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Home > About BOTSWANA : Government & Politics > The House of Chiefs / Parliamentary Elections / Administration of Justice

Government & Politics

The House of Chiefs
The House of Chiefs is an assembly of traditional leaders, ex-officio and elected members, who give advice to Parliament on matters of a customary nature. In particular, Parliament is constitutionally obliged to consult the House of Chiefs beforehand if it is considering the powers of chiefs, customary courts, customary law, tribal property, and constitutional amendments. On the other hand, the House of Chiefs is constitutionally obliged to consider and submit to the National Assembly its resolution on any Bill referred to it by the latter.

Parliamentary Elections
Parliamentary elections are held every five years for every constituency after Parliament has been dissolved. So far, the country has conducted eight free and fair elections since 1965. One Member of Parliament is elected from each constituency. Anyone, man or woman, who is entitled to vote and has reached the age of 18 years, can stand for election, provided the person is not disqualified by reason of insanity or unsound mind; has not been sentenced to death; has not been declared insolvent; or is not under a sentence of imprisonment exceeding six months.

The party that wins the majority of seats in the National Assembly forms the government, headed by an Executive President. The latter appoints Ministers from among the members of the National Assembly. The largest opposition becomes the Official Opposition. The elections (Presidential and National Assembly, and local authorities) are run by the Independent Electoral Commission, an autonomous, non-partisan body, whose primary purpose is to conduct free, fair and correct elections, efficiently and effectively, in accordance with the best electoral principles and practices. Botswana uses First Past The Post (FPTP) system. This system is also known as the winner takes all. In this system, the political party that wins the elections is the one with the majority of seats in Parliament. Moreover, the party that has the most seats in Parliament forms the government.

Administration of Justice
Justice in Botswana is primarily administered by the Administration of Justice, comprising the Court of Appeal, the High Court, and the Magistrates' Courts. There are also Customary Courts (dikgotla) which deal with matters of indigenous nature and criminal and civil cases of limited extent. Appeals against the decisions of the Customary Courts are, however, taken to the Customary Court of Appeal, and if need be, from there to the High Court. The High Court is the pivot on which the administration of justice turns, and has unlimited jurisdiction to try all cases, civil and criminal, and to exercise review powers over the administration of justice in all subordinate courts, while itself being subject to appeals against its decisions to the Court of Appeal for the country.

The Common Law of Botswana is the Roman-Dutch Law which was inherited from the former Cape Colony. This has been developed over the years by Statutes passed by Parliament and by judicial decisions which make up the body of Botswana's case law. The Criminal Law is English in origin for the most part, there being a codified Penal Code. The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act is based on the South African law. Thus, the substantive criminal law is English Law-based while the adjective law is Roman-Dutch Law. Capital punishment still exists, but the High Court has the discretion to pass, or not to pass, the death sentence depending on the circumstances of the case. The President has the prerogative of mercy.

In the application of the law, the Constitution, which enshrines all the protection of life, liberty and property, is strictly followed. The courts, whose independence is guaranteed by the Constitution, are guided by the principle found in the Setswana phrase, "ga re lebe motho, re leba molato" which means that “the law is applied without taking into account the status of the person being tried”.

The government has established the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, an operationally independent Department, to prevent and investigate suspected cases of corruption and economic crime, to educate the public against the evils of corruption, and also to seek their support in the fight against corrupt practices. As a further measure to prevent mal-administration in the affairs of Government, the Office of the Ombudsman has been established to investigate any improper conduct by persons performing a public function and, where necessary, recommend remedial action.

In terms of the world corruption rankings, done by the Berlin-based Transparency International, in 2009, Botswana was ranked the least corrupt country in Sub-Saharan Africa.