Parliament of Botswana
Parliament of Botswana is the supreme legislative authority. The National Assembly is a representative body elected by universal adult suffrage and consists of men and women from all sections of society. Parliament was established on the 1st March 1965 as constitutional provision Chapter V part I Section 57-76. Even though the Parliament of Botswana comprises of two houses, National Assembly and Ntlo ya Dikgosi, it is only the National Assembly that has the powers to make laws that governs the country. According to Chapter V part III Section 77 of the Constitution, Ntlo ya Dikgosi was established as an advisory body to the National Assembly in matters of constitutional, customary, cultural and land issues.
The National Assembly comprises of 65 members of Parliament, including the President and the Speaker being ex-officios, 57 members being elected by the constituents and 6 specially elected by Members of Parliament.
Roles and Functions:
- Legislative role – Parliament debates and passes bills (proposed laws)
- Oversight role – It watches over and checks the activities of Government through Parliamentary Committees, asking and answering questions, particularly during Questions Time.
- Representative role – Speaking on matters of public importance, in which Members of Parliament discuss important current issues. Presenting petitions on behalf of citizens, among others.
- Approval of the National Budget – National Assembly has the power to approve or reject the National budget put before the House by Government through the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
According to the Constitution of Botswana, there are three arms of government, namely :
- The Executive
- The Legislature
- The Judiciary
Each of the above arms of state has its own functions which are independent from others. However, these three arms ensure that power is divided so that no arm has all the powers. This division of power is enshrined in the constitution and it is called "the separation of powers".
After election, the party that wins the majority elects its President. The President then appoints the Vice President and Ministers to head the different government Ministries such as Ministry of Education and Skills Development, Agriculture etc. The Vice President΄s appointment is subject to endorsement by the National Assembly.
The President and Ministers form the Cabinet or the Executive. It is their responsibility to run the country. But the Cabinet cannot, on its own make laws. If it wants to make laws it has to ask Parliament (the legislature to do so). Parliament can also call on Ministers to explain certain actions thus, limiting the powers of the Executive.
The second arm of state is th Legislature or Parliament. The responsibility of Parliament is to make laws for peace, order and good governance of Botswana. This is done by discussing bills (draft laws) submitted to it. Members of Parliament can thus make changes, additions to ensure that the above is taken care of.
Members of Parliament may also submit bills of their own. These are called Private Members Bills.
Although Parliament makes laws, it is the courts that punish those who break them. This limits the powers of Parliament.
The Judiciary is different from the other two arms of state because its members are not elected by the people. Therefore it is said to be independent because neither the executive, the legislature nor a member of the public is allowed to interfere in the work of the courts.
It is the responsibility of the courts to try people who are accused of breaking the law and to sentence them if found guilty.
Members of the public have a right to attend meetings of parliament to witness the proceedings of the house.
It is your duty as a responsible member of public to attend Parliament in session because that is the only way you can ascertain that your interests are taken on board.