05 May, 2008

Constitution, Democracy & Succession

By Mulibana N. Ernest (University of Johannesburg)

Andrew Heywood, the American author, defined constitution as “a set of rules that seek to establish the duties, powers and functions of the institutions of government and define the relationship between the state and the individual”. He also defined democracy as “the rule by the demos (many), thus the rule of the people for the people by the people”. The combination of these concepts makes what Charles W. Kegley JR refers to as “constitutional democracy”, which he defined as “government processes that allow people, through their elected representatives, to exercise power and influence the state’s polices”.
With the above vignette in mind, try to think about the succession process in the Republic of Botswana.

Botswana is a democratic territory that has a codified and inflexible constitution. Therefore, this country is bound by the democratic and constitutional polices. Democracy allows people to vote for the government and leaders of their choice. However, in the Republic of Botswana things seem not to go that way. The automatic succession of president in Botswana is a phenomenon that one would be curious about. Is the automatic succession appropriate for democracy? What does the Botswana constitution say about the automatic succession?

It is clearly stipulated in section 35 (1) of the Botswana constitution that “Whenever the President dies, resigns or ceases to hold office, the Vice-President shall assume office as President with effect from the date of the death, resignation or ceasing to be President”. The Botswana Constitution was amended in 1997 to ensure that the Vice President would automatically take over from the President in the event that the president either retires or can not serve as president. In 31 March 2008, Ian Khama (55), automatically succeeded Festus Mogae who was president of Botswana for the last decade.

As people have different in many various phenomena, so they do in this regard. Some think the automatic succession is inappropriate for a democracy. Whilst others think there is no problem with automatic succession. Some of the Botswana students at the University of Johannesburg who wanted to remain anonymous think the automatic succession is not a big issue as peace still remains within the country.

However, other South Africans, who also asked to remain anonymous, believe that the automatic succession is an absolute violation of democratic principles.

1 comment:

Future Journalists Programme said...

Automatic Succession??? This surely is an issue that was beyond my wildest dreams. To a certain extent, i guess it does sound logical. Vice presidents like 1st runner-up in beauty peagants are there as a back up plan to the throne, should any ill befall the one who holds the tittle. Sure, it's a logical thing.... it seems!

However, having observed the recent trend in South African politics of late, I seriously doubt South Africans would allow or even welcome such a phenomena to their already questionable and sceptical politics.

It was logical that Jacob Zuma would succeed Thabo Mbeki. After all Zuma is the man who, after being released from Robin Island mobilised internal resistance and was one of the key instruments to the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in KZN and served under the Umkhonto Wesizwe. I could go on and on. Point is, he was the logical presidential candidate. Then came the rape trial, allerged corruption on the arms deal, everyone knows the story. So, now, if Zuma was still deputy president and a mishap were to befall Mbeki, im not too sure South Africans would willingly induct Zuma through to honour some 'automatic succession' act. It would be a very controversial matter that requires both govenment and citizens to decide. Democracy like you said is a ruling by many who decide who they want in power, and at the present moment, South Africa is not in a stable state to accept an automatic succession. Our politics are mind boggling if you ask me. Good for Botswana, i mean, it is commendable that it works for them but it surely would take, what, another 10 yrs of freedom before South Africa can achieve such peace in our democracy.

Nqobile (UKZN)