In a rare gesture, Botswana government officials have reportedly gagged the Sebina victim’s family in the matter concerning the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Councillor for Sebina ward Kemmonye Amon.
Amon has impregnated a 16 year old girl schooling at Nata Senior Secondary School who hails from Sebina village, the matter which he also confirmed to the Police and the media.
On Saturday morning, Botswana Network on Ethics, law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) in conjunction with Ndadi law Firm discovered that, for unclear reasons, the government has restricted the young girl (victim)’s family, and have instructed them to not talk about the issue with anyone.
“I must say that the concerned family did receive us, they gave us a warm reception. However they were guarded. They were under government restrictions from government officials not to talk to anyone. They were informed that by them continuing to talk to people then they are basically diminishing prospects of a conviction been secured,” a Managing Partner at Ndadi Law Firm boldly told the press briefing this week in Gaborone.
According to Ndadi, it was therefore very difficult, in their fact finding mission, for them to get the child’s family to open up to them. Nonetheless after some rigorous persuasion and after numerous phone calls by the concerned family to other appropriate family members like uncles, he revealed, the green light was given for them to then engage with the family.
It is understood that from that point onwards revelations were made by the family in a much more comfortable and relaxed manner as they managed to open up to the team and told them of their frustrations; their fears and the pressure that they are facing as a family on account of this incident.
It is understood that the person who was much more intimately connected to the issues in the family was the aunt. Ndadi pointed out: “she is the one who led the talks between us and them, and she started off by telling us that on 26 April, they received a call from Nata Senior Secondary School, advising that there is a situation regarding their child, that the child tells them that she is pregnant, and tests have been done to confirm the pregnancy.”
When recounting the torment dubbed “inside the trip to Sebina,” Ndadi highlighted that the child’s family was then requested to come to school the following day which they did, and upon arrival at their school they were told the child had said she had been given a lift by a BX driver on the 13th of February and along the way the driver raped her. The version was later, according to him, found to be unconceivable during police investigations and further interrogation.
When hard pressed the girl is said to have somersaulted and confessed to the police that she had not been raped, but that the pregnancy was the result of a sexual encounter with a councillor widely known in the village. He said when the police informed the parents of that revelation it came as a shock to the parents and they immediately expressed their anger and displeasure about it, and in their disbelief they went home to gather their thoughts and to see how they can overcome or face the situation at hand.
The following day, Ndadi related, a meeting was arranged between the parents and the said Councillor by the police and at that meeting the police enquired from the Councillor whether indeed he is aware of the allegations made by the child and “without much ado the councilor confirmed that indeed he has had sexual relations with the child, and that he is responsible for the pregnancy.”
The one-of-a-kind attorney continued: ‘‘we understand he further went on to talk about how he will take responsibility in so far as giving the child and the family whatever they need. He also told the police that he did not want to see his name in the papers, but we understand he did not disclose what papers; whether the papers in reference to the newspapers or the papers in reference to the police statements. So we can only speculate because we could not get confirmation of what papers in this particular context was referred to,’’ Ndadi lamented.
Councillor Amon attempted to have sex with her before she turned 16
In his account, the attorney said the girl informed them that there was a time in December that the Councilor, before she turned 16, attempted to have sexual intercourse with her. “Fortunately for the councilor and fortunately for the girl, she was going through her monthly period, and nothing could happen that time. I am saying fortunately for both of them because, if it could have happened then a case of defilement would have taken place as it would have happened in December 2015.”
Sexual contact took place six times, Councilor broke the child’s virginity
It is understood that from January 2016 onwards, “sexual relations took place between them, not once, not twice, not thrice, but according to her at least six times, between the month of January and February 2016.” She says she lost her virginity to the Councillor, and the Councillor is aware that she was a virgin.
‘‘When I asked her why did not say no to him, she said “I have always said no to my peers but I did not know how to say no to an elderly person.” (ke ne kesaitse gore mogolo o tewa jang gotwe nnyaa. Go ne go le thata mo go nna ke tswa kgakala ke gana balekane bame.)
“And this is a leader that is known in the community. I was looking at that poor innocent young girl who looked thirteen to me, and asked her did the councilor ever asked how old you are, she said no. It’s a tiny looking girl,” Ndadi said.
Gov’t medical examinations report of the child not availed to the family
The private attorney highlighted that the child was taken for medical examinations by the parents on the 28th of April and it became apparent with his conversations with the parents that the medical examinations report was to date not been availed to the family, despite a passage of more than three weeks.
“They say they have been moved from pillar to post regarding the findings of the report. In fact the school has also wanted to see the report before the child could return to school. The child eventually returned to school on the 2nd May 2016, without the report as requested for by the school.”
Concerned that the medical report was not availed to the parents, BONELA/Ndadi teams took the decision with the parents to arrange for the child to be assessed and evaluated by a private medical personnel in Francistown, at their organisations’ cost. Ndadi recounted: “we did take the child to a leading gynecologist in Francistown and we were interested in ascertaining how far along the pregnancy is, and whether the child is HIV positive or negative.”
According to the human rights lawyer, they have been given permission by the family to disclose the HIV status of the child and they did so. He revealed details that they were able to establish that the child is 4 months and 1 day old (that is by Monday this week). “So it therefore means that this pregnancy took place around 13th February, the day that she says initially that she was raped by a BX driver. So at that point in time the child had already turned sixteen when the pregnancy took place,” he asserted as a matter of fact while implying that in terms of the law the defilement case automatically falls off.
No prospects of defilement case for Councilor Amon
“So the possibility of a defilement charge was then immediately excluded,” the lawyer stressed. The outstanding concern was then the HIV status and she tested negative,’’ he confirmed to a thunderous applause from the audience which also included ‘I shall not forget’ campaign team and some politicians and gender activists. “That was a huge relieve to all of us, and I got a high five from the girl reminding me of my daughter, Lindani so it was a pleasant moment because we were concerned about the possibility of her being HIV infected as well.”
Ndadi continued with the tale: now regarding our conversations with the child, yes she did confirm that indeed she was born on 29th December 1999. “She met the councilor on December 15th in 2015, when she was sent by the parents to buy milk at the councillor’s shop, and after buying milk she was approached by the councillor outside, who asked her for her cell phone number.’’
‘‘Confused and not knowing what to do, she then availed her cell number to the councillor, and that phone number immediately led to numerous calls and texts to the young girl,’’ he emphasized.
BDP Coucillor violated Children’s Act, will face charges
As a way forward, Ndadi asserted that they they are satisfied that there is a prima facie case to be made out against the councilor in respect to violating the Children’s Act in so far as it prohibits children being engaged in sexual activities that are “immoral.” The Children’s Act prohibits that. “We are of the view that engaging in sexual relations with a man who is more than two times older than you, married and without using protection qualifies to be an immoral sexual activity.”
The human rights lawyer told the meeting that they have also examined the Children’s Act and it also clearly spells out that giving children alcohol is wrong. The Councilor allegedly infested the child with alcoholic drinks. He submitted: “So we are of the view that possible charges can be made out and we have informed the police of our findings, and we have urged them to look into prosecuting him using the Children’s Act because as far as we are concerned, no charge has been levelled against any person using some of this remarkable provisions in the Children’s Act.”
‘‘We say these provisions are remarkable because they really tried to protect the best interest of the child, but unfortunately there is no enforcement, he said, taking a sharp shot at the police adding that some don’t even know about the existence of the Children’s Act.
‘‘The charges to the offences I mentioned range from two years to ten years imprisonment and to a fine of 20 000 to 50 000 or both. So it can be a fine or it can be imprisonment, or both of them. So if the police successfully prosecute, then they will be some form of justice,’’ Ndadi submitted.
The family will not be bought, wants justice
‘‘The family is calling for justice, they have assured me that they have not been bought,’’ Ndadi stated on his account of the Sebina trip. The lawyer also disclosed that the young girl had told him that the family was angry and concerned about the issue. Since the anger is directed at the councillor, Ndadi said he does not see any conniving between the family and the councillor.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.
Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.
SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).
In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.
In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.
“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said. “The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”
SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements. In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.
“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.
He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide. He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.
“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.
He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.
A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.
The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages. The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.
Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.