20 independents candidates have up to this week registered their names with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) contesting for parliamentary seats in the coming 2019 General Elections in Botswana.
IEC has also registered a whopping 198 independent Council candidates whom have also thrown in their names in the ring for the coming up polls. The 20 parliamentary independent candidates will contest among the 57 constituencies and the 198 prospective independent Councillors will also be battling in between the 490 wards dispersed in the country. IEC has confirmed that the number of the independent candidates is growing and it’s likely to present the highest record number in years.
In 2014, research indicates that there were only 29 independent candidates at the time of elections and none of them won a parliamentary seat. An official at the IEC stated that on average one independent candidate vying for a parliamentary seat registers every week and the trend may continue until the elections which are expected in October or thereabout. Speaking to Weekend Post this week, Osupile Maroba, the IEC official spokesperson also confirmed that the numbers are sky rocketing.
“The rate at which the independents candidates are registering with us, the number is likely to grow up especially towards the impending elections,” Maroba pointed out. He continued to highlight that if the numbers grow at this rate they will outshine any record. When this publication went further to inquire on the names of the independents, Maroba could not reveal the names citing confidentiality.
“At this stage some of them (independents) pleaded with the commission to preserve their confidentiality and privacy in the matter until they roll their campaigns on the ground,” Maroba insisted. Meanwhile, a renowned Political analyst and Professor of Political Science at the highest institution of learning, University of Botswana (UB) Professor Zibani Maundeni said it is too early to make sense of the logic behind the increasingly number of independents in the coming elections.
“It’s too early to comment on it,” he said when approached by this publication, adding that we need to know their names and political history in terms of where they come from. He pondered: “Most of them which party do they come from, and which party did not produce an independent, and why? We need to find out so that we can draw a conclusion on which party has many independents and reasons thereof.”
Professor Maundeni also highlighted that of course some independent candidates are just individuals without any ties with the political parties and that also has to come out clear after the assessments of their names. “Without this information, it is therefore difficult to analyse the situation,” the UB academic insisted. Another UB Political analyst in the Political Science department, Leornard Sesa also concurred with Professor Maundeni that some of the independent candidates have political origins or where they come from and that should inform the analysis.
“You will realise that most of these independents have roots where they come and if from political parties you will find internal squabbles and conflicts that led them to register as independents,” Sesa pointed out. If you look at the parties, he said where there is a new leader, other members’ revolt when they get exposed to new leadership styles that they are not used to. “But people have to welcome and accept whichever leader comes on board, with his her own thinking,” he said.
According to Sesa, the collective ideologue of politics, it appears, is no longer respected. He continued: “there is a big brother mentality by some members over some political parties. So they end up being suspended, expelled or quitting on their own volition, when it becomes hot in the kitchen.” The Political Scientist gave the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as an example to validate his analogy.
“The party has been slapping some members, seen as non-conformist, with suspensions and expulsions. In the end, feeling aggrieved, such members end up with no option but becoming independents candidates, hence the skyrocketing number,” he said. Some of the independents candidates include Jacob Kamal who lost the BDP Lobatse constituency primary election, as well as Tshephang Mabaila who also lost the party primary in Mogoditshane.
Others are former BDP Gaborone West North legislator Robert Masitara, and ex Serowe North BDP legislator Ramadeluka Seretse among many others. Independents candidates in Botswana are not on the good side of history as, to date, only one parliamentary independents candidate, Nehemiah Modubule has won an election at Lobatse in 2009 General Elections.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.
This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.
He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.
Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”
He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.
Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.
“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.
In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”
In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.
He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.” Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.
Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.
He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”
Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.
“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.
“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said. Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.
Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.