President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) are caught in two contrasting worlds, the other one suggesting snap election while the other is very much against rushed elections as it could compromise the party retaining state power.
Political observers have in the past indicated the likelihood of having a snap election, a development which will be the first of its kind since independence, if it were to happen. The constitution of Botswana empowers a sitting president to dissolve parliament at any time. According to section 90 (3); whenever parliament is dissolved, a general election of the elected members of the assembly shall be held within 60 days of the date of the dissolution and a session of parliament shall be appointed to commence within 30 days of the date of that general elections.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is also scheduled to complete its final registration on the 28th of April 2019, a date which observers still say it allows Masisi to dissolve parliament subsequent to conclusion of the process. For more than once it is said the party has also weighed options of calling elections before the usual date of October. This was initially informed by the factions that riddled the party in the run-up to Kang Congress.
Now with the Kang chapter closed, the party has also entertained the thought again. This time it is premised on the former President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s decision to endorse opposition and independent candidates in constituencies held by BDP members who are considered hostile to the former president. There is also a possibility of Khama and those sympathetic to him forming a breakaway party before general elections.
BDP advisors have suggested to Masisi that calling elections before October could counter Khama strategy which if left unattended could compromise BDP’s chances of retaining power, sources told this publication. It is said the belief within the party is that calling a snap election will give the BDP a better chance to win and even improve their popular vote from 47 percent of last elections.
Khama’s crusade of endorsing anti-BDP candidates in some constituencies is well on track with the latest victim being Sefhare-Ramokgonami MP Dorcas Makgato who saw Khama ‘endorsing’ his opposition rival Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP). It is expected that a number of BDP candidates mostly in the central region will fall by the wayside due to the ‘Khama magic’. Central region is Khama’s territory as paramount chief of Bangwato, where he commands a large following in the territory, something which observers say could work against his BDP.
While still comprehending a mind blowing and convincing suggestion of snap elections, party members tasked to oversee various regions countered that possibility. The contention, according to insiders is that BDP is not yet ready for elections. “Even if preparations could be rushed the argument is the party is not ready. A lot of ground work needs to be done, so if elections are called it could be a recipe for bad things for the party and possibly give BDP rivals a bigger bite of the cake. So that was just an advice to the leadership,” an informant close to the actions told WeekendPost this week.
The party is launching its manifesto and the 57 candidates today at UB sports arena. Reports within the party say even candidates themselves are not ready to tussle for elections. The highlighted examples are Kanye North, Lobatse, Bobonong, Maun East, Boteti West, Selibe-Phikwe East and West and Okavango constituencies.
“Most of the constituencies have candidates who do not have politics background and they are having hard-times canvassing for votes and this is not good for the party. The opposition though it seems sleeping it could haunt us. We really need to work hard in the said constituencies,” an impeccable source told this publication.
Apart from newbies, it is said areas held by cabinet ministers are also behind in terms of ground work something which gives Central Committee members assigned with various regions a hard time. Official engagements are blamed for this as “candidates rarely have time to do the spade work but rather depend on the unreliable campaign teams.”
All these have put Masisi between a rock and a hard place. It is expected that apart from engaging with those who are monitoring the regions, the president will have a meeting with the candidates in a bid to sensitize them about elections preparations. Masisi is said to be yearning to get a fresh mandate from the general populace owing to instability which has threatened his transitional term and will fight with everything possible to ensure that BDP wins the elections.
BDP according to African Monitor Report, published by United Kingdom based, Business Monitor International early this year is poised to win the upcoming general elections despite a fading public support. If the current rift in the party fails to shake the foundations the party will capitalize on a disjointed opposition to retain power.
The party according to the report will capitalize from stronger economic growth and fragmented opposition. The report which was focusing on the political and socio-economic atmosphere of African Nations, says the BDP win will be due to a series of interlocking factors which will play out ahead of the 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.