Incoming President, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi has promised to wipe the floor with opposition parties in the 2019 general election. Parading a host of celebrities and political activists from opposition parties, the outgoing Vice President salivated at the prospect of his Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) winning back a good number of opposition held constituencies.
Masisi, who was unapologetic in his piercing jabs at the opposition, especially the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) presented the BDP as the most credible political formation in the country while also indicating that the opposition collective is in disarray and that “most of them in Parliament have confessed that they are scared of what will transpire in 2019.” He stated that there is no opposition party that is not talking to them (BDP), they are telling us about their discomforts at their political homes.
The BDP chairman had invited the press to come and bid them farewell as the chairman of the party. Masisi has been BDP chairman since July 2015. He used the opportunity to share the party’s accomplishments under his chairmanship which include his recruitment drive which has seen the party welcome a host of former opposition activists especially from the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and to some extent from the UDC.
Masisi explained that their targeted recruitment has reaffirmed that they are the only growing party in the country. To demonstrate his claim, the incoming President zoomed into the results of the Ralekgetho ward bye-election which saw the BDP trounce the UDC and AP. BDP had a winning margin of 106 compared to a winning margin of 21 in the 2014 general election. The BDP attracted 339 votes while the UDC got 233 and the AP came distant with 45 votes. According to Masisi this is the true picture going into 2019, analysts and observers should expect a growing BDP appeal across the country, he confidently declared.
In 2014, BDP had won the ward with 291 votes against the combined votes of UDC and BCP of 488. In the recent bye election, BDP increased its vote to 339, against the 278 of the combined opposition. Masisi said the party’s targeted recruitment drive ensured that BDP retained the constituency. The BDP recruited the former ward councillor from the BNF and gave him the responsibility as the campaign manager.
The former Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration mocked the campaign strategies used by opposition parties in Ralekgetho during the bye-elections campaigns. He said the manner in which they tried to relay their messages were alien to the people of Ralekgetho, hence why they lost the ward.
With opposition embattled in splits and internal fights, Masisi has vowed to recruit several MPs from its ranks. He hinted that already, he has been in talks with numerous MPs across all political parties discussing the possibility of them joining the BDP. “Many across all parties have been talking to us about joining the BDP. Many are going to join, wait and see,” he said.
The Mochudi East bye-election is the next battle ground and Masisi has vowed to come out with guns blazing. He said they are not put off by the narrative that the coming together of the BCP and the Botswana National Front (BNF) automatically means that the numbers that voted for the two parties in 2014 add up. He said Ralekgetho has demonstrated that the dynamics have changed in the political landscape. He said they are presenting a credible candidate in Rev Mpho Mmachakga Moruakgomo.
“I am going to continue to work with the central committee to ensure that the party attracts more members through this targeted recruitment.” Masisi said as a trendy party, the BDP intends to woo more young people into its fold. He said they will be stepping up their campaign ahead of the 2019 general election hence make the opposition uncomfortable. “If they can’t take it they might as well fizzle away. This is my bowing out as party chairman but note that we are coming for the opposition in a big way. We are targeting their members,” said Masisi.
The incoming President shared that as the BDP they are more than willing to acknowledge blemishes in their rule while also attempting to correct them. According to Masisi the BDP is lowering the average age of its candidates at council and parliamentary level. He expressed confidence in the caliber that has so far indicated intention to contest elections under the BDP. He said he is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing cabinet ministers. “The quality we have, you can’t find it at the UDC,” he said. Masisi said he has brilliant candidates contesting elections, “it is not just about degrees, some of our candidates who do not have those degrees are just brilliant,” he said.
Masisi will be inaugurated as the country fifth President on April 1st. He is expected to name his Vice President and new Cabinet on Wednesday next week. As he steps down as party chairman, the BDP central committee will meet on April 9th to elect a new party chairman of the party.
In his preamble Masisi promised that his administration will continue to cherish a free press. He said the press as an institution is one of the defining ethos of the ruling BDP. The incoming President said it is inconceivable that the BDP could curtail media freedom, “but you must be man enough to take criticism as much as write about us. We will continue to give you feedback on your work,” he said.
Masisi will succeed President Lt Gen Ian Khama as the country’s fifth president. The Moshupa/Manyana legislator, who takes over the reins at the party which suffered the worst electoral performance since independence at the last elections, is adamant that ever since becoming party chairman, the fortunes of the party are beginning to change.
“With the benefit of evidence as coming from the 2014 general elections results and the perception therein, the machinery and the tempo has completely turned in favour of the BDP. The BDP will become even more erect as times goes on,” said Masisi. For the first time since independence, BDP’s popular vote fell beyond 50 percent during the 2014 general elections, something which Masisi is determined to change.
Masisi said the BDP remains the only party which is confident of its process, as evidenced by the manner in which they have been conducting central committee elections. The BDP elections have been conducted by Democracy Research Project from the University of Botswana. The incoming President who rose to the position of Vice President after the 2014 general elections was elected party chairman, a position traditionally associated with the vice presidency in 2015 and defended the position against Nonofo Molefhi in 2017.
Masisi revealed that he is not worried or anxious about the appointment of his cabinet as well as his deputy. Masisi will appoint his cabinet on Wednesday next week, three days after being sworn in as president. WeekendPost has gathered that three names are currently dominating conversations within the ruling party’s central committee as favourites for the chairmanship namely Slumber Tsogwane, Tshekedi Khama, and Samson Guma Moyo. The BDP chairmanship is a ceremonial position but has so much weight attached to it. Vice President Masisi fought hard and smart to retain the position against Molefhi at the BDP Tonota elective congress last year July.
Over the course of time party loyalists have started to attach power to the position because it has been associated with the vice presidency since the days of Peter Mmusi – they believe this has added weight to the position of chairman of their party.â€¨â€¨In the current scenario, members of the BDP central committee will have the final say on who will take over as chairman when Vice President Masisi becomes president in April. It is expected that it should be a consensus or a majority split to decide on the next chairman.â€¨â€¨
Tsogwane is said to be commanding a strong lead as the lobbying intensifies. He was strongly behind Masisi in the run up to the Tonota congress. Some in the party point to his loyalty to the party and his position in Parliament as the longest serving Member of Parliament as complementary strengths that validate his pole position to succeed Masisi as chairman. Masisi will also automatically cease being Member of Parliament for his constituency when he becomes president on Sunday, necessitating an election run-off.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and the Directorate of Intelligence (DIS) came under the lens of the United Nations Human Rights Committee during the just ended dialogue between committee members and the Botswana delegation.
Scores of issues, among them the country’s reports on topics including whether Masisi abused the State of Emergency Act during the COVID-19 pandemic and alleged surveillance and harassment of members of the public by DIS, were addressed at the session.
A Committee expert asked about legislation in the Penal Code allowing the Government to investigate people who expressed opinions against public figures, particularly the President. How many cases were there of journalists who had been investigated, prosecuted and tried? Concerning the COVID-19 Emergency Powers Act, there was a provision for a fine or a five-year jail term for journalists using “source(s) other than the Director of Health Services or the World Health Organization” when reporting on COVID-19. The Committee Expert asked for the number of cases and other measures taken under this Act.
Another committee expert wanted to know that the scale and scope of electronic surveillance, which had sharply increased in recent years, was concerning. Furthermore, the Committee was troubled at the lack of a sufficient independent oversight mechanism over the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services that reportedly had contributed to a growing climate of fear and chilling effect on journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians. In this respect, a Committee Expert asked about the measures taken by Botswana during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the right to privacy was protected (collection and management of personal data).
The Expert also enquired about a database website, which was not functioning but was supposed to contain documents of Botswana’s international human rights commitments. In terms of the freedom of assembly, while the Constitution of the State party guaranteed it, the Committee had received information that, in practice, the Public Order Act required citizens to apply to the nearest police for a permit to hold an assembly, and police had sometimes denied requests for unclear reasons.
The Committee Expert asked if the Public Order Act of the State party had been applied in conformity with those tests. Would the State party indicate the measures it had taken and/or intended to take to make the application of the law in question strictly compatible with the requirements under article 21? Furthermore, the Committee had also received allegations that police officers sometimes used force to compel gathering people to disperse. In this regard, the Expert asked for information on legal provisions and practical guidelines under which police officers may resort to force and any training programme if any, for police and other law enforcement officers to respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly.
A Committee Expert asked about cases of holding people for longer periods under pre-trial detention than the maximum period provided for in legislation, 36 months, instead of six. Were there any plans to shorten the duration of pre-trial detention in legislation? The Committee noted that there was no provision for local community broadcasting. What measures were the State party taking to ensure that the local communities could also communicate in their language in the media?
What measures had been undertaken by Botswana to increase sustainable development in the country regarding climate change in particular. What efforts had been undertaken to ensure that customary courts worked up to speed? A Committee Expert asked about children in rural areas who travelled a long way to their schools. The delegation was asked about the independence of the Ombudsman Office, including provisions for appointing the Ombudsman. What budget was envisaged for this Office?
The Expert acknowledged the established procedures and institutions for anti-human trafficking but expressed concerns about the lack of reported cases. The Expert asked about the accountability of the public prosecution, as well as the intelligence services. Replying, the Botswana delegation, led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng, said there was an ongoing consultation for revising provisions that would ensure better protection for journalists and media freedom in Botswana.
Still, the delegation said, freedom of expression was assured in the State party without any restrictions, including in Parliament. There was an education programme providing the opportunity for children in primary school to be taught in their mother tongue. It also explained that the Ombudsman would be dealing with issues of human rights promotion and protection.
“National policies and procedures were envisaged to control the distribution of natural resources. Botswana was also taking measures to increase the access of minority groups to education. Regarding pre-trial detention, the delegation explained that the criminal procedure assured justice was preserved in the country,” said the delegation.
On the issue of torturer and alleged use of unreasonable force on suspects, the Botswana delegation explained that police officers were trained to use minimal force, ensuring that human rights were preserved, including in the cases of assemblies. On the use of surveillance, no legal provisions were breached, and such measures were used in accordance with national legislation. Legal aid was very costly, and it was not possible to keep the record in detail as asked by the Committee.
Morwaeng told the Committee that the Government maintained a robust consultative approach to policy development and legislative process. He said this was a system of governance that ensured that the voices of ordinary citizens were respected and taken into account in the social, economic and political process that affected them the most, giving full effect to the full enjoyment of human rights across the board. The delegation took due note of the views of the Committee, including the importance of harnessing information technology to give a broader appreciation of the provisions of the Covenant.
The P1 billion water project launched by President Dr vMokgweetsi Masisi this week is said to be critical to the success of key projects planned in Lobatse – the Lobatse Milk Afric and Leather Park. After commissioning the multi-million Pula Masama-Mmamashia water project last week following its completion, on Thursday, Masisi performed ground-breaking ceremony of yet another major water project, the Lobatse Water Supply Master Plan (LWSMP1).
The water project was conceptualized in 2009 to address water shortage in areas along the Greater Gaborone zone. These areas include Ramotswa, Otse, Mogobane, Mankgodi, Manyana, Goodhope, Lekgolobotlo, Mmathethe, Molapowabojang and villages surrounding. It was said that some major upcoming projects in Lobatse such as Lobatse Leather Park, Milk Afric and the Pioneer Border Gate are dependent on the success of this project, in order for them to take off and operate effectively. The two projects have been struggling to take-off despite government having put the necessary resources.
The Lobatse Leather Park is anticipated to create about 4700 jobs at the initial stage and 7000 jobs at full capacity. The project entails the development of a complex for different tanneries with the support of state-owned beef company, Botswana Meat Commission. It will comprise primary infrastructure such as a common effluent treatment plant, sewage treatment plant, and others.
When operational, the park is expected to supply the private sector with hides and skins, raw to finished leather tanneries, and the manufacturing of different leather products. These products include shoes, belts, jackets, and others, thereby playing an instrumental role in stimulating economic activity. Leather Beneficiation Park is seen as important for the leather industry as it would ensure that Botswana moves from exporting raw leather to finished leather goods. It is said research has established that there are plenty of hides and skins in the country from the three million cattle and 1.8 million goats.
Meanwhile, Milk Afric dairy farm project which was expected to be complete by the second half of 2018, is in the wilderness after the initial partnership between Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and Milk Afric failed to bear fruits. BDC has been searching for a new partner for the project. Once fully operational, the farm will produce a total of 21.9 million litres or one third of the national milk demand, which is 65 million litres a year. At present, Botswana imports over 58.8 million litres from South Africa at a cost of P345 million annually.
The P120 million project is a Public Private Partnership deal between Lobatse Town Council (LTC), with 10 percent shareholding through leasing its 1375.4 ha farm for 25 years; and 26 percent (P40 million) by Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). When speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony held in Ramotswa, Masisi said, in addition to improving the water supply for domestic needs and livelihoods, this infrastructural development will facilitate major projects in the Lobatse region, which are critical to the ailing, old town.
“Our objective as a country is to align developments with the National Vision 2036 Pillar 3 on Sustainable Development, which recognizes water as a very scarce resource which requires strategic management by key players.” Botswana is a developing country with an increasing population, Masisi said, adding that an increase in population naturally causes exponential growth in the demand for water. This is a reality that Botswana is faced with and challenged to address for sustainable water supply, the President said.
He indicated that this is why they are continuously witnessing major water projects undertaken by government, in collaboration with key partners. “Gaborone and surrounding areas have been experiencing an acute water supply deficit due to infrastructure that has outlived its potential to meet the growing demand for water by citizens. This particular project entails the construction of a Pump Station at Forest Hill in Gaborone, a 57 kilometre pipeline from Gaborone to Lobatse and a new Northern reservoir.”
The project, awarded China State Construction and Engineering Corporation/Van and Truck Hire Joint Venture at over P1 billion, is currently at 49% of its completion stage. There are 637 jobs created by this water project. “The transmission pipeline will convey 63 million litres of water a day from Gaborone to Lobatse. This is a great improvement compared to an average supply of 14 million litres of water that has been supplied to Lobatse, Borolong and surrounding areas,” Masisi said.
The United Nations Committee on Human Rights has taken Botswana to task over what it considers to be discrimination laws against lesbians and gays and delay in prosecuting suspects in the infamous Sebina defilement case. The Botswana delegation led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng found itself against the wall before the United Nations Human Rights Committee of experts in Geneva, Switzerland.
First to take Botswana head-on was the UN Committee member, C SOH, who noted that the recent ruling of the High Court pays particular attention to the penal code penalising same-sex sexual conduct as it found that it infringed on the constitutional rights, dignity, liberty and privacy of the LGBTI persons (lesbians and gays). “Nonetheless, I note with deep concern that those discriminatory provisions of the of the penal code remain in effect and regrettably the government stated in its periodic review before deciding whether or not to repeal section 164 it would still await the final determination of the court of appeal in the case of Motshidiemang vs State,” said Soh.
According to Soh, “This statement makes us cast doubt on the will of the government to vigorously” strike out section 164, which criminalises sex between people of the same sex. “In this respect, I would like to ask the delegation to explain what the intended goal by the government was when it filed an appeal against the unconstitutionality ruling of the High Court,” he said. Soh said the Botswana Government had also explained that no persons had been convicted under this provision, section 164, ever since the penal code was enacted.
“However, media reports indicate that in August 2016, the government of a Gaborone Magistrate Court sentenced a man three years in prison who had been charged and convicted under section 164 for engaging in unnatural acts. Can the delegation explain these discrepancies relating to persons who have been convicted and sentenced under section 164 of the penal code,” he said. He also wanted the Botswana delegation to explain how the government addresses how customary courts have been discriminating against LGBTI persons.
Another member of the UN Committee, Duncan Muhumuza, expressed concern that the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has taken more than four years to prosecute suspects in the Sebina saga in which a councillor was alleged to have slept with a student who was also a minor. Replying to concerns raised by the UN experts, Mogakolodi Segwagwa, chief state counsel at the Attorney General Chambers, noted that one of the UN committee members has “become fearful that the fact that government appealed the case could be a sign that there is lack of will or doubt on the part of the government as to abolishing or outlawing of same-sex relations.”
“But I would like to assure the panel that Botswana has over the years proved itself at all times to be compliant with court orders. There are many examples I could put forward where the government had to make sure that court orders were executed. That is the assurance I can give out to the committee,” said Segwagwa. He said there was a good reason for appealing the decision of the High Court in which it outlawed section 164.
“This was a High Court decision, and as you know in our jurisdiction when a judge is at the same court with his brothers and his sisters and fellow judges, whatever decision he puts out so far as that particular court is concerned, it is not law because it is not binding on his fellow brothers and sisters and it is not binding on fellow judges,” explained Segwagwa. He added that “It is merely persuasive so much so that some other judges may choose to when a similar case comes before him or her, depart and ignore the position that that particular judge espoused, and he or she can do so with ease.”
Segwagwa further explained that “There was a very pressing need for this matter to be appealed to the Court of Appeal for purposes of crystalising the law and for purposes of ensuring that if there is any aspect of the law that the High Court had overlooked in arriving at this particular decision, then such an aspect can be taken into consideration by the Court of Appeal.” “So we are waiting for that judgement, and once it comes, it will be implemented. I take it that the committee would like the Court of Appeal to uphold the decision below and strike out this particular section.”
He assured the UN experts that when the High Court struck out section 164 in 2019, the country did not erupt into violence, adding that this was an “indication that we don’t have anything against people of LGBT. They are our brothers and sisters, and we co-exist with them.” Regarding the Sebina saga, Segwagwa said the painful case “where this councillor was said to have had sexual intercourse with a child is the police dealt with a matter as it is the law and we all know that the police are bound by their Act to do so without fear and prejudice.”
He said Upon completion of their investigation, “the matter was handed over to the prosecuting authority, as Mr Muhumuza had indicated, it has been four years and we concede that four years is a long time and that it is unreasonably a long time and that it defeats the whole adage that justice should be sweetest and freshest so much so that the case needed to be speeded along.”
He added that “But the problem we have which is not a problem in the sense of it being a problem, but the impediment we have in the sense that the Constitution created the Office of the Director of Prosecutions under section 51 subsection A and if you go to that particular section and you read subsection six, the director shall not be subjected to the control of another authority.”
Segwagwa said, “this is the section that was inserted in this constitution to safeguard the independence of the Director of DPP to ensure that he or she prosecutes matters without fear, favour and prejudice and it presents impediment where we can’t try and say to the DPP, go and register or indicate your position now, tomorrow or next year and that is why it has taken all this time, but we believe attempts are being made that it finds its way to the court.”