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Soldiers assault Okavango residents ‘military style’

Botswana Defense Force (BDF) members have been accused of committing brutalities against the Okavango Delta communities of Ditshiping and Morutsha settlements. Some residents have complained of being tortured and beaten military style by officers stationed at satellite camp close to the two ungazetted settlements.

One of the victims, Kharathe Gorekwamang explained how he was beaten by army officers who left him for dead. He told this publication that the officers loaded him in to a van and drove away to beat and torture him. “They took turns beating and kicking me.  Then they put a bucket on my head, tied my hands and told me to run for my dear life. I was scared and tried to run but I tripped on something and fell down. Then they all laughed at me like I was some kind of a comedy show.”  

He said after they were finished with him they then drove him back to back to the settlement and dropped him at his fathers’ house. “My entire body was painful. I could not even walk. I urinated with difficulty as the officers had kicked me on my kidneys area.” Kharathe’s father, Gorekwamang Omane confirmed the incident explaining that he was present when the officers brought his son back. “He was in a bad state. We had to call for assistance from Okavango Kopano Mokoro Trust which services our settlement to help with a van to ferry him to the hospital sixty kilometers away in Maun.”

Gorekwamang works as a leader of the community led Mokoro poling (canoe) tours in the Okavango delta.  The service is mostly utilised by western tourists.  He revealed that in October 2018 together with a group of other polers, they took a group of western tourists for Mokoro trips in to the Okavango Delta.  After the completion of the trip, the tourists gave the polers about P 1,300 as a tip on top of the initial payment.

Gorekwamang said:  “The lead tour guide responsible for tourists group gave me the tip to distribute to other polers. However when we arrived at the village some members of my team started accusing me of stealing some of the tip money.” “Some of the women polers in our party said they saw some Euro notes from the money the lead guide gave me. I told them that there were no Euros.  An argument ensued and the matter was reported to the village headman for intervention. At the insistence of women the headman then called the army officers who came listened to the issue and decided to take me for punishment.”

Ditshiping headman, Galebuse Tshekonyana confirmed the case was reported to him. He however denied giving the army officers permission to assault Gorekwamang.  “The woman complainants are the ones who demanded that the army officers must take him to deal with the issue after I had tried to intervene and took the disputed money so that I could distribute it myself. I just heard that he had been assaulted and they never informed me,” he told this publication.

Another resident of the neighboring Morutsha, Onkabetse Wazimi told Weekend Post that in 2017 he had a misunderstanding with his girlfriend who reported him to the army officers. “When they came here they did not ask anything. They just started assaulting me.” Wazimi further stated that this year another resident was also beaten up who had been reported by a beer depot owner to the BDF as he had failed to pay beer money he owed. “Apparently he owed P180, 00. They beat him telling him he must go pay for the beers.”

Weekend Post is in possession of a letter from Makgobokgokgo area councilor, Luke Motlaleselelo, to the District Commissioner dated 17 October 2018 complaining about BDF officers’ behavior at Ditshiping. Part of the letter reads: “. I write this letter as the area councillor In relation to behavior of BDF soldiers where they beat community members, inflcting serious injuries on their bodies.” It further states that: “on the 5th October 2018, a community member was reported to the BDF base where they brutally beat him and left him unconscious and community trust vehicle had to be called from Maun to collect him in Ditshiping and rush to the hospital.”

In the letter, Motlaleselelo further makes damning allegation that there are suspicions that male residents are beaten severely because some of the solders have sexual relationships with girl friends of the affected in Ditshiping and Morutsa. Motlaleselelo wrote: “I am just quoting one incident but there are several similar incidents where people are just beaten without due diligence being carried out and what is hurting is that these soldiers seem to think our people are just a bunch of ignorants who live in the bush. “

The letter further questions whether the BDF is allowed to undertake duties of Botswana Police Services stating that the camp was set up for anti poaching operations when rhinos were introduced in the Okavango Delta but not to persecute the villagers. “I am appealing to you as the DC to engage BDF. “I am not trying to interfere on their duty but I feel they are encroaching outside their mandate.” Ngamiland District Commissioner, Keolopile Leipego has however denied receiving Motlaleselelo’s letter saying he has only informally heard about the matter.

 
Maun Police Station Commander Mothaba Ramabya further denied a case was reported to the police despite victim stating he reported to Maun police and the copy of medical exam showing the police had requested for the examination. In a response to Weekend Post questions, BDF spokesperson, Colonel Tebo Dikole said BDF does not have an official record of incidents of assault at Ditshiping settlement or any other area in the Okavango Delta. It says if exist such incidents would be reported to the Botswana Police who would then notify BDF. The letter says: “Once such a report is received, the BDF would then take appropriate action guided by BDF act.

Weekend Post has however learnt that recently, following our enquiry, BDF has instructed officers not to deal with crime issues in Ditshiping and instructed them to reduce interaction with members of the community. In 2017, former President Ian Khama visited Ditshiping where residents called on Khama to help declare the ungazetted settlement a village so that they could begin to enjoy government developments and services. The settlement is serviced by Shorobe police post. During the meeting, the residents said the settlement came in to existence in 1961 and was set up by people who were relocated by creation of Moremi Game Reserve.

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Details emerge in suspected Batswana poachers in Namibia

28th June 2022
suspected Motswana poacher arrested

New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.

The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.

It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong.  According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.

Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.

“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.

According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”

He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.

Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.

“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.

Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.

“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.

Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.

“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.

Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”

He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.

He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”

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Gov’t, Unions clash over accommodation

28th June 2022
accomodation

The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.

This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.

A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”

“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.

“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.

According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.

The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.

The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation.
The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).

Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.

The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.

“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”

The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”

“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.

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BPF NEC probes Serowe squabbles

28th June 2022
BPF

Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.

In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.

Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.

BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.

As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.

“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.

Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.

“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.

This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.

“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.

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