Controversial former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) National Youth Executive Committee Chairperson Contender Jerry Chitube has been cleared of criminal activities in Botswana.
Chitube is a Zambian national who was declared a prohibited immigrant after he raised eye brows as a surprise runner for the BDP Youth Wing congress in Masunga raising some shock waves in the party. At the time Chitube was little known in the party but splashed a lot of cash and commanded massive respect until the February 2015 when security agents pounced on him as he readied himself for the BDP youth league chairmanship ballot vote.
Information turned up suggests that the Zambian master spy, who was also linked to the national secret agency Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), had infiltrated the BDP and had striking ambition that rocket much higher than the position of chairperson of the BDP Youth League. He claimed that the BDP was grooming him to be president. Local media was awash with news that thereafter the contentious Chitube was deported after alleged corrupt deals with some senior ruling BDP members.
Before deportation, a criminal trial was registered on the 17th May 2014 in which two of the witnesses in their statements “implicated Chitube as a key player in committing an offence of obtaining (huge sums of money) by false pretences” and as a person to whom they handed the sums of money to.
In the case that just ended in the highest court in the land last week, the appellants; Moment Chidube, Biki Ishmael Kadimo and Thabiso Mokgadi and several others are facing a criminal trial before the Magistrate’s court on several offences related to and arising from a criminal enterprise in which a company named Lodisa (Pty) Ltd was allegedly defrauded of substantial sums of money and one of its officers robbed.
At the heart of the appeal was the issue of whether the State has violated the appellants right to a fair trial enshrined under section 10(2) (e) of the constitution by excluding Chitube on the matter as he was deported. When arguing the matter, Chitube’s attorney Advocate Mpho Morapedi pointed out that although Chitube was implicated as a key offender he was neither cited as an accused nor listed as one of the prosecution witnesses.
Counsel submitted that as Chitube was a key role player but was neither charged nor listed as a witness the defence intended to call him as their witnesses. He informed the court that it was common cause that Chitube was no longer in the jurisdiction he having been declared a prohibited immigrant and deported from the country. He sought an undertaking from the prosecution for Chitube to be allowed back into the country to give evidence on behalf of the defence should the defence need him.
When making a ground breaking judgement on the marathon case on Friday, Court of Appeal panel of 5 Judges; Justice Ian Kirby, Justice Isaac Lesetedi, Justice Singh Walia, Justice Jacobus Brand and Justice Craig Howie ruled that: “in such cases there is no prejudice which can be shown let alone resulting in an unfair trial.”
The Judges continued: “the appellants have failed on this test, the referral stood to fail and the High Court having so found, it is unnecessary to consider whether the High Court was in error in finding that the requirements for the grant of a permanent stay of prosecution had not been me by the appellants.”
They highlighted that it has not been shown that Chitube having been shown to be a necessary and material witness required by the president for restricted re-entry in this regard and if so that such has been refused, or that such an application if made is bound to fail. “For it will be an abuse of right to put the State to expense in bringing from abroad a prohibited immigrant who may either be unwilling to give evidence e or whose evidence is not material or favorable to the party seeking to call it.”
It will even be inimical to the rule of law and the public interest to permanently stay a criminal prosecution on such serious charges merely because of the absence of a witness whose evidence may not be material to the trial let alone favourable to an accused who merely alleges that he will be prejudiced by the absence of the witness, the Judges insisted.
Essentially three grounds were advanced on the appeal, which cleared Chitube that “High Court fundamentally misdirected itself in law in holding that the appellants failed to demonstrate that their constitutional right to a fair trial will be prejudiced by the unavailability of Jerry Chitube.”
In addition the CoA ruled that the High Court erred in holding that the materiality of Jerry Chitube has not been sufficiently traversed to enable the court to fathom and determine the materiality and favourability of such testimony to the appellants’ case. Advocate Mpho Garebatho and Lore Morapedi stood in for the appellants while the State was represented by Gonayaone Ketlhapetswe. Meanwhile Chitume still remains a prohibited immigrant.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.