Before colonial rule was established in Botswana, a traditional constitution - a body of laws known as molao - was used by tribal chiefs, or diKgosi, of the Botswana people. During the early years of the Bechuanaland Protectorate, some non-Botswana also came to be ruled by these laws. Protectorate administrators kept elements, though not all, of this traditional constitution; much of it has lapsed today.
In 1959, a Constitutional Committee of the Joint Advisory Council drew up the Protectorate's first formal constitution, which came into operation in 1960. In 1963 consultations began for a second constitution which would confer self-government. The 1965 general election was held under this constitution, which was modelled on the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy: there was a unicameral legislature; a prime minister and cabinet of five ministers responsible to the legislature; and a purely consultative Ntlo ya Dikgosi.
A series of later amendments to the Constitution have increased the number of elected members of the National Assembly, and the size of the Ntlo ya Dikgosi. Other constitutional changes were made in 1994 and 1997.
The constitution is divided into 9 chapters, each detailing certain areas such as individual rights and the delegation of executive powers.
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