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.
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.
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.