Some members of Botswana Muslim Association (BMA) have emerged out of the woods and cautioned the government on the new counter-terrorism amendment bill; warning that it should not be used to target Muslims, as it is the trend around the world.
The ongoing sitting of parliament, known as the winter meeting is focusing on crafting laws that looks into anti-terrorism as well nuclear weapons among others. When presenting the Nuclear Weapons Bill, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security said is should be noted that while Botswana is among the least affected countries by terrorism, global trends of terrorist attacks and extreme violence call for measures to be put in place to criminalise such acts.
“The Bill is also required in order for Botswana to comply with her Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) obligations to criminalise terrorist activities and proliferation financing of weapons of mass destruction,” he said. Much controversy is however in the Counter Terrorism Amendment Bill, which is crafted to provide new definition to the words “armed conflict”, “funds”, “international armed conflicts” and “non-international conflicts”. The Amendment Bill will also criminilise the financing of individual terrorists.
Among other notable changes on the act will be “imprisonment for life or a fine of P500 000k or both” for any person regarded as a terrorist or terrorist group. Further a 16 member committee consisting of all the security wings of the country shall be formulated which will recommend to the Minister who they declare as terrorists.
However these amendments are unsettling the Muslims community in Botswana with some reading malice on the part of government. With Muslim community around the world continue to be associated with terrorism, some in Botswana believe there is possibility that legislators maybe influenced by such prejudicial view as well.
Member of Parliament for Letlhakeng/Lephephe, Liakat Kably, who is also a member of BMA said: “Let this law be used appropriately, we know we are being targeted because all over the world whenever an attack occurs, it is linked to our religion and this view could also have an influence here. But most of Muslims are not [terrorists].”
Kably, devoted member of Islam religion as well as the Chief Whip argued that the government should hire skilled manpower in the proposed Terrorism Fusion Center who will not be biased in investigating reports of terrorism. “We should ensure that whoever is given the responsibility of that portfolio is highly resourced and aware of the game to avoid instances where we will be victimised,” he said.
The Fusion Center will be made up of Botswana Police, Botswana Defense Force and Directorate of Intelligence Security. Its objective will be strategic operation planning, inter investigating authority coordination of operational activities and the assignment of roles and responsibilities. While some Muslims believe Botswana is a peaceful country, they suspect they could be targeted because of ‘economic jealousy’ hence they call for a thorough investigations, when the decision to declare people terrorists.
“Let the Muslims pray in peace. We should be thorough to ascertain who is a terrorist, we could be targeted because of our economic accumulation,” said Kably. Chairman of BMA Satar Dada however holds a different view and does not necessarily believe the new laws are being crafted to target Muslims in Botswana as feared by other Islam colleagues.
Dada, the longest serving ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Treasurer said that even though they could be a view that Muslims are terrorists, most of the attacks in recent years prove otherwise. “In many cases it is not the Muslims who carry out the attacks, nowadays it is across board.” When asked if they could be targeted by the new law, Dada responded: “No, I don’t think so. Muslims here are not radical maybe in the future, but for now we are peaceful.”
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.