A Court of Appeal (CoA) panel of five judges; Justices Isaac Lesetedi, Monametsi Gaongalelwe, Leatile Dambe, Singh Walia and Zibani Makhwade have weighed in on the controversial issue of determining the principal residence of electorates in Botswana.
The Judges concurred with Justice Walia when delivering the oral arguments in court this week in Gaborone that this principal residence issue is only unique to Botswana as many Batswana have more than one residencies. “This is only peculiar to Botswana. In the context of Botswana, there is always been more than 1 residents, hence emphasize of a principal residence,” he said.
He continued: “remember we are dealing with what principal residence means. What are the guidelines of determining a principal residence? Is it just a matter of occupation? What did the law giver intend to do? If you have more than one, you then go for the principal one, and what does that mean?”
The matter came after one Mothusi States Maribe appealed a High Court ruling in the principal residence case which was in favour of Sefhare/Ramokgonami legislator Dorcas Makgatho. The objection in essence is that Makgato is not registered at her “principal residence” with the meaning and context of section 67 (3) a. of the constitution. Maribe, the objector has queried the registration of Makgato as an electorate on the basis that she has registered at Bobedi in Chadibe while her principal residence is Gaborone where she is staying permanently because of work.
The appeal came as a result of the High Court ruling recently that voters are entitled to select which one of their several residences, as it’s a norm in Botswana, they deem most important for purposes of registration for elections. “Therefore the appeal comes subsequent to the Court a quo’s decision to interpret the word ‘residence’ and to further decide that voters with more than one residence are entitled at law to choose which residence they prefer to in registering for elections,” the lower court, had ruled.
The grounds of appeal for Maribe is that the High Court has misdirected itself and erred in law and in fact in determining in Makgato case that principal residence basically means a voter’s most important place of residence. Maribe also, in the appeal, queries the Judges conclusion that: “the principal residence under section 67 (3) of the constitution means that prospective voters are entitled to select which one of their several residences they deem most important for purposes of registering for elections.”
He also stated in the court papers that the High Court also erred in law and in fact by determining that it is the voter who at the end of the day elects which one amongst Makgato’s residences, she considers to be principal residence for purposes of registering for the elections. According to the court papers, the appeal is also centered around the court a quo judges’ erring in law by determining that Makgato has clearly established through her affidavit, her historical, social, cultural sentimental and family bonds and that explains why she registered to vote thereafter.
“They also erred at law and in fact in determining that Makgato is a parliamentary candidate when same does not appear ex facie the pleadings,” Maribe through lawyer maintained in the court papers. He is also appealing the ruling that although section 10 (3) of the Electoral Act empowers the registration officer to determine the entitlement of the prospective voter at any particular polling station, in the case of a voter having more than one residence, such a determination would entirely depend on the voter’s preference.
In the heads of argument, attorney representing the appellant (Maribe), Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners submitted that the constitutional requirements of section 67(3) a. of the constitution of Botswana, at simple, to register at the principal residence, and must be found to mean what it means. “Having more than one residence, you will register and be allowed to register only at your principal residence, and not any place of your choice,” Dingake pointed out in the papers.
He continued to point out that it must be emphasized that the place where one feels most connected to, historically, socially, culturally, sentimentally or even where their family arises cannot be a factor used to determine their principal residence. “It therefore remains to be a place where a prospective voter mostly reside or where she spends most of her time,” he maintained in the heads.
The attorney stressed that therefore a prospective voter, in this instance Makgato, cannot therefore elect which of her several residences she would prefer registering at for elections as that would mean that they are usurping and acting contrary to the role of the registration officer as empowered by section 10 (3) of the Electoral Act. In reply, the respondents (Makgato)’s lawyer, Simwe Petuho Mwinya who is a senior partner at Kebabonye Mwinya attorneys then highlighted that constricting electorates (Makgato) their right to vote in a place of necessity is against the public interest.
“I therefore submit that the application of the literal rule will result in the deterioration of the ‘true intent and spirit’ of the constitution. This affecting Makgato, the public at large and the future generations,” he stated. He further said that the current socio-economic context in 2019 is quite different from the time that the constitution was written, or better yet, amended. “The law is ever evolving to suit the people in the time that they are living, thus it can be concluded that the purpose of the law is to represent the spirit of the people living in that time,” Mwinya explained.
It is the Mwinya’s submission that the right to vote which in this jurisdiction is granted and defined by the constitution, is so fundamental that a broad and liberal interpretation must be given to it. He stressed: “it is therefore our submission that the courts’ interpretation should be tied to a person’s state of mind with respect to where that person regards as ‘home.’ Where they have a social interest.” According to the attorney, the essence of people returning to their home villages is to choose the person who would in their eyes would enrich and better the village and the community as a whole.
“Restricting a person’s right to vote to their ‘principal residence’ using the literal rule of statutory interpretation, would limit their right to vote in constricting them to that particular place, bettering the constituency of another at the detriment of the place they regard as home,” he highlighted. Thus, he added that taking away their right to contribute to the development of their village which is in essence what voting is, is wrong.
“A person voting in a place that they do not regard as home but have instead made it a residency should not constitute a vote more especially where their right to vote is needed, indeed where they believe that they are from, the place they call home,” he concluded. Meanwhile, the 5 empaneled CoA Judges then reserved a ruling to the 23rd August 2019.
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.”
Events that recently unfolded in the athletics world locally point only to possibility – Letsile Tebogo and Maungo Matlhaku are well groomed to receive the baton from Isaac Makwala and Lydia Jele respectively.
The two athletes sprinted to new local track records, smashing those set by their seniors.
As it is the norm in athletics, the biggest mistake these two athletes could make is to drop the baton. The two youngsters must not look back, they must steeplechase – clear all the hurdles so they may surpass the feet achieved by their seniors.
Letsile Tebogo announced his arrival in scintillating fashion recently. Barely two years after smashing Thebe’s 200m national record of 21:25 during Gaborone Games in 2019, this past weekend the young lad obliterated yet another 100m national record of 10.20 seconds. For a long time the record was held by the country’s iconic athlete Isaac Makwala.
Tebogo set a new record, completing the race in 10.14 seconds. Tebogo, who is currently under Lefika Athletics Club, came into the meet, organised by Sports View Runners Club, with a personal best of 10.49 seconds.
However, the new national record was not good enough for Tebogo to qualify for the Olympic Games as he needed to clock 10.05 seconds; which is the Olympic qualifying entry under the 100meters category. For his efforts, he received P1 000 cash and a trophy.
Under the women’s category, Leungo Matlhaku also stole the show after clocking 11.24 seconds to replace Lydia Jele’s national record of 11.39 seconds which she set in May 2019.
When speaking to local media after the race, Matlhaku assured the nation to expect the best performance at the upcoming events as she aims to qualifying for Tokyo Olympics and World Championships.
The sensational 100m sprinter said: “Even though after almost nine months without training, performance was testimony of the fact that the best was yet to come.”
Matlhaku noted that setting new national records was an indication that athletes were at their peak performance and that the upcoming national meets would be appetizing with the positive performance.
This week WeekendSport caught up with Tebogo, who expressed his gratitude to the national team athletes as the pillar behind his strength since they encouraged him to work hard. He agrees that he needs to habituate himself to hard work.
He said Saturday’s performance helped him realise his dream of qualifying for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics which was postponed last year due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
“For me to qualify for the upcoming Olympics under 100 meters category, I will have to clock 10.05 seconds which is qualification entry while under 200meter is 20.24 seconds,” he shared.
When quizzed how Covid-19 has affected his preparation he said: “It has affected us badly as preparation training for the competition was halted, but the lockdown imposed was however useful as I used the period to work out on my strength which are necessary for a sprinter.”
Tebogo started seriously taking part in athletics in 2016 when he was still at primary school. At the time he was under the guidance of former national team coach, Mogomotsi Otsetswe.
In 2016 during Botswana Primary School Sports Association (BOPSSA) competitions, he won three gold medals in 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays.
Despite not winning anything the previous year, 2018 saw him come back well prepared and went on to win two gold medals under the 200m category and 4X100m relays. He also won a silver medal after a sterling performance in the 100m race during the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) national finals.
Tebogo went on to win the gold medal after clocking an impressive time of 21:12, qualifying for under 20 World Athletics Championships which was to be held in Kenya last year but was postponed yet again due to corona virus.
Over the last 10 years, Botswana Athletics Association (BAA) has been famed for its consistency when it comes to producing the country’s top athletes, who are dominating and widening the competition gap with other sporting codes.
The code success expresses itself in elite talents the likes of Baboloki Thebe, Nigel Amos, Amantle Montsho and Karabo Sibanda to mention but a few.
These top talents made sure athletics remain at the top in this country.
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.