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Tshireletso speaks on women in politics, human rights

Outgoing Mahalapye East legislator Botlogile Tshireletso, whose career in politics spanned over 40 years has said her greatest regret is bowing out of the public stage having failed to convince her colleagues to change the electoral system to accommodate for more female representation in parliament.

Tshireletso will retire at the end of her current term next year, worsening Botswana’s standing in women representation in the National Assembly. The latest Global Gender Gap Index 2017 released towards the end of 2017 ranked Botswana 122nd out of 144 countries, owing to its overly male dominated parliament. Botswana currently has only five female MPs in a 63 seat parliament.

Three of the current female legislators will be not returning to parliament in 2019. Joining Tshireletso in retirement is veteran lawmaker, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi while specially elected legislator Dr Unity Dow, will not be contesting as well. “Prior to 2009, I had tabled a motion before parliament requesting for the introduction of First-Past-The-Post which is mixed with Proportional Representation. The system will enable parliament to have elected legislators as well as those who are part of the list, therefore allowing those elected through the list to give women a higher ratio in representation,” Tshireletso told WeekendPost this week.

“In other countries such as Tanzania and Uganda they also have what they call reserved seats for women. We must also consider this to improve women representation because women are many, and even play crucial roles in party activities.”  Tshireletso says, although there is no incentive for women to serve in parliament, women should avail themselves to contest leadership positions. “I cannot take my daughter to come and replace me. Women should bring themselves forth and show passion and willingness to serve,” she said.

 Tshireletso had also tried to trigger constitutional amendment to increase the number of specially elected MPs from four to eight of which four seats would be reserved for women. The motion was opposed famously by then Specially Elected MP Botsalo Ntuane, who argued that increasing the number of special parliamentary seats may not be the best way to increase women's representation in Parliament.

Ntuane suggested that it would be better to change Botswana's electoral system to proportional representation than to add new Specially Elected seats in Parliament. He argued that the voters were not in favour of increasing the number of special MPs because they dilute the power of the elected MPs.

The motion was however adopted by parliament, but nothing more was done to implement the motion. In 2016, parliament increased the number of specially elected MPs to six MPs, electing two more MPs in a controversial fashion. Former legislator, Reggie Reatile and then 29 year old female, Bogolo Kenewendo were the beneficiaries for the created posts.

On abortion, homosexuality, intersex, and prostitution

Tshireletso has been a strong advocate of issues of abortion, homosexuality, intersex, and prostitution. Her views, especially regarding legalisation of abortion and prostitution have attracted criticism from some section of the society, especially religious organisations. Ahead of the 2014 elections, Evangelical Churches of Botswana (ECB) targeted Tshireletso and others politicians who supported abortion, homosexuality and prostitution. ECB encouraged its members not to vote for politicians who supported the aforementioned positions.

“We must legalize abortion so that we can have facilities that have doctors and other professionals to help individuals who need this kind of help. We may as well decrease the number of abortion cases because we will also have counsellors in the facilities who will be able to guide on the importance of having kids,” said Tshireletso.

“I am not saying people should not have babies. I am looking at the dire consequences of abortion cases that happen outside the realm of health professionals. Some end up infecting themselves while trying to abort, and it is government who eventually incurs the expenses for those affected.” As for sex workers, Tshireletso still urges government to put measures in place to help against the abuses, both physical and emotional that they (sex workers) are subjected to by their customers.

“As government we should not turn a blind eye to these things. These are our people, we are parents. We should engage them and see how we can help them,” she said. “Some of them have shared their experiences with me in confidence. They are being harassed even by police officers under the disguise of public nuisance offence.”

Tshireletso also cautioned government against failing to protect transgendered people through legal or policy framework. She said, more often than not, a mistake is made in a child’s early years if he is intersex resulting in one of genitalia being removed without allowing the child to grow first.

“They should be proper health facilities as well as the legal framework that support minority communities like those. We should not rush to make decisions because sometimes it takes up to puberty to recognise the real identity of the person. That is when we can make such decisions also with regard to what the person concerned indentifies themselves with which gender. People should be allowed to be what they think they are, not making decisions for them,” she noted.  

On politics and party factions

The watershed moment for Tshireletso’s political career came in 1977, when the BDP introduced the party youth wing. Tshireletso, then a 24 year old young lady working in one of the village Co-operatives, was lured into a party meeting by then area MP Gaolese Koma who sold the idea of the youth league to the prospective young activist.

By the time delegates departed the youth wing’s inaugural congress, Tshireletso’s fate was sealed. In 1979 Tshireletso contested in the party primary election for a council seat and won. Subsequently she bagged the ward in the general elections. She would occupy that seat for the next 25 years. In 2003, Tshireletso tried her luck in for the parliamentary seat for the newly created Mahalapye East constituency and won.  She won the resultant general elections.

In her career as a politician, Tshireletso remains one of the few who rose through the ranks without being offered favour perks in form of special nomination either to council or parliament. On all occasions, she had to battle it out with men, trouncing them in their trade. It was inevitable that Tshireletso, having been part and parcel of the BDP structures since 1978, got involved in the BDP factions. Though she played a limited active role in the factions, her bid for Women’s Wing Chairpersonship in 2001 saw her drifting towards the Barataphathi. That was a time when Barataphathi, led by Daniel Kwelagobe and Ponatshego Kedikilwe, controlled every structure of the ruling party.

“I was a member of the Big Five because of my association with Merafhe [Mompati], but when we went for the 2001 women’s wing elections; our team had two people, me and Tebelelo Seretse who wanted to contest the chairperson position. My team favoured Seretse ahead of me,” remembers Tshireletso.

“That was when I drifted towards Kwelagobe’s team because they did not have a candidate. Since then people started associating me with the Barataphathi faction, but I was not necessarily its member.” Tshireletso will retire from politics at the end of her term in 2019, after serving three consecutive terms as MP for Mahalapye East.

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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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