Two renowned Advocates in Botswana, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Advocate President Duma Boko and Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader Advocate Sidney Pilane are geared for a nasty showdown on the interpretation of the constitution of the UDC.
UDC is a coalition consisting of the Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and BMD which is headed by Pilane. This week, the leadership of the UDC, comprising mainly of BNF and BCP executive members announced a decision to suspend from the coalition for 14 days pending final decision. The decision has certainly set in motion a legal battle regarding the rights and powers of the contracting partners and the party National Executive Committee (NEC).
While Pilane has been adamant that the UDC is not registered as a political party but just a conglomerate in accordance with its constitution Boko says otherwise – that it is a political party in its context. Pilane has stressed several times in the media and public that the “UDC is not a political party per se, but only an electoral arrangement.” Boko refuted Pilane this week at a press conference in Gaborone announcing the suspension of BMD that UDC is a political formation.
The UDC leader reminisced on the only judgement that justifies his position that was passed by the former Judge Peter Collins in the matter between BPP and Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM). He said Judge Collins made a finding in that case that BAM is not a political party but a coalition saying the reason is that, on the constitution and the way BAM was configured, to the extent that there was no individual membership, BAM only had provision for group membership.
“It could therefore not be a political party. That’s what he says. However the UDC does not fall in that boat because the UDC in its constitution has provision for individual membership,” Boko said. So, he added that on the criteria led by Judge Collins UDC is a political party and so if anybody wants to engage and debate on this matter anywhere, in the courts; both the formal and the courts of public opinion, its Cadit quaestio. In legal contexts, cadit quaestio is a latin used to indicate that an issue is no longer in question, often because a dispute (question) between two parties has either been settled, or dropped.
ON WHICH UDC CONSTITUTION REMAINS IN EFFECT
According to Boko, the constitution of the UDC was registered on the 23 August 2012 and it is that constitution that still applies until it is lawfully and properly amended and duly replaced. Pilane also believes that the current constitution is the one that was registered in 2012 which he adds that it recognises only the founding members in BNF, BMD and BPP and not the BCP.
ON WHETHER BCP A FULL MEMBER OF UDC
The BMD leader has also indicated that, as of now, BCP has not been formally admitted into the UDC, until a new constitution is submitted to the Register of Societies. Pilane and BPP leadership has presented one to the Registrar nullifying the one submitted by Boko and Saleshando recently. Pilane has stated several times that the BCP is not a member of the umbrella coalition as per the party constitution.
On his part Boko this week clarified that the said constitution of the UDC is that following the conclusions that took place after 2014 General elections the “BCP became a full member of UDC and that situation has not changed, it’s still remains extant.”
ON CONSTITUENCIES: FOR UDC OR INDIVIDUAL PARTIES?
Under the current arrangement of the umbrella, BNF was allocated 22 constituencies, BCP 17, BMD 14 with BPP having only 4. Pilane has emphasised that they have 14 constituencies and that nobody, not the UDC nor anyone else, is going to tell them how to deal with their constituencies, and nobody is going to vet their candidates because they have deliberated and agreed on that matter.
“UDC is not entitled to dictate to the constituent parties how and what they should do in respect of its own matters including constituencies. Let us be clear about this,” Pilane has told Boko previously. However this week Boko asserted that the constituencies belong to the UDC as a collective. Each political party that has been assigned a set of certain particular constituencies, he said has been given the responsibility on behalf of the collective and that the constitution of the collective, the one that they have, says all this parties are allowed ultimately ‘subject to regulation by the collective.’
Boko highlighted: “So it is not something that we plugged from the air but comes from the constitution of the UDC. Each party brings its candidates and they are subject to scrutiny and examination by the collective. BNF, BCP, BPP and BMD have always understood that at some point they will have to submit to an audit by the collective. UDC has a right to pronounce on candidates if they have evidence against them. Its quality assurance to make sure that UDC is represented by the best.”
BOKO FINALLY PRONOUNCES PILANE SUSPENSION
The UDC President has said they have received fierce feedback regarding the BMD leader Sidney Pilane, which is very negative and very uncomplimentary which has tend to affect the UDC leadership as a whole. He said that these things happen and when they respond, they do so because reality compels them to do so and not necessarily that anybody has done any wrong.
“And so when these issues were now reaching a fever peach, boiling on, we convened on the 15th of September to reflect as UDC leadership. And return we did, yesterday in which UDC NEC appreciating the seriousness of the issues and the urgency of dealing with them and also alive to the constitutional imperative that binds us to justice came to a final point where the UDC NEC took a decision to suspend the BMD.”
The BMD was as a result given the opportunity to respond to the issues within 14 days or not later that the 18th of October 2018. At that time the Gaborone Bonnington North lawmaker said they would have made their representations to the NEC and that is when any final decisions will be taken. Meanwhile Pilane has recently told Boko and Saleshando that they have no powers to suspend or expel them or BMD from the UDC.
“The UDC is not competent to decide who may represent the BMD in the UDC NEC, nor is it empowered to suspend or expel the BMD from the UDC,” he said then. The contentious leader explained that the relationship inter se of the parties which are members of the UDC as a coalition is a contractual one, and the agreed UDC constitution does not give any contracting party or parties’ authority to suspend or expel another contracting party.
“Even if the UDC had such power, which it does not, it would be able to do so only after due process, which has not been extended. Such a process is not worth undertaking because it would be stillborn,” the BMD leader observed. Neither the BMD nor I have received any communication from anybody concerning any intended or actual suspension or expulsion, he said adding that “if we should, it would not be worth the paper it is written on.”
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.