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Inside Masisi’s Election plan

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is also the leader of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is a man on a mission to convince Batswana that he needs a fresh mandate, and indeed last weekend’s BDP all candidates retreat chronicles the ambush that the party is plotting in an effort to white-wash the opposition in the general elections expected in four months’ time. 

Records compiled at the recent closed door meeting of the BDP in Gaborone suggest that the ruling party goes into this election with doubts and has a deep-seated fear of the opposition. It is apparent from the evidence before this publication that the BDP is wary of the uncertainties they face in the upcoming elections. According to the compilation, some of the party’s foot soldiers bluntly said it before President Masisi that this year’s vote will not be an easy one for the BDP as he may think.

This fear has forced the party leadership to come up with a robust electioneering four months grand-plan ahead of the highly contested polls. The grand-plan covers a wide spectrum of national issues with a sharp focus on ‘problematic areas’ like availability of water, decentralization of health services, corruption, review of the constitution and the public perception of Masisi’s government amongst many others.

According to the party communique, the retreat was a chance for the candidates to not only bond, engage, debate, but also to share knowledge, ideas and skills. The National Strategy, Communication & International Relations (NSCSIR) team facilitated the session and also made some presentations to train and equip the Candidates with key strategic skills. Apart from all the 57 candidates, the party also invited veterans including Daniel Kwelagobe and former ministers; Kavis Kario and Jacob Nkate.

MASISI WANTS VOTERS PRIORITISED

The BDP strategic meeting exposed in order of chronology, the BDP’s fears going into this election and at the fore front is the servicing of voters. Masisi has pleaded with party members that with four months before elections candidates should sweat to ensure that electorates are pleased so the party could retain state power in October. “I have taken a decision to allow ministers to work with Batswana, I want politicians to work with the electorates, and we should service our people.

Same thing with me, I will also work three days in office as times goes on will take two. Everywhere I go I will be having my office, we have a very mobile presidency.” He said with ululations and whistles following him. Masisi said he will also visit the constituencies so that he can see how the members relate with voters and other party structures. “I will also visit your constituencies un-announced, and invite myself to relevant structures meetings so that I could audit. I want to remind you that you should obey party orders, no one is immune there are times where you have a choice and sometimes you don’t because it is a political formation after all.”

HEALTH DECENTRALISATION

Shortages of drugs and medications in public clinics and hospitals which have been going on will have to be corrected four months before polls. This according to the president will call for the decentralization of management. “We are also about to decentralize the health system. We want to decentralize management of the health services, so that decision could be taken at a local level and they are capacitated by a budget.

So when we prepare for budget in July we are going to ensure that with my competent cabinet and it looks like they will agree with me.” He said there should be no shortages of medication as that tarnishes the BDP and it will be a thing of the past in the coming months. “Re rogakwa ke batho mo dintshong mo, gotwe ga gona dipilisi tsa high-blood, this should stop.”

INVESTORS WANT OPPOSITION WHITE-WASHED

In a startling revelation, Masisi told the candidates that he has been approaching the business community for possible funding and is glad to tell them that he has received a lump sum of cash from investors. “We have received pulas for campaign and we are going to test you. All who are here you will get something those who are not present won’t get anything. You must be disciplined. I don’t want to see the attitude of the past five years which has worsened now to an extent that you tell our rivals how we operate.”

Masisi said he is happy that the likes of party treasure Satar Dada, Indians and Chinese investors assisted the party. “If they got all the money legally like we now our treasure is doing and whoever you know it could be Koreans or Africans if it is clean then there is nothing wrong.” He further told the democrats that the BDP was broke. “This party was P50 million on the red. The banks are not willing to lend us money, we have to rely on being transparent. Dada gave us 60 cars, we would have not managed this if it was not Dada and use these cars wisely they are not yours they are for constituencies and for the party.”

Masisi who was closing down the retreat continued; “I want to inform you what the party has done for you.  We are expecting before Vice President’s launch another trench of t shirts. Every constituency will have 10,000 t-shirts don’t worry about our visibility. Every constituency will also have 3000 umbrellas, there will be more umbrellas in BDP than in the Umbrella, deliberately so. Bandana for the youth and caps will be 2500 as well as flags. There is a lot we are getting from the goodwill,” he revealed.

It is pointed out that some of the donors prescribed the condition that the money be used to fight opposition-held constituencies; while the other said his money be used on marginal constituencies while the other gave the money with no conditions. Masisi further revealed that he is expecting more money around September, “so everyone will be receiving something to give you a boost and a push. So share the money amongst yourselves. All who are here will get something those who are not ba jelwe,” he said.

NO WATER RATIONING FOR THE NEXT 4 MONTHS PLEASE

Candidates have since last year been appealing to the leadership to suspend the electricity and water cuts as it has become a hot potato attracting the public’s wrath on the BDP. They said it has been among the opposition’s favorite subjects. Members requested that water cut should be suspended and maybe be brought back after the elections. Masisi promised them that leading to the elections that would be water under the bridge. The BDP will, if push comes to the shove amend Water Utilities (WUC) act and also engage council to pump and avail water to Batswana.

“We want to do the same (decentralization) for water, lea bokolla ka metsi mo go lebaneng. But we will be very sensitive to the budget implications. Because in reality part of failures with water, is procurement. PPADB act needs to and it is reviewed. Information is leaked; and this is corruption! What do you want to achieve when you leak information about the multimillion tender? That must stop! Some of you who leak this I know you. This will also not grow our private sector.  We might amend WUC act to allow council to pump water so that we can have water in our taps, but you should know that water is a scarce resource”.

CITIZENS TO PARTICIPATE IN TOURISM

The lament that locals are pushed to the woods when it comes to the meaningful participation of the economy is another matter that will be pushed and implemented before the October elections. “The BDP government is also concerned by the way Batswana are participating in tourism and will in July implement Citizen Empowerment law and Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) law”.

President Masisi says this is for the locals to be included in the economy of this country. We will have citizen participating in tourism economy and we will also push for economic diversification law, we want them to buy and sell what is produced locally. We cheat our fiscals by supporting people who are not helping the locals, VP (Slumber Tsogwane) note them this will be implemented in July”.

CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW

The retreat also saw Masisi revealing to candidates that as a party, plans are underway to revise the constitution as some quarters of the society have demanded. He asked candidates to tell voters that the constitution will soon be revised. “Manifesto is linked to the constitution and we will have a comprehensive constitutional review, that’s the promise you should tell people. But it will be done when given new mandate so that we can argue and all the stuff.

The review should be orderly and purposeful and from all Batswana.” He cited example of Ntlo ya Dikgosi saying some feel they are not included arguing that everyone should be equal. “The intention is not to break anyone but rather unite us as Batswana,” he said this amid thunder of applause from fellow democrats.

CORRUPTION MUST STOP

Masisi who has branded himself a man who has zero tolerance for corruption and respects the rule of law, wants to be remembered as such. “The other thing that hinders progress is corruption and you are going to be fighters in elimination of corruption” he specially told this to his cabinet ministers.  “If anyone among us is corrupt we will deal with them. If you have done something that was not deemed corrupt in the past, now it is, stop it because we will deal with it.

Right now there are no drugs at hospitals all these are attributed to corruption. It is not about money only, but rather inefficiency, claiming overtime that you didn’t work for, lying that you dispatched tablets to hospitals whilst you know you did not. The executive is supposed to direct all these and they should be sophisticated in dealing with this. If you are ministers don’t try to be a Permanent Secretary (PS), lenna I mustn’t want to be Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP),” he warned with passion.

THE JOB CREATION QUESTION

Masisi, from the records, says he is aware that some candidates want him to commit as to how many jobs he would have created in his first five year term if he could win.  “I hear from the report that I received that you have appetite on the number of jobs we would have created in five years. We shied away from doing that, deliberately so. And that doesn’t make our creation of job any lesser. There are lots of variables that come with job creation or committing to such. What do we do when South Africa stops our container import, what do we do? Wage bill going up without any returns coming in.”

President Masisi also went on record that he and businessman Strive Masiyiwa will sweat until at least 3000 youth are employed. This he says will be anchored on the ICT as it has proven that it is the only tool that could emancipate the youth from trenches on joblessness. 
“Before the next five years elapse Rwanda will be behind us. But we need political commitment and it should be Batswana running these ICT projects not underhand deals of tenders. We will have to involve them (youth) in town hall meetings just like we did with Masiyiwa some years back. Will be carrying out another one where we are expecting 6000 youths,” he said further reiterating that, “Government does not create jobs but rather create enabling environment. We want to open this economy and this needs us working together”.

NO LIVING WAGE FOR NOW

Unlike the main opposition, UDC, BDP President and his party are for now not considering minimum wage but maybe in the future when the economy is sustainable. “If you think we have money under UDC or BNF it will diminish because they want to pay P3000 without any productivity in the economy. We want sustainability and to grow the economy so we can actually pay even P5000, or even P10, 000, we don’t have any upper limit, we want affordability and sustainability,” he said. Masisi indicated that he is glad UDC publicized its manifesto, “but add them up and tell me if it’s sustainable. Rapid increases in wages lead to inflation like you have never seen and become uncontrollable like in Zimbabwe”.

MASISI SAYS EDUCATION SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE REVAMPED

The deteriorating performance of students at schools is another matter that Masisi says deserves attention. However, unlike others, this will not be rushed to achieve results in the next four months but will be in the pipe line. “Are we getting value out of investment we make,” he asked rhetorically. He says a standard one pupil needs more time from a teacher than a standard seven student.

“In our education we have not responded to the way we should have especially to junior school students. We have created prisons which are not good for human development, this is my professional view.” Masisi disclosed that he will engage the Ministry of Basic Education (MOBE) to do school mapping. He also revealed that plans are underway to resume double shift. “Concentration of kids is not four hours it is too much. We will engage MOBE to commit to double shifting.”

MASISI LECTURES CANDIDATES ON POLITICS

With four months before elections, Masisi taught candidates on the tactics to win their constituencies. He told the members that victory in all the constituencies is possible but can only be achieved through hard work, prioritizing voters and unity. “Let’s make people happy, the BDP should make Batswana happy. There are many attributes to it. Let’s not shout, hate and critique people. You are not representing the party.

If you do that Le jelwe, he said. “Polotiki ga se maikgantsho, don’t come with your fancy car at rallies because it might depict you as motho yoo maikgantsho. Fancy cars belong somewhere. We are about people feeling good, not yourself. Many of you should become politicians”.
Masisi who leads the party that performed dismally in the last elections amassing 47% of popular vote directed the members to brand BDP. “Some of you are averse with party colours, this thing must stop. It is not about putting on red merchandise, it’s about the brand. Even oppositions are better than us, it is embarrassing, and this should stop.” 

He went on to advise candidates that with few months before the polls they should use P10 million for constituency fund to lure votes. “You have P570 million of constituency funds including opposition constituencies and what are you doing with the money? You should use it strategically so that you can show tangible results to voters. You should have charm so that people are happy. Campaign is like menstrual cycle.”

BOGOSI, MEDIA WILL NOT BE HARRASED

Masisi blames part of the dismal performance of the party in the last election to the relation with other institutions especially Bogosi and the media. “This party was not created to harass our tradition and we should ensure that Bogosi remains a strong foundation for us. If Dikgosi harass you in politics then don’t hit back, roll on with the punches. BDP is committed to deliver a stable government. We are not hunting anyone. “O Bolele mogoloo,” Masisi told Tshekedi Khama.

The president went on to reveal that he will not rest until he brings back Kgosi Kgafela in Botswana. “A lot of tribal leaders were also unhappy with us. The other even went to the extent of dumping Botswana for South Africa-Kgafela of Bakgatla. And we know very well that our country is not complete without our tribal leaders. We must accept this reality. I will not rest until Kgafela is back home, I will not.” He says the media should also be allowed to do its job without fear as they are the fourth estate. He says as a party they have taken a decision for the media to regulate itself.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

12th August 2022

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

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.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

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.

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