

Justice Motlhabane

We must respect the voice of the people. We will have so many time and resources consuming bye- elections.

The right to freedom of association and political opinion, that is to say the right to enjoy one’s political opinion without diminution of any sort from whosoever is a fundamental right in our constitution.

An MP, being human like the rest us, is free to enjoy this right by associating with any political party of his or her choice, he may not be punished for doing so, Cava regime now seeks to introduce a limitation on how an MP is to enjoy his right to political opinion by joining a party of his choice.

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The law seeks to preserve the interests of our rulers at the expense of MP’s rights and individual freedoms. It’s an affront on our much vaunted democracy, ideals as a country and freedoms.

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