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Dick Bayford’s warning in UDC, BMD case

A well-established private attorney who is also a senior partner at Bayford and Associates, Dick Bayford has sent a chilling alert to the High Court of Botswana cautioning them against making a judgement that may have the hallmarks of causing chaos in the impending 2019 General Elections.  

Bayford said this when making presentations on the capacity as and from attorney perspective in a case in which they are representing the main opposition party in parliament – at court – Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). In the case the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) are challenging their expulsion from the umbrella party which is now left with Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) in their endeavour to unseat the ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP).

Bayford set the context by stating that as a matter of fact currently the UDC remains the leading opposition party in the country as it comprises various political formations. “So, if by some stroke of luck, the BMD is able to go to court and later get an interdict that says UDC must not contest elections; effectively the courts would be saying that the ruling BDP must be retained to power unopposed,” the well regarded attorney told a pack of journalists in a press briefing this week in Gaborone.

He said the court must then consider this very closely if it will augur well with the constitutional democracy that reigns in this country. The courts, he added must think hard whether it is desirable effectively to have one party running and contesting elections. “Whether it will be healthy for a democracy, whether it will conduce to peace and tranquillity in the country. Those are the considerations that any court, properly advised, would have to deal with,” Bayford said.

He further pointed out that it is very easy for the court to say that they are going to stop the UDC from contesting an election but then if people were to reflect carefully and to look at whether in fact it is practically to do that I would say it is not. In his view, “that would plunge this country into a very chaotic situation.” I don’t know, he continued, if the BMD is committed to democracy in this country that would be reminded about this cost.

The law guru emphasised that what the BMD is asking for in court has nothing to do with the coming elections. “They have been saying that the UDC is not going to be permitted to campaign or run these coming elections on as UDC. I think that is totally false.” According to Bayford, they are only saying the court must nullify the suspension of the BMD from the UDC, which is basically academic because that suspension was also followed by expulsion and so it’s a non-issue.

He said the second issue that they are raising is that, as a relief, they say that the court must state that their expulsion from the UDC is null and void. “So as regards to processes in relation to elections and preparation they mention nothing. It is only now that they are bringing the argument hiding behind self-created urgency that UDC is not allowed to contest. It is an empty statement,” the UDC lawyer brushed the issue aside.

He continued to stress therefore that “there is no case before court intending to bar the UDC from contesting the election in its own right.” The anti-establishment attorney further took a chilling attack to the BMD leadership by stating that “I must say with due respect to the leadership at the BMD that there is a total figmentation of their minds.” 

Is UDC dragging its feet in the matter to reach impending elections?

So this case, Bayford narrated that the UDC first became aware of the case on the 14th December 2018 while the decision to expel the BMD having been taken way back on the 25th October 2018. UDC was only permitted to respond to the complaint at the beginning of the legal year commencing 1st February.

“Once the decision to expel the BMD, the party was fully informed of its right to lodge an appeal to the supreme decision body of the UDC which is congress. But rather the BMD decided not to utilise the option that is to exhaust the domestic revenue before they took the decision to rush to court,” he explained.

As you know recently, Bayford reminisced: I was involved in a case brought by Pelonomi Venson Moitoi and some of the authorities that were cited by the High Court in the judgement was that matters relating to political parties are best left to the political parties to determine.
“Now we expect that if the High Court is going to be consistent in its findings it should in all likelihood assume in its position that it’s important that members of a political party feeling aggrieved by an decision taken by their party should embark on the internal processes of their party before they opt for court,” he argued.

“When we were in court a statement was made by the BMD to the effect that UDC is delaying the case. We take issue with that statement because it is totally deficient of any truth. BMD decided to sit on their laurels from the 25th October to the 14 December and effectively to the 1st February 2019.”

Bayford also observed that when the BMD went to court they did not ask the court to determine on their case on grounds of urgency. “I keep referring to the Venson-Moitoi case; people keep saying that the case was ran through the day and decision taken at night. This was because of the manner in which Venson Motoi lodged the case as it was on urgency basis,” he justified.

The legal nature of the BMD/UDC court case

According to Bayford, the case takes the form of a review application which means it differs from the appeal in that when someone goes to court to seek a review of a decision it must be shown that the matter falls within the arena of public and not private law. He added “secondly a review will concern itself with legality either in substance or procedural and it does not deal with the rational or facts of the case. In an appeal when someone appeals because is aggrieved, they would be allowed to carry out a narration of the facts and ask court to make a determination or findings that were made by the lower court.”

If this case was to succeed, the renowned attorney said the court is not going to say that the facts were wrong but that the decision that was made by the UDC was wrong. What the court might say, he continued, is that the procedure that was adopted by the UDC in arriving at that decision was wrong, and that is the distinction.

“No way that the High Court is going to subpoena the powers of UDC it being a voluntary organisation governed by its rules and regulations to take a decision,” he concluded. Bayford sat with other UDC lawyers while making the presentations in the matter being Boingotlo Toteng, a senior Partner at Toteng attorneys and Dutch Leburu who is a partner at Monthe Marumo attorneys.

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Travel ban unfair and unjustified – Masisi

7th December 2021
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi

For the past two years, the world has been at combat with various COVID-19 variants. A new variant of concern which is considered to have a combination of the greatest hits (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta) has sent alarm bells around the world.

Botswana’s COVID-19 genomic surveillance, which actively monitors COVID-19 variants in Botswana, picked four samples that were concerning and discovered a completely new variant. In accordance with international obligations, as a responsible member state under the International Health Regulations of 2005, Botswana submitted the suspected new variant for the entire global scientific community to respond to this early finding. Shortly after, the Republic of South Africa, also submitted a similar concerning variant.

The new variant, ‘Omicron’ is named after the 15th letter of the Greek Alphabet to avoid public confusion and stigma.
The news spread like wild fire which resulted in European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America imposing travel bans on Botswana and other sister SADC nations, resulting in drawing a wedge between nations.

In his address on the occasion of an update on Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has shunned the response by some countries to Botswana’s detection of the Omicron variant stating that it is unfortunate as it appears to have caused unnecessary panic amongst the public across the world. He considers it defeating the spirit of multilateral cooperation in dealing with this global pandemic.

“The decision to ban our citizens from travelling to certain countries was hastily made and is not only unfair but is also unjustified while remain confident that reason and logic will prevail, the harshness of the decision has the effect of our shaking our belief in the sincerity of declared friendship and commitment of equality and economic prosperity for us,” he said.

President Masisi has appealed to the nations that have imposed travel restrictions on Botswana to reflect and review their travel restrictions stance against the Southern African region.

African leaders and heads of state are in agreement on a matter. Some stating that the travel bans are ‘uncalled for, afro phobic, unscientific, strict, unfair and unjustified’. They have come out to bash the unilateral travel bans and request immediate upliftment of the restrictions imposed on SADC member states by European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America.

While Batswana are banned from international travel, locally as at 26th November 2021, a total of 195 068 COVID19 cases and 2 418 deaths had been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We have been steadily witnessing a decrease in the number of new cases and deaths in the last three months. We are currently reporting an average of less 10 infections per 100 000 people compared to 648 cases per 100 000 people at the peak of the third wave. We have also observed a gradual decline in hospitalizations across the country with an average of less than 10 patients at a time at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) and our other health facilities countrywide,” pointed out President Masisi.

Masisi encouraged Batswana not to despair as to date, all the nations’ key indicators remain stable. “This is comforting although it still does not warrant any complacency on our part in terms of behaviour and other attitudinal patterns towards this dreadful disease. We are actively monitoring the evolving situation in view new variant of concern,’’ he sternly advised.

Government through the different Ministries leading the different sectors, has been working tirelessly to prepare for potential outbreaks and a fourth (4th) wave. This will be achieved through; installing oxygen generating plants and increasing skilled human capacity.

With regards to the vaccination programme; as of 29th November 2021, an estimated One Million and Fifty Three Thousand Three Hundred and Sixty One (1 053 361) people translating to 75.7% of the target Batswana citizens and residents over the age of 18 years have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. A total of Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy Three (950 973) people translating to 68.4% have been fully vaccinated. This number exceeds the 64% target Botswana has set to achieve by end of December 2021.

Masisi enthusiastically revealed that; “We are one of the three countries in Africa that have achieved the World Health Organisation target of vaccinating at least 40% of the entire population by December 2021. We are committed to ensure that all is done to reduce the transmission of the virus in the country.

More vaccines are being procured to ensure availability for those who have not yet received any dose. Government is also considering booster doses for those who may be identified as qualifying for them.”

President Masisi urged Batswana to continue observing the COVID-19 health protocols of social distancing, washing hands or sanitizing and wearing masks and avoid unnecessary travelling.

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China pledges a billion vaccines to Africa

7th December 2021

As COVID-19 pandemic continues to shake the world, China has promised to donate a billion coronavirus vaccines, advance billions of dollars for African trade and infrastructure, and write off interest-free loans to African countries to help the continent recover from the coronavirus pandemic. All these promises emerged at the Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Senegal at the end of November 2021.

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will provide one billion doses of vaccines to Africa when delivering keynote speech at the Eighth Ministerial FOCAC via video link on 29th November. Of those, 600 million would be via donations and the rest would be produced jointly by African countries and Chinese companies. In addition, China would send medical teams to help the continent deal with the pandemic.

President Xi also announced nine programmes that China will work closely with African countries in the next three years. He mentioned the medical and health program, the poverty reduction and agricultural development program, the trade promotion program, the investment promotion program, the digital innovation program, the green development program, the capacity building program, the cultural and people-to-people exchange program, the peace and security program. President Xi hailed China-Africa relations as a shining example for building a new type of international relations.

Furthermore, Xi said Beijing would pump US$10 billion into African financial institutions for onward lending to small and medium enterprises. He promised to extend another US$10 billion of its International Monetary Fund allocation of special drawing rights, which would help stabilise foreign exchange reserves. In addition, China will write-off interest-free loans due this year, to help the economies that had been ravaged by the pandemic. Last year, China also promised to write off interest-free loans due at the end of 2020.

Beijing pledged US$60 billion to finance Africa’s infrastructure at the forum in Johannesburg in 2015, and a similar amount when the gathering was held in the Chinese capital in 2018. But in the past few years, Chinese lenders, including the policy banks – Exim Bank of China and China Development Bank – have become more cautious and are now demanding bankable feasibility studies amid debt distress in the continent.

Besides seeking more money for projects, Xi said China would encourage more imports of African agricultural products, and increase the range of zero-tariff goods, aiming for US$300 billion of total imports from Africa in the next three years.

China would also advance US$10 billion of trade financing to support African exports into China. He said the country would also advance another US$10 billion to promote agriculture in Africa, send 500 experts and establish China-Africa joint agro-technology centres and demonstration villages. African countries are pushing to grow exports of agricultural products into China. At the moment, Beijing maintains an enormous trade surplus over the continent. African imports from China include machinery, electronics, construction equipment, textiles and footwear.

Meanwhile, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi summarized FOCAC achievements when meeting with journalists ahead the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference. Wang said that the FOCAC is a crucial platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation.

He said since the inception of the FOCAC 21 years ago, Chinese enterprises have built over 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 1,000 bridges, nearly 100 ports, and over 80 large-scale power facilities in Africa.

In addition, they have assisted Africa in building over 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and more than 170 schools, and training over 160,000 professionals in various fields. Chinese medical teams have provided medical service to an accumulated number of 230 million, and China’s network service has covered around 700 million user terminals.

Yi said that the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference was a great success. According to Yi, the success of the conference confirmed the strong will of China and Africa to work together to overcome difficulties and seek common development, and showed the huge potential and bright prospects of China-Africa cooperation.

Wang summarized the most important consensus reached at the conference as following: 1) both sides will promote the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation; 2) China and Africa will work together to defeat the pandemic; 3) both sides will work to enrich China-Africa cooperation in the new era; 4) the two sides will work together to practice true multilateralism; 5) China and Africa will jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

FOCAC, is one of the developments that came as a major shift in the dynamics of the China-Africa relationships came about in the 1980s when China embarked upon its “Opening up and Reform Policy” –a wide-ranging policy that gave birth to the new China. Economic and geo-strategic interests rather than the desire to export a specific political philosophy drive China’s current relationship with Africa.

For Africa though, the key problem is that our economies are weak in value creation. 
As argued by one economist, what workers and factories produce is produced more efficiently, with better quality and at lower cost, by other economies. “In such circumstances, making money is easier through rent than through value creation.

African governments should be capable of guiding their private sector towards value creation, a key factor for achieving a sustainable competitive edge in the global market. Furthermore, partnerships that Africa forges should be targeted to enhance such an environment”. The question remains as to whether China’s intervention in Africa will help address this challenge.

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COVID-19 has pushed cost of living up – report

7th December 2021

A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) has given its outlook for the rise and fall of living costs around the world.

The report is based on current and past trends impacting the cost of living, including currency swings, local inflation and commodity shocks. In addition, it compares more than 400 individual prices across over 200 products and services in 173 cities.

The Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) rankings continue to be sensitive to shifts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which have pushed up the cost of living across the world’s major cities. Although most economies are now recovering as covid-19 vaccines are rolled out, the world’s major cities still experience frequent surges in cases, prompting renewed social restrictions. In many cities this has disrupted the supply of goods, leading to shortages and higher prices.

The report highlights that “the inflation rate of the prices tracked in the EIU’s WCOL across cities is the fastest recorded over the past five years. It has accelerated beyond the pre-pandemic rate, rising by 3.5% year on year in local-currency terms in 2021, compared with an increase of just 1.9% in 2020 and 2.8% in 2019.”

However; supply-chain problems, as well as exchange-rate shifts and changing consumer demand, have led to rising prices for commodities and other goods. The most rapid increases in the WCOL index were for transport, with the price of a litre of petrol up by 21% on average.

Tel Aviv, a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast tops the WCOL rankings for the first time ever, making it the most expensive city in the world to live in. The Israeli city climbed from fifth place last year, pushing Paris down to joint second place with Singapore. Tel Aviv’s rise mainly reflects its soaring currency and price increases for around one-tenth of goods in the city, led by groceries and transport, in local-currency terms. Property prices (not included in the index calculation), have also risen, especially in residential areas.

The cheapest cities are mainly in the Middle East and Africa, or in the poorer parts of Asia. Damascus has easily retained its place as the cheapest city in the world to live in. It was ranked the lowest in seven of the ten pricing categories, and was among the lowest in the remaining three. While prices elsewhere have generally firmed up, in Damascus they have fallen as Syria’s war-torn economy has struggled. Tripoli, which also faces political and economic challenges, is ranked second from the bottom in our rankings, and is particularly cheap for food, clothing and transport.

“Over the coming year, we expect to see the cost of living rise further in many cities. Inflationary expectations are also likely to feed into wage rises, further fuelling price rises. However, as central banks cautiously raise interest rates to stem inflation, price increases should moderate from this year’s level. We forecast that global consumer price inflation will average 4.3% in 2022, down from 5.1% in 2021 but still substantially higher than in recent years. If supply-chain disruptions die down and lockdowns ease as expected, then the situation should improve towards the end of 2022, stabilising the cost of living in most major cities.”

“The survey has been designed to enable human resources and finance managers to calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. It can also be used by consumer-goods firms and other companies to map pricing trends and determine optimum prices for their products across cities. In addition, the data can be used to understand the relative expense of a city to formulate policy guidelines,” highlights the report.

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