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SA dagga legalisation to frustrate Lesetedi drug bust mission

The South African Constitutional Court’s ruling to legalise marijuana will have a negative impact on Botswana’s fight against drug abuse, Botswana Police Service Crime Intelligence Director and Senior Assistant Commissioner, Nunu Lesetedi conceded.

Towards the end of last year, Lesetedi has been the top police intelligence officer at the helm of publicised Botswana Police drug bust mission to sweep out the country’s drug dealers. With close to four decades experience in the police service, Lesetedi spearheaded the crusade to embark on war against drug abuse, but it proved to be a gruelling and dangerous campaign coming with death threats.

Another challenge has now emerged according to Lesetedi, the legalisation of marijuana by neighbouring South Africa’s Constitutional Court which will make his drug bust crusade uncontrollable or handful, especially the police cross border operations.  Lesetedi has referred to marijuana as the most used drugs and the police statistics shows the same too. In his televised drug bust, Lesetedi has previously that illegal drugs mostly come into the country from Swaziland, South Africa and other foreign drug dealers.

He once told the state owned Botswana Television that foreign traders are working hand in hand with local consumers. “It’s going to have an impact on us; we will definitely see an increase in the usage. South Africa is our neighbouring country,” Lesetedi said in a brief interview with Weekend Post. However, Lesetedi told this publication that he could not comment further on the matter since he is still studying the judgement and yet to seek legal advice on the matter.

Asked whether it might be time for Botswana to also consider legalisation of marijuana, Lesetedi indicated that only the Parliament has the power to decide whether to legalize marijuana or not. Marijuana legalisation debate has proved to be a hot potato in this country during the years.

Recently, the opposition led a debate which sought to make a law which will legalise the medicinal use of marijuana but the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) with its majority shot down the attempt. Some Batswana including Bakgatla Paramount Chief Kgafela Kgafela have for a considerable time advocated for the legalisation of dagga.  Kgafela like opposition politician said dagga has a medicinal value as it could fight diseases like asthma. Last week Ministry of Health and Wellness Permanent Secretary Ruth Maphorisa told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that they will consider use of dagga for medicinal purposes subject to parliamentary approval.

The ruling

Before the recent landslide South African Constitutional Court ruling, a lower court judgement had legalised the use of dagga. The ConCourt, as it is known, this week upheld the lower court’s judgement of legalisation of cannabis. The South African government had tried to argue that cannabis is not in line with South Africa’s constitutional value and could harm citizens.

The ruling allows adults to consume marijuana privately and to grow it for self-consumption. The constitutional court ruling also focuses on the issue of privacy and the right of a person to do as they please in their own home. However, what remains illegal is the selling of marijuana to others or smoking it outside the confines of your own home. Possession and growing of marijuana in large bulk is also prohibited.

The official line is that adults are allowed to grow, use and cultivate the substance on their own property. Everything else-including the potential for sin taxes and “the where and when” of how users can buy dagga must be outlined by the government. 

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021

President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.

While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.

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