Botswana Movement for Democracy’s court application, in which they were challenging their ejection from the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), was this week dismissed with costs, a decision taken unanimously by a panel of three judges.
The much anticipated court verdict was dramatically delayed after the court staff printed the wrong version of judgment. The High Court upheld BMD’s expulsion by UDC before recognizing Botswana Congress Party (BCP), as a full member of the umbrella project. Since its acceptance in the UDC, BMD has never been at peace with BCP inclusion claiming that they (BCP), were out to grab their (BMD) constituencies and this was part of the politically charged court case.
The BMD argued that the UDC decisively ignored the constitution and failed to follow the right structures when expelling it. When countering the BMD argument, UDC said BMD was irrelevant by saying its expulsion was unconstitutional because the same constitution they interpreted clearly indicates that the constitution allows for restricting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) body.
When passing a judgment, the Gaborone High Court quashed the BMD claim saying the party which is led by veteran lawyer Sidney Pilane, failed to produce a legal and credible case to convince the courts. A vividly jubilant UDC president Duma Boko, welcomed the judgment stating that, “when I speak about this matter I speak with potency and authority. I have fought this battle and I have all the scars of this battle!”
However, for Pilane it is not over yet as he is not conceding to a defeat by UDC. “I think we will file an appeal application tomorrow (Friday),” Pilane told journalists after the much anticipated judgment. Last month Pilane lost another case involving the UDC, in which he wanted the party president Boko, to be struck from the voters’ roll because he had not registered at his residential place. In this case, the UDC was represented by South African senior counsel Kennedy Paul and senior counsel, public speaker, author and political activist, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi. BMD and its leader Pilane, on the other hand were represented by South African senior counsel Alexandra John Freund, as they battled it out in court.
BMD SUBMISSION BY SC ALEXANDRA FREUND
In their heads of submission, Freund said in expelling the BMD, the UDC decisively ignored the constitution and failed to follow the right structures. He stressed that the body which purported to suspend and expel the BMD from UDC styled itself as the NEC. The South African attorney further said that the structural body was not part of the NEC and had no power to suspend or expel the BMD from UDC.
Freud, also submitted that the body which purported to take the offending decisions has not been elected by UDC constitutional structures, therefore it is not constituted. “The only entities of the UDC which could have authority under the constitution, in justifiable circumstances, to suspend or expel a member of the UDC are its NEC, which it made provisions for and constituted in terms of the UDC registered.” He therefore emphasized that the suspension and expulsion decisions were not taken by the Umbrella Negotiating Team (UNT), since it has not operated or existed since August 2012.
The South African senior counsel further narrated and submitted to the court, that prior to taking the decision to suspend and expel BMD, the Presidents and Secretary Generals of the BMD and BPP, were not present and did not have prior notice of the meeting at which these decisions were taken.
“Similarly, neither the BMD President and Secretary General and none of the 5 Conveners of the Negotiation Process participated in the body which purported to be the NEC and in the taking of the impugned decisions, nor did any of them have notice of the offending meetings; both of which invalidated the meetings and the decisions there made.”
Freud said the reasons given for the decisions to suspend and expel the BMD from the UDC, are ostensible and false, the true reason being; an unlawful conspiracy by the BCP and BNF to take the 14 constituencies allocated by the UDC to the BMD in which the party (BMD), will present its members as UDC parliamentary candidates in the 2019 general elections.
Freund then questioned UDC constitutional affairs. “The UDC has not, since its inception, held an elective congress and has never given notice of an intention to hold such a national congress as is required by Article 220.127.116.11 of the UDC registered Constitution,” he said.
UDC’S COUNTER ATTACK BY SC KENNEDY PAUL AND THEMBEKA NGCUKAITOBI
The UDC lawyers evidently held the BMD case in derision. Paul, told the court that it has no interest in participating in the expulsion of the BMD. “What we have here is a political situation, and with all due respect, it is unrealistic to seek the court to interfere in political matters,” he said. Paul said that BMD’s submission that the UDC failed to abide by the constitution and allowed the wrong structural bodies to make a decision in expelling the BMD, was irrelevant as the same constitution they interpreted clearly indicates that the constitution allows for restricting of the NEC body.
Adding to Paul’s arguments, Ngcukaitobi pointed out to the court that the applicant failed to establish a case on the basis of its suspension and that UDC has before expelling the BMD used the right body, structures and processes. “The political party should be allowed to run its course, this court has no interest in participating in the expulsion of the BMD. Therefore, we move that this application be dismissed and with costs,” Ngcukaitobi said.
Ngcukaitobi also stressed that indeed all the constituents’ members were present when taking the decision to suspend and expel the BMD. He emphasized that the right decision was taken by the right structures and the right procedure was followed. “The UDC was dealing with a BMD that has split. There has been an internal squabble in the BMD. There was chaos inside the BMD, the BMD has always provoked other members, and its leader is provocative,” said Ngcukaitobi.
The South African young lawyer further emphasized that the process followed indicates that whatever decision was taken, shows that it was a dialogue since 2017, and there was no bias. “On the 11th of November 2017, Pilane was reprimanded in the internal meeting for making toxic pronouncements, but on the 11th of October last year, he denied everything. This was after a meeting on the 18th of September, in which the UDC condemned and blamed their Moshupa-Manyana by-election loss on BMD. Chaos within the BMD is spilling over to UDC, hence the need to take a decision,” Ngcukaitobi reminded the court.
In conclusion, Ngcukaitobi casted doubt on Pilane working together again with UDC, saying political alliance should be based on trust. He insisted that: “What has been politically broken cannot be legally fixed. We have a pointless application here. What we have here is the highest form of breakdown between these two parties. Dismiss the case and ask them to pay the costs.”
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.