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Police to appeal controversial Moroka judgement on breathalyser

The Government, through Attorney General is preparing to launch an appeal against the controversial High Court judgement that in terms of the law — essentially validates drunken driving, Weekend Post has established.

The contentious judgement was delivered by Judge Lot Moroka, in the matter in which one Freeman Mapukule, was appealing a Magistrate ruling which had been made in favour of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP). According to Moroka, using the breathalyser name coded Intoximeter EC/IR, the police were using an unlawful breathalyser “not prescribed by the Minister” in accordance with the law, in particular Road Traffic Act (Cap 69:01). As a result thereof, Justice Moroka ruled this week: “the act of testing the appellant was as such a nullity. The result can therefore not stand.”

He further ruled that there is no evidence and the failure to provide the specimen of breath was without reasonable excuse, and consequently that the second count cannot stand. “In the final analysis, for the reason of the unlawful breathalyser and the latter grounds the appeal ought to succeed. The appeal against conviction succeeds in both counts and the following orders are hereby made: the conviction and sentence are hereby quashed and set aside in respect to both counts and the appellant is discharged and acquitted,” Moroka said in the judgement.

The offence of failure/ refusal to provide a specimen of breath is created by section 47 (5), of the Road Traffic Act. The section provides that: “a police officer may require any person who is driving or is in charge of a motor vehicle, to provide at any place which that officer may specify, a specimen of breath for analysis by means of a breathalyser of the type prescribed by the Minister.”  Has the Intoximeter CT/RS been prescribed by the Minister as permissible for use in Botswana for purposes of the Road Traffic Act?

In 2013, the Minister prescribed a new generation of breathalysers’ permissible for use in Botswana. This is Statutory Instrument No 95 of 2013. Section 2 of the Statutory Instrument provides that: “for the purpose of Section 47 of the Road Traffic Act, the breathalyser which shall be used for the analysis of specimens of breath, shall be any of the types of devices specified in the Schedule hereto: Alcometer, Intoxilyser, Drager Alcotest, Alco Sensor, Intoximeter, Lifeloc, RBT IV, Alcotech alert and Intox.”

Sergeant Phepheng had told the court that the type of instruments used to test the appellant’s alcohol level was the said unlawful Intoximeter EC/IR. Moroka appointed out in the judgement that; “this type of breathalyser does not form part of the list of breathalysers No. 18 prescribed for use by the Minister in terms of Statutory Instrument.”  Refusal or failure to provide a specimen of breath or blood is not unlawful per se. It is the failure and or refusal, without reasonable excuse that constitutes an offence.

A reasonable excuse would in the circumstances of Section 47 include; certifiable health reasons; injuries arising from an accident etc. Each case will turn on its own circumstances. The appellant attributes his inability to provide sufficient breath to health reasons. He did not refuse to provide a specimen of blood for alcohol testing.  This judgment seeks to clarify two critical issues around the use of breathalysers as used within the context of the Road Traffic Act (Cap 69:01) of the Laws of Botswana.

The first issue concerns the types of breathalysers’ permissible under the Road Traffic Act in Botswana. The second issue is concerned with the law on the offence of Refusal/Failure to Provide a Specimen of Breath Contrary to Section 47 (5) of the Road Traffic Act. What this judgement means for Botswana. A private attorney who preferred anonymity told Weekend Post that the judgement has brought controversy, and a problem has risen.

In terms of the law, he said the current High Court ruling on the matter for now takes precedence and as such motorists cannot take the breathalyser as the machines were not lawfully sanctioned. “Currently there is no control, as we enter the festive season, for drunken and driving and this therefore will create a problem. Motorists can now drive under the influence of alcohol, and no case can be registered at court on the same. It means anyone can drink and drive at this point without being charged for the presumed offence,” he stated.

It’s favourable for motorists imbibing on alcohol, but the country needs control systems to curb driving under the influence of alcohol. They should consider approaching Minister or appealing. They should get the machines approved or prescribed by the Minister. If the machine is not prescribed, their case has no merit since the machine has not been sanctioned. Contacted for comment, Botswana Police Service (BPS), Traffic boss Mosimanegape Katlholo could not be drawn into the matter.

“I cannot comment on the matter for now as we need to meet as Police to take an organisation position on the matter, otherwise I will be talking my personal views or opinion which I want to guard against,” he said. The alcohol testing came after the appellant was arrested by the Selibe Phikwe police following an accident in which the motor vehicle he was driving collided with an electric pole and fence, this after he lost control of the motor vehicle.

The police who attended to the accident formed the opinion that he was driving whilst under the influence of alcohol and asked him to accompany them to the police station for testing his breath for alcohol level. The accused agreed and upon arrival at the police station, the appellant was duly warned that he was required to provide a specimen of breath into an alcometer referred to by the Police officers who gave evidence at trial as Intoximeter EC/IR serial number 012623 (which is presently unlawful).

The accused blew breath into the Intoximeter but could not generate sufficient specimen for testing and reasons for the failure were not specified in the record of proceedings from the lower court. Police then warned and cautioned him of the offences of failure to provide a specimen of breath and that of driving without due care and attention. Consequently, he was tried and convicted of the two offences. He was duly sentenced to pay a fine of P 3 200.00 on count 1. He is appealing against the conviction on the count at the High Court.

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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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