Three empanelled Judges of High Court comprising Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane, Judge Abednigo Tafa, , and Judge Godfrey Radijeng on Thursday dismissed Pelonomii Venson-Moitoi court suit on the basis that she proved to her eligibility to run as President of Botswana in relation to her citizenship.
Venson-Moitoi had taken the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to court citing irregularities in the build up to the first presidential election in party history. The lawyers representing BDP led by Busang Manewe contented that Venson-Moitoi failed to prove in the founding affidavit that she qualifies to run presidency of Botswana, as it is requirement by the constitution of BDP to meet such requirements.
On those grounds, the BDP wanted the matter dismissed because Venson-Moitoi had no locus standi thus the right or capacity to bring an action or to appear in a court. The trio Judges agreed with the BDP lawyers that Venson-Moitoi lacked locus standi, which according to the bench was enough to dismiss the matter outright.
Venson-Moitoi citizenship in question…
According to the ruling, Venson – Moitoi has no locus standi as she did not reveal whether she is eligible to be President of the ruling party and by extension that of the country. They stated: “the BDP’s contention is that Venson – Moitoi has not alleged and established in her founding affidavit that she qualifies to be the president of the Republic of Botswana, which is a condition precedent to being President of the BDP in terms of article 29.3.3 of the constitution of the BDP.”
The BDP had submitted in court papers that for one to qualify as President of Botswana, one must in terms of the constitution of the Republic of Botswana establish that one is a citizen of Botswana by birth or descent, over the age of 30 years old and qualified to be elected member of the National Assembly.
This is provided for at section 33 (1) of the constitution of Botswana, which sets out that: “a person shall be qualified for election as president if, and shall not be qualified unless, he or she – a) is a citizen of Botswana by birth or descent; b) has attained the age of 30 years c) is qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly.”
They acknowledged that subsections b) and C) are not in dispute and the BDP does not contest this as Venson – Moitoi in essence averred to be over the age of 30 and has been elected as Member of Parliament. However the ruling continued: “the requirement of citizenship by birth or descent is the problematic element that has not been disclosed Moitoi in her founding papers. Put bluntly, Moitoi has failed to prove that she is a Botswana citizen by birth or descent and that she does qualifies to be President of the Republic of Botswana in terms of section 33 afore-noted. The latter as submitted by the BDP is a precondition to qualification of the BDP.”
The Judges added therefore that “after careful consideration on the issue, we are satisfied there is considerable merit to this contention and the point in limine is upheld. The effect is that on this point alone the application stands to be dismissed.” However the 3 Judges said they will nonetheless continue to assess other points out of abundance of caution in the court matter.
Judges stated that the case is not urgent…
In addition the Judges stated that the urgency was self-created if there is any urgency at all. “The BDP contended that communication was sent to all branches and regions of the BDP on the 20th February 2019, that the National congress would be held on the 5th April 2019. The BDP submitted that Moitoi signified he intention to contest as a presidential candidate of the BDP on the 17th December 2018 and began to campaign for that purpose. The latter point is acknowledged by Moitoi,” they said.
The Judges emphasised that the BDP submitted that Venson – Moitoi had ample time to seek an order that the elections rules as sought be promulgated. “They contend that she should have approached the court when she formed the intention to contest. The BDP submitted therefore that the urgency is self-created.”
Venson – Moitoi queried rules governing the elections
According to the Judges, Venson – Moitoi’s complainant is that the BDP does not have a detailed rules governing the conduct of the election of the President of BDP. “The second complaint is that the BDP through its Secretary General on the 2nd April 2019 replied to the submission of her name as an aspirant candidate for election to the office of the President of the BDP in a manner that she does not agree with on interpretation,” they pointed out.
They stated that the Secretary General in his letter of the 2nd April 2019 responded to state that certain persons submitted by Moitoi as her sponsors did not qualify as delegates in terms of articles 29.3 and 26.4.2 of the BDP’s constitution. Moitoi avers that she does not agree with that interpretation.
“Venson – Moitoi averred that the matter is urgent and seeks that the scheduled elective congress of the BDP be stayed, alternatively be postponed on as she would not be entitled to contest the BDP party presidency as a result of the disqualification of 26 of her sponsors by the BDP’s Secretary General, which decision was communicated to her on the 2nd April 2019 in the afternoon.” Her contention is that without the rules known to all candidates, the credibility of the poll will be compromised resulting in the elections not being free, fair and credible.
She averred in the court papers further that “the political atmosphere prevailing in anticipation of the elective congress is highly charged and has polarised not only on the party, but the public in general.” She averred further that the elective congress anticipated impacts on the country’s body politic and that for this reason its transparency and credibility is essential.”
Venson – Moitoi averred that she “stands irreparable to suffer irreparable harm in the event she participates in the elective congress despite her complaint regarding the promulgation of rules and regulations, in anticipation of lodging a review application in due course.” She averred that this was because after the anticipated or scheduled Kang elective congress her potential contender, the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi, if successful would enjoy presidential immunity, thus rendering any court order aside the elections as irregular, merely academic.
After listening to other arguments the judges ruled that “in the premise the BDP succeeds on more than one point in lime and the application stands to be dismissed.” “We cannot overemphasise the importance of political parties resolving political disputes through internal conflict resolution processes. The point in limine succeeds,” they stated.The Judges borrowed a leaf from a Court of Appeal ruling between BDP and another versus Whyte Marobela who took the party to court in 2013 complaining about some transgressions in party primary elections.
“Further, we accept this position mindful of the Court of Appeal’s remarks that courts must be astute not to intrude in the political process by intervening too readily to overturn decisions taken by political bodies in internal elections where such bodies respect clear majority decisions, even in the face of clear irregularities in the process. Even though this is not about the elections, we take the view that the principle applies with equal force in this instance,” the judgement posits.
The ruling also points out that the interim sought by Venson – Moitoi is not competent in respect of prayer 2.5 of the draft order. “They contend that Venson – Moitoi has failed to disclose in her founding papers that she does not have an alternative remedy. The BDP further contends that Moitoi has an alternative remedy of article 13.6 of the BDP’s constitution. She further contended that article 13 of the BDP’s constitution was not available as a remedy in that it was tantamount to requiring Moitoi to exhaust local remedies.” As a result, the Judges ruled that “we take the view that Venson-Moitoi misses the point. The BDP has outlined an alternative remedy as set out in article 13.6 of the BDP’s constitution.”
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.