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Friday, 19 April 2024

BCP’s EVM court case affecting 2019 preparations – IEC

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Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s impeding court case against Attorney General (AG) over the use of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is affecting preparations for the 2019 General Elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has revealed.

The Deputy Secretary for the IEC, Doreen Serumola told councillors in Selebi Phikwe on Wednesday that BCP VS AGC and another similar court case lodged by the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) and Johnson Motshwarakgole are together affecting the commission’s preparations for next year’s General Elections.

Serumola noted that the union and Motshwarakgole’s case has the possibility of delaying the disposal of the matter further. The BCP vs. AGC court case in which BCP approached the courts contesting the constitutionality of the Electoral Amendment Act of 2016 with an amendment to provide for the use of EVM in the next General Elections is still before Francistown High Court. Serumola made this revelation when presenting on IEC’s state of preparedness for the 2019 General Election at a full council meeting in Selebi Phikwe.

The Commission’s Deputy Secretary explained that following the 2014 General Elections, the commission conducted a National Stakeholder Evaluation Exercise which resulted in recommendations aimed at enhancing the electoral process, hence the proposed use of EVM.
“These recommendations were submitted to the executive for consideration and the process led to the Electoral (Amendment) Act of 2016. The Electoral Act of 2016 however has no commencement date as yet but the IEC continues to sensitise stakeholders and the general electorate on the amendments,” said Serumola.

Serumola said following the sensitisation on the electoral reforms and out of the initiative of the Commission, a proposal was made to the executive which gave rise to the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2017. The Bill, Serumola explained, took into consideration suggestions to include a paper trail for verification. This Bill has therefore included the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) as a component of the EVM and the Bill awaits to be tabled before parliament during the winter session.

BCP’s Spokesperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse who was present during the presentation says that as the BCP, their intention is to ensure that EVM will not be used in the General Elections. The Selebi Phikwe West legislator noted that the Electoral Amendment Bill of 2017 has been gazetted and as the BCP they intend to propose further amendments.

VOTER REGISTRATION FOR 2019


Serumola said that because Botswana uses a periodic voters’ roll which means voters are registered afresh for every General Elections, the Commission has set the 3rd September to 11th November 2018 as the period for general voter registration. She explained that despite the impeding court cases, registration has to go on. She further explained that the registration period has been lengthened to provide enough window for registration in case the amended Electoral Act of 2016 comes into effect. The 2016 Electoral Amendment Act has abolished the provision for supplementary registration period.

She also stated that the Commission is going to engage out-of-school youth in their respective localities as Registration Clerks and Supervisors. The recruitment process has commenced and is facilitated by the 25 IEC offices across the country. Serumola also said that appointment of registration officers for diaspora registration for Batswana living in foreign countries to register to vote has also commenced.

VIOLATION OF ELECTORAL ACT BY JOURNALISTS

Serumola also shared the Commission’s concerns over violations of Section 149 of the Electoral Act which talks of the need to maintain secrecy of what is happening in polling stations or counting centres. The IEC official said live broadcast or communicating of counting updates on various media platforms is illegal as per Section 149 of the Act. “Journalists and the general public at counting centres communicate counting updates on various platforms and this is illegal,” she said. The offence if convicted, one is liable to a fine not exceeding P1000 or six month jail term or both.

The same Section is also violated by Polling Agents who give out names of voters who have voted in order to determine those who have not voted. Serumola also said that voters similarly violate this particular Section by taking photographs of their marked ballot papers and publish them on Social Media.

She also revealed that they have observed in by-elections that candidates and their agents kept the voters’ registration cards and National Identity cards until election day as way of ensuring that they turn up to vote. She warned that this is also illegal as it contravenes Section 141 of Electoral Act. The offence, she said it carries a fine not exceeding P1000 or six months jail term or both. The Commission says they have also observed in recent by-elections that voter turnout has been low compared to that of 2014 General Elections.

The Commission’s Deputy Secretary emphasised the need for robust efforts from both the IEC and political parties to promote participation. She gave an example of five by-elections all which recorded a low turnout as compared to 2014. Sekoma by-election recorded voter turnout of 83.1% compared to 90.6% in 2014, Goodhope-Mabule recorded 69.4 % as opposed to 85.9% voter turnout in 2014. Rasesa by-election had a turnout of 63.3% compared to 86.4% in 2014, Mochudi East recorded low turnout of 39% as compared 86.1% recorded in 2014. Ralekgetho and Moselewapula by-elections had a voter turnout of 68% and 43.2% as compared to 86.6% and 76.4% respectively at the 2014 General Elections.

There has been 13 by-elections conducted since 2014. Two of these by-elections were for parliamentary seat while 11 were for Local Government. Two more by-elections are pending, being Moshupa-Manyana to fill a vacancy left by the promotion of former area Member of Parliament and Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi who ascended to the presidency while the other one is for Local Government in Ramokgwebana which awaits the issuance of the election writ. Moshupa-Manyana by-election is scheduled for June 16, 2018.

Serumola also spoke of the need for more sensitisation about safekeeping and relevance of the voter registration card which she explained it remains valid for the whole electoral cycle or for five years and therefore must be kept safe until the next registration for a new electoral cycle.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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