The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) has met the October 18th deadline set by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to show course why they should not be suspended from the organisation. But in their response signed by the part secretary general, Gilbert Mangole, the BMD is defiant, hostile and promising “a fight to the bitter end.”
“We again place on record that the BMD does not accept the suspension conveyed by your letter as, not only is its purport unlawful, it is also entirely baseless,” reads the response from BMD. In the response the Sidney Pilane led party says “it raises technical grounds vitiating the decision to suspend and possibly expel the BMD from the UDC.”
Gilbert Mangole put forward a foundation to the response: “It is public knowledge that the decisions to suspend and expel were long made in informal bilateral meetings between the BCP and the BNF, and that the meetings past and the forthcoming meetings as well as correspondence entered into are mere formalities to give the appearance of some process, however illegal.”
Raising what he calls technical grounds, Mangole hinges into the UDC constitution which he says governs its affairs , he states that the founding members of the UDC are the BMD, the Botswana National Front (BNF) and the Botswana People’s Party (BPP).
As for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Mangole is expressly clear that they are not a member of the UDC. “The BCP sought membership of the UDC…by process of negotiation.
Terms of their entry into membership of the UDC, including a new constitution and the division of constituencies, were agreed subject to all four parties executing written Memorandum of Agreement. A Transitional Team on which all four parties were to have equal representation was charged to incorporate a few changes that had been made to the Constitution drafted by the Stream and to draft the Memorandum of agreement aforesaid,” writes Mangole.
According to Mangole, the BCP expressly refused to participate in the work of the Transitional Team, which proceeded without the BCP and prepared an agreement aforesaid. “Documentary proof of the BCP’s refusal and of the existence of the written Agreement we have in our possession and will employ in the event of what seems to be certain litigation that will follow any attempt by you to implement decisions hostile to the BMD which you have already taken,” he writes to Duma Boko, the President of the UDC.
Mangole further claims that BCP’s refusal to participate in the work of the Transitional Team, and to sign the Agreement aforesaid, made it impossible to follow the constitutional process and the process required by the Societies Act which would have resulted in the BCP becoming a member in law of the UDC. The BMD secretary general says his president, Pilane described the process in detail in a presentation he made to the first meeting of the informal “NEC” of the UDC which he attended following the Movement’s Bobonong Congress. “Accordingly, the BCP is not and has not, at any time, become a member of the UDC.”
Mangole and his colleagues at the BMD are of the view that “the BCP may in consequence, not attend any lawful meetings of the UDC in the future nor participate in any decisions that the UDC might take. It need hardly be mentioned that no decision made by the UDC in the past, including the decision to suspend the BMD from the UDC made on 25 September 2018, in the presence of representatives of the BCP and in which they participated is lawful.”
He writes, “The BCP’s presence and its participation by representation at the meeting of 25 September 2018 during which the decision to suspend the BMD was taken vitiates any and all decisions made at that meeting.” Mangole’s letter further indicates that the presence of the BCP by representation in any future meetings of the UDC and its participation in those meetings and decisions made thereat will vitiate those meetings and all the decisions they may take.
BMD CLAIMS SUPPORT FROM BPP
Further in their response the BMD states that the BPP was represented at the meeting of 25 September 2018 at which the decision to suspend the BMD, “and to require us to show cause, was made.” “The BPP inform us that they had not been invited to that meeting, nor had they noticed that it was intended to make decisions conveyed by your letter of suspension dated 26 September 2018 at the meeting.
The BPP further inform us that Otlaadisa Otlaadisa, who may have been present at the meeting of 25 September 2018, and who may participated in the decisions in that meeting made, including the decision to suspend the BMD and to require us to show cause, was not authorized to attend that meeting and had not been given authority to support those decisions on behalf of the BPP.” According to Mangole, the BPP maintains that they are opposed to all the decisions which were made at the meeting of 25th September 2018.
BMD QUESTIONS THE NEC COMPOSITION
The BMD is also questioning the structure that met on 25 September 2018 and took decisions adverse to the BMD. Mangole posits that the structure that met on that date is not a structure of the UDC by reason, inter alia, of its composition and the manner by which it came into existence. “That it is loosely described as the NEC of the UDC does not make it so as that is a matter of law.”
“Accordingly, the “NEC” that met and took the decisions it did on 25 September 2018, and may do so in future, is not a structure of the UDC and was not and is not authorized to make decisions for and of the UDC.” Mangole and his team further question the quorum of the “NEC”, “Even if the structure that met and made the decisions it did on 25 September 2018 was a lawful structure of the UDC, which it was not then and is not now and will, without more, not be in the future, the absence of the BMD and the BPP rendered the meeting of 25 September 2018 no-quorate.”
Therefore, Mangole writes, “the BMD was, on 25 September 2018 and remains, a member of the UDC and was and is entitled to be invited to and to participate in meetings of and to participate in decisions that the UDC makes.” He states that there is no lawful basis for not inviting the BMD to UDC meetings. “The deliberate decision to not invite the BMD to the meeting of 25 September 2018 would, were that meeting lawful, vitiate that meeting and the decisions it took.” The BMD is of the view that it was suspended without due process albeit there are no grounds for suspension because no evidence substantiating the accusations has been furnished “a written request notwithstanding and that makes it impossible to answer meaningfully.”
BMD DEFENDS PILANE
Mangole also takes time defending Sidney Pilane against the allegations levelled against him. He says the president of the BMD has not, at anytime and anywhere, made any divisive and or toxic/ pronouncements as alleged. “Our president has not made any pronouncements out of turn, nor has he done anything that required the sanction and authority of the UDC without such authority.”
“Our president has not painted the alleged or any other picture of the UDC, nor has he ever said or done anything adverse to the UDC,” writes Mangole. The BMD also deny charges that Pilane disparaged the UDC, and that he has been uncooperative. They further indicate that Pilane has not tarnished or put the name of the UDC into disrepute.
Mangole writes that the BMD has honoured all bilaterals requested of them. “We did with the BCP in respect of Maun West and Francistown West, and we did with the BPP as concerns Francistown West. The BNF has never asked us for a bilateral. What they have done was request us to meet with them to negotiate who, between the BMD and the BNF, should present parliamentary candidates in Moshupa-Manyana and Lentsweletau Mmopane constituencies.
This was not an invitation to hold a bilateral; it was one to re-open negotiations to divide constituencies when the process had long been concluded with those constituencies being allocated to the BMD. Only BCP had sought Lentsweletau Mmopane but yielded to the BMD.”
Mangole says all accusations levelled against them as a party and those against their president are without substance.
In conclusion the BMD secretary general says, “The reasons for suspending the BMD, and contemplating its expulsion, are false and contrived, and are an unlawful stratagem to steal BMD constituencies.” He sayd the the BCP and the BNF July 2018 conferences both separately but conspiratorially resolved on unlawful strategies to steal BMD’s constituencies from it.
The newly elected Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Executive Committee led by Pastor Reverend Thuso Tiego has declared their disapproval of homosexuality saying it is anti-Christianity and Botswana culture.
Speaking at a Media Briefing this past week, BMD President Tiego said Botswana has been a country that respects culture hence endorsing homosexuality will be catastrophic.
‚ÄúOur young generation grew up being taught about types of families, if homosexuality is passed, at what age will our children be introduced to homosexuality?‚ÄĚ he rhetorically asked.
He continued: ‚ÄúIf we are going to allow homosexuality then the next day, another person will come and say he wants to practice bestiality. What are we going to do because we have already allowed for this one (homosexuality) and at the end it will be a total mess.‚ÄĚ Bestiality is sexual relations between a human being and an animal
This according to Tiego will give those people an opportunity thus disrupting known Botswana beliefs. He however dismissed any notion that the decision to condemn homosexuality should not be linked to the top two of the committee who are men of cloth. ‚ÄúThis is a decision by the whole committee which respects the culture of Botswana and it should not be perceived that because we are clergymen we are influencing them, but even if we do, politics and religion are inter-related.‚ÄĚ
Of late the church and the human rights organization have been up in arms because of the high court decision to allow for same sex marriages. Ministries ganged up, petitioned parliament and threatened to vote out any legislator who will support the idea. The ruling party, BDP which was to table the amendment in the constitution, ended up deferring it.
BMD President further revealed that he is aware of what really led to the split of the party and he is on course to transform as they approach 2024 elections.
‚ÄúThere are so many factors that led to split of party amongst others being leadership disputes, personal egos and ambitions, toxic factionalism and ideological difference just to mention a few, but we are transforming the party and I am confident that we will do well in the coming elections.
In addition, Tiego is hopeful that they will take the government as they feel it is time to rebrand Botswana politics and bring in fresh blood of leaders.
He further hinted that they are coming with positive transformation as they eye to better the lives of Batswana.
‚ÄúWhen we assume government, we promise to be transparent, free and fair electoral processes and encourage pluralism as way of getting back to our roots of being a democratic country as it seems like the current government has forgotten about that important aspect,‚ÄĚ Tiego explained.
Reeling under the increasing barrage of stinging international sanctions, the isolated North Korean regime is reportedly up to its old trickery, this time in a more complicated web of murky operations that have got the authorities of five southern African countries at sixes and sevens as they desperately try to tighten their dragnet around Pyongyang‚Äôs spectral network of illicit ivory and rhino horn trade.
It is an intricate network of poaching for elephant tusks and rhino horns that spans Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the main sources of the contraband being Botswana and South Africa.
The syndicate running the illegal trafficking of the poached contraband is suspected to be controlled by two shadowy North Korean government operatives with close links to one Han Tae-song, a disgraced North Korean career diplomat who, while serving as the second secretary at his country‚Äôs embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, was expelled in 1992 after he was fingered as the mastermind behind a similar illegal ring that was busted by the country‚Äôs authorities.
This disturbing tale of malfeasance by North Korean state actors is as real as it gets.
Recent reports indicate that authorities in the source countries are jointly battling to plug holes created by the shadowy syndicate which allegedly has on its payroll, park rangers, border officials and cross-border truck drivers.
Even more disturbing are allegations that some wildlife officials are conniving in misrepresenting numbers of retrieved rhino horns and ivory from poachers and getting kickbacks for their involvement in the pilfering of ivory and rhino horns from government stockpiles especially in South Africa.
In a shocking and well-orchestrated movie-style heist in South Africa, thieves in June this year made off with 51 rhino horns after breaking into a very secure government stockpile facility of the North West Parks Board (NWPB).
While some suspects from South Africa and Malawi were nabbed in a government sting operation, none of the rhino horns – 14 of which were very large specimens that can fetch serious money on the black market ‚Äď were recovered.
A report of the heist said the police were lethargic by eight hours in responding to an emergency alert of the robbery which was described by North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone as ‚Äú‚Ä¶ a case of business robbery‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
Thabang Moko, a security analyst in Pretoria says the military precision in the burglary, delays in police response, and failure to recover the stolen rhino horns is dubious. ‚ÄúThis development lends credence to suspicions that some government officials could be part of a shadowy syndicate run by foreign buyers of rhino horns and ivory,‚ÄĚ Moko says.
It is understood that in light of the rhino horns heist in North West, South Africa‚Äôs Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy on 1 August, shared her concerns to her counterparts in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique calling for greater regional cooperation to combat the illegal wildlife trafficking which she believes is being masterminded by the Far East‚Äôs buyers of the ill-gotten horns and ivory.
It is believed that foreign kingpins involved in perpetuating the illegal trade are mainly North Koreans vying against Vietnamese and Cambodian buyers in the quest for dominance of the illicit trade in rhino horns and ivory sourced from southern Africa.
Creecy‚Äôs concerns, which she also shared to South Africa‚Äôs state-run broadcaster SABC, echoed Moko‚Äôs worries that the North West heist may have been an inside job.
According to Creecy, there was a need for the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol)‚Äôs greater involvement in joint investigations by affected countries as there were indications of ‚Äėlocal knowledge‚Äô of the North West job and that syndicates, ‚ÄúHigher up the value chain actually recruit park rangers to the illegal ivory trade network.‚ÄĚ
Botswana‚Äôs Environment and Tourism Minister Philda Kereng is on national record admitting that poaching was a source of headaches to her government, especially considering that the daring poachers were making successful incursions into secure areas protected by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).
This came after poachers gunned down two white rhinos at the BDF-protected Khama Rhino Sanctuary in August 2022 despite Kereng putting the time frame of the killings between October and November 2022.
Kereng hinted at the existence of Asian controlled syndicates and acknowledged that the surge in poaching in Botswana is driven by the ‚Äúincreased demand¬†for rhino horn on the international market‚ÄĚ where in Asia rhino horns are believed to be potent in traditional medicines and for their imagined therapeutic properties.
Botswana has in the past recorded an incident of a group of an all-Asian reconnaissance advance team teams being nabbed by the country‚Äôs intelligence service in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary.
Masquerading as tourists, the group, with suspected links to North Korea and China, was discovered to be collecting crucial data for poachers.
Also according to reliable information at hand, an undisclosed number of wildlife parks rangers were arrested between September 2022 and January this year, after information surfaced that they connived in the smuggling of rhino horns and ivory from Botswana.
One of the rangers reportedly admitted getting paid to falsify information on recovered horns and ivory which were smuggled out of the country through its vast and porous eastern border with South Africa, and making their way to their final destination in Mozambique via back roads and farmlands in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
‚ÄúWe are aware that in the past year, some rhino horns and ivory illegally obtained from Botswana through poaching activities and shady deals by some elements within our wildlife and national parks department, have found their way out of the country and end up in Mozambique‚Äôs coastal ports for shipment to the Far East,‚ÄĚ a Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) source says.
Independent investigations reveal that two North Korean buyers, one of them only identified as Yi Kang-dae [confirmed to be an intelligence official in the country‚Äôs state security apparatus], acting on behalf of the disgraced Han Tae-song, financed the entire operation on two occasions between 2022 and 2023, to move at least 18 rhino horns and 19 elephant tusks from Botswana, including pay-offs – mostly to border patrol and customs officials for safe passage – along the knotty conduit across South Africa‚Äôs north western lands, then across south-eastern Zimbabwe into Mozambique.
According to a trusted cross-border transport operator in Zimbabwe, the rhino horns and elephant tusks were illegally handed over to smugglers in Mozambique at an obscure illegal crossing point 15km north of Zimbabwe‚Äôs Forbes Border Post in November 2022 and February this year.
The end buyers in Mozambique? ‚ÄúIt is quite an embarrassment for us, but we have solid evidence that two North Korean buyers, one of them who is linked to a former notorious diplomat from that country who has been in the past involved in such illegal activities in Zimbabwe, oversaw the loading of rhino horns and ivory onto a China-bound ship from one of our ports,‚ÄĚ a top government source in Maputo said before declining to divulge more information citing ongoing investigations.
Yi Kang-dae and his accomplice‚Äôs whereabouts are presently unclear to Mozambican authorities whose dragnet reportedly recently netted some key actors of the network. Han Tae-song currently serves as North Korea‚Äôs ambassador to the United Nations in Switzerland.
North Korean diplomats have in the past used Mozambique as a final transit point for the shipment of rhino horns to the Far East.
In May 2015, Mozambican authorities nabbed two North Koreans, one of them a Pretoria-based diplomat and political counsellor identified as Pak Chol-jun after they were caught in possession of 4.5kg of rhino horn pieces and US$100,000 cash.
Pak‚Äôs accomplice, Kim Jong-su, a Taekwondo instructor also based in South Africa, was fingered as a North Korean spy and returned to North Korea under suspicious circumstances on the heels of Pak‚Äôs expulsion from South Africa in November 2016.
A security source in Zimbabwe closely following current developments says there is a big chance that Han Tae-song may have revived the old smuggling network he ran while posted in Zimbabwe in the 90s.
‚ÄúThe biting international sanctions against North Korea in the past decade may have prompted Han to reawaken his network which has been dormant for some time,‚ÄĚ the source says. ‚ÄúThere is no telling if the shady network is dead now given that Han‚Äôs two front men have not been nabbed in Mozambique. More joint vigilance is needed to destroy the operation at the source and at the end of the line.‚ÄĚ
North Korean diplomats have, as early as October 1976, been fingered for engaging in illegal activities ranging from possession of and trade in ivory pieces, trade in diamonds and gold, the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit currencies, pharmaceuticals, and the sale on the black market, of a paraphernalia of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and other trinkets on the back of protracted and biting international sanctions against the reclusive state for its gross human rights abuses against its own people and flagrant nuclear tests.
These illegal activities, according to a US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, have raked in at least US$500m annually for the Pyongyang regime. Other global studies estimate that North Korea‚Äôs illegal earnings from the black market are around $1bn annually, and are being channelled towards the country‚Äôs nuclear weapons programme, while ordinary North Koreans continue to die of mass starvation.
In February 2014, Botswana, citing systematic human rights violations, severed ties with North Korea with the former‚Äôs president Mokgweetsi Masisi (then vice president) calling North Korea an ‚Äėevil nation‚Äô on 23 September 2016, at a United Nations General Assembly forum in Washington, USA.
Botswana has¬†close to 132,000¬†elephants, more than any of its four neighbouring countries, namely Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to a 2022 Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) Elephant Survey.
The rhino population in Botswana has significantly dwindled, with poaching a leading cause of the decimation of the country‚Äôs rhinos. Despite dehorning and relocating its diminishing rhino population from the extensive Okavango Delta to undisclosed sanctuaries, Botswana has since 2018, lost 138 rhinos to poachers.
The sharp spike in rhino poaching in Botswana came after the country‚Äôs government made a controversial decision to disarm park rangers in early 2018.
In a statement delivered in November 2022 to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) CoP-19 in Panama, the Botswana government instead blamed the surge in poaching to a shift of foreign-sponsored organised poaching organisations from South Africa to Botswana.
‚ÄúThis increase in rhino poaching in Botswana coincided with a decline of rhino poaching in South Africa from 2018 to 2020, suggesting a displacement of the poaching syndicates from South Africa to Botswana,‚ÄĚ the statement reads. ‚ÄúThe recent decline in rhino poaching in Botswana (2021 and 2022, relative to 2020) coincides with the increase in rhino poaching in Namibia and South Africa, further suggesting displacement of the poaching syndicates across the sub-region.‚ÄĚ
According to the Botswana government, as of 13 November 2022 the country has secreted its shrinking rhinos (only 285 white rhinos and 23¬†black rhinos) in undisclosed locations within the country‚Äôs borders.
South Africa has close to 15,000 rhinos. Between January and June 2022 alone, poachers killed 260 rhinos in South Africa for their horns. The country is home to the majority of Africa‚Äôs white rhinos, a species whose existence remains under threat of extinction due to poaching.
The major threat posed by foreign state actors including those from North Korea, to southern Africa‚Äôs rhino and elephant population remains grim as the bulk of the rhino horns and elephant tusks reportedly continue finding their way to the Far East, where China is being used as the major distribution centre.
Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has said he is disappointed by the remarks directed to him by Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President Dumelang Saleshando, but he will just wait and see how far he wants to go with his remarks before he decides whether and how his response should be.