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Btv’s reject becomes Africa’s jewel

When the national broadcaster Botswana Television (Btv) opened its doors in 2000 they roped in one of Africa’s top talents, Chris Bishop as head of Current Affairs. A year later his unceremonious departure at Mass Media Complex engineered at the country’s top office exposed Botswana’s dosage of harsh treatment of Journalists.

But what was Bishop’s offence? His decision to air the controversial murder trial that caught the attention of the international media. The trial featured a white woman, Marietta Bosch who was prosecuted for the murder of her love rival. The Office of the President then had attempted to stop the airing of the Bishop produced content. A believer in press freedom, Bishop had no choice but to press ahead with his decision but it cost him his job. Sharing with an audience at the Avani Hotel on Tuesday, Bishop said the decision to terminate his contract left him broken, unemployed, broke and desperate

He recalls the events prior to his ‘firing’ as if it all happened yesterday. Packed at a gas station in the early hours of the morning in Gaborone, Bishop’s curiosity could not escape the large stacks of newspaper bundles that were delivered at the quick shop. He noticed that almost everyone who went into the shop grabbed a copy, the copies all finished in the blink of an eye. The top story that made headlines was the controversial murder trial of South African white woman, Marietta Bosch who was facing the death sentence.

It was at this instance that Bishop developed more interest in the story and the thought of broadcasting on Btv occurred to his mind. For the first time since working in Botswana, Bishop was headed for a whitecap; this was a story that will change the dynamics of Btv news anchoring. Bishop pursued the story, conducted interviews and chased follow up stories on the eve of Marietta Bosch’s execution. But before he could go on and air his story, his manoeuvrings leaked and he was summoned to the President’s office.

A directive was then impressed on him not to go on with the story; however Bishop would still stand his ground and run the story. He was more than determined to broadcast the reel that carried the landmark trial in the country. When his efforts were shot down, he had no option but to unwillingly opt out marking the end of an era. He penned down his resignation with immediate effect before re- uniting with his family in Johannesburg.

Speaking in Gaborone this week Bishop said he will always have a soft spot for Botswana. After leaving Botswana he worked for different media houses in South Africa before he was roped in to become the founding Editor of Forbes Africa Magazine, a post he resigned six months ago after a very successful tenure. He is currently working on his book which he says will touch on the Botswana story, where he will name drop the top officials who orchestrated his exit at Mass Media Complex.

The controversial story of Marietta Bosch

The Story of Mariette Bosch is about the first white woman sentenced to hang in Botswana for murdering her rival in love; Maria Wolmarans in 1996 using a gun that she had travelled to South Africa, her country of origin, to collect and illegally bring into Botswana. Mariette Bosch was 50 years at the time of her sentencing by the Court of Appeal at the end of January 2012. In sentencing Marietta Bosch, Justice Timothy Aguda, the Nigerian lawyer acting as president of the panel, said: "She was a wicked and despicable woman. The murder had been planned over a long period, no doubt as a result of jealousy and infatuation."

This is a story that touches on the controversial aspects of race relations and expectations on race relations and the views of the legal system when it comes to race relations. The story moves on to encompass in other formats the views of the ordinary man of how apartheid remains a huge part of the society yet so the society, especially our neighbouring South Africans remain in denial.

It is a story that to some degree did test the independent mind of the then President of the Republic of Botswana, Festus Gontebanye Mogae, a self-confessed retributionist. He was being petitioned by institutions locally, by Mariette Bosch Lawyers, by Mariette Bosch herself, by foreign governments who were all condemning the death sentence.  But there were many others who supported the death penalty.  

Capital punishment UK was quoted saying whether or not Mariette deserved death for this murder is a matter of personal opinion – but let us not forget Ria Wolmerans, did she deserve to be deceived and abandoned by her husband and to die by shooting because she was a bar to Mariette's and Tienie's relationship? She too had human rights.

After the controversial killing of Marietta Bosch many individuals from other countries started to fear Botswana for its notorious death sentence. But in the case of Botswana they never realised that they are dealing with a case of a white person until foreign media and human rights groups started talking and pilling more pressure. For Botswana it was a murder case involving a woman who murdered another out of jealousy and justice took its course.

Who is Chris Bishop?

Chris Bishop is an award – winning journalist who has been reporting from across Africa for 23 years of his thirty six years in the profession. He has interviewed numerous heads of state in Africa, among them Jacob Zuma, Robert Mugabe, Kenneth Kaunda, Joaquim Chissano, Bakili Muluzi and Yoweri Museveni.

Bishop has worked for the BBC in London, CNBC Africa and became the founding editor of Forbes Africa in 2011. He won the Sanlam Award for excellence in financial journalism (broadcast) in 2011 and the Editor of the year at the Pica Awards in 2013. His first award came in 1987 for his story on the uncovering of a plot to assassinate the Queen on a royal visit to New Zealand. He is a dreamer and optimist when it comes to business in Africa.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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