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BONELA, Ndadi to press charges against Amon

BDP Councillor, Kemmonye Amon

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.

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Government ignores nurses’ COVID-19 anxieties

4th August 2021
Nurses

Health workers are at the front line fighting the deadly, contagious COVID-19. These workers have an immense challenge of welfare and government has since turned a blind eye to dares and crushing odds throttling health officers, particularly nurses.

Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has once more called on government to invest in the country’s nurses and give the nursing profession dignity.

In May 2020, BONU President, Obonolo Rahube said government should, in line with the advocacy of World Health Organisation (WHO) invest more on nurses and midwives, and further advised government to address challenges that nurses are faced with. The proposal was made on International Nurses Day.

At the time, Rahube urged government to provide subsidised accommodation for nurses and midwives as it has emerged that during the fight against the Corona-virus, accommodation for nurses and midwives is very important. Rahube called on government to provide nurses and midwives with 100% medical cover.

He also called on government to introduce risk allowance for nurses and midwives, noting that as frontline workers during the pandemic, they are at high risk. Nurses also demanded Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), a matter which they lost with costs in court. Also critical during the COVID-19 era for health workers, psychological support is what BONU maintains is still lacking.

In the same year (2020), the Union raised a number of other challenges they are being faced with. These challenges, they asserted, make it testing for them to undertake their duties, especially now that COVID-19 has shaken Botswana’s already weak health system.

BONU expressed disappointment at nurses’ pay, nurses who tested positive for COVID-19 at an alarming rate, violence against nurses, nurses’ contracts which were never renewed and a poorly coordinated vaccination plan for health workers.

Clearly, nurses are not only battling the COVID-19 virus, but also government who has since refused to come to the party.

This week once again, BONU tested waters and slammed government with more demands, some of which have turned into an everyday song while COVID-19 continues to kill more nurses.

At a press conference on Tuesday, BONU President Rahube said over 800 nurses have been infected with COVID-19. Of this number, 34 nurses lost their lives due to COVID-19 related infections.

WHO and other health experts say for countries to emerge victorious from the COVID-19 pandemic, they must fast-track the roll out of vaccine. In Botswana, there is no clear explanations of how the vaccination plan is going.

The situation around vaccination is chaotic, and this is evidenced by only 28% of nurses who have been vaccinated. President Mokgweetsi Masisi is also disturbed by the COVAX programme as Botswana vaccines arrive in the country missing, every time.

Debates in Parliament on which vaccine to adopt are failing to conclude, in fact, they never gained energy. Rahube told members of the media that nurses are overworked.

“Shortage of nurses puts those available at risk. Some nurses are on isolation, quarantine and some passed on. Nurses do both testing and contact tracing so they end up working stretched hours, at times from 6am to 10pm. There is no how nurses will be able to deliver while exhausted,” he said.

He further indicated that infection control practitioners are not recognised and deployed appropriately, and some regions have shortage of commodities and supplies such as water resistant gowns (nurses are forced to re-use those availed), masks, gloves, scrubs and uniforms.

Oxygen supply is said to be in shortage, something that mounts COVID-19 deaths.

“Patients lose their lives whilst still awaiting to be put on oxygen. Psychological services are in serious need as nurses continue to lose their significant others, faced with resource constraints and many of them are not vaccinated,” said Rahube.

Accommodation still remains a huge challenge for nurses. BONU President said nurses overcrowd with families and colleagues.

In Kauxwi, four nurses share a single house, in Moshaweng two nurses share a single bedroomed house together with their families, with no electricity yet the village is powered. In Kazungula, there are only two staff houses for 11 nurses and their families.

The union stressed that the Chief Nursing Officer is not coming to the party, and the expectation is that the office should be coordinating all nursing issues at the Health Ministry. Rahube indicated that transfers have been frozen, promotions stalled and they continue to lose nursing posts to other Ministries.

In a number of recommendations, BONU urged government to consider compensation and risk allowance for staff affected by COVID-19 related deaths and those infected. “COVID-19 has been declared an occupational health illness, in essence, the employer should facilitate its occupational health division, and there are lots of occupational health nurses who are wrongly deployed, who could be running such programs at the facilities.”

In regard to vaccinations, BONU underlined that there should be clear information relating to vaccines and they should be made accessible. “Local franchise manufacturing of vaccine could use Botswana Vaccines Institute (BVI) and government should be clear and transparent concerning procurement of vaccines. It should also allow stakeholders with capacities of procuring vaccines to do so.”

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Gov’t reforms public procurement

4th August 2021
-Masisi-Serame

Government is moving swiftly to completely overhaul public procurement — a new Bill has been tabled before Parliament this week by Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Peggy Serame and is scheduled for debate in the coming days of the current parliament sitting. 

Through this Bill the country’s purse bearer seeks to dismantle existing public procurement pieces of legislation, transform, merge and form a new public procurement arrangement. The existing public procurement high command base — the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPDB) would cease to exist.

This organisation will transition and assume the reigns of a regulator and oversight authority; the actual procurement; floating of tenders, accepting bids, adjudicating and awarding tenders will be fully taken over by Government departments accounting officers.

Accounting officers are Permanent Secretaries and statutory organisation heads and directors or any person who is responsible for the administration and day-to-day management of the affairs of a procuring entity, and any other person, who may be designated as such by the Minister under the act.

Speaking to this Bill this week, Serame revealed that the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal arrangement will be merged with the local authority’s procurement Act.

“We will now have procurement under one roof, all overseen by accounting officers, it’s all government money coming from one port,” she said.

Minister Serame explained that PPADB will no longer be player and referee at the same time, with a view to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the regulation and management of public procurement processes.

According to Minister Serame, the new public procurement Act will promote competition among suppliers and contractors, and also provide for the fair, equal and equitable treatment of all suppliers and contractors.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT REGULATORY AUTHORITY 

Should parliament pass this bill the current Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB) will transition into a new body called Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

The new Authority will be  mandated with setting standards and practices for the public procurement system, regulate and control the public procurement system, ensure the application of fair, equitable, competitive, transparent, accountable, efficient, non-discriminatory, honest, value for money and public confidence in procurement standards and practices.

Furthermore the Authority will monitor and enforce compliance with the new Act and any relevant law by a procuring entity.

For standardization and  ensuring of world class procurement best practices the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will  monitor, assess, review and report on the performance of the public procurement system to the Minister and advise on desirable changes, and further issue standardized bidding documents to all procuring entities

This oversight and procurement regulator will conduct periodic inspections of the records and proceedings of a procuring entity to ensure compliance with the Act.

The regulator will institute periodically, in respect of any procurement —a procurement audit during a tender process, a contract audit in the course of execution of an awarded tender, a performance audit after the completion of a contract, and an investigation at any stage of a procurement process.

The Authority will continue to keep and maintain an up-to-date register of contractors, known as the “Contractors’ Register”, in works, services and supplies, or any combination thereof, however classified.

The new Public Procurement Regulatory Authority will be governed by a board of nine (9) non-executive directors appointed by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development.

The Public Procurement Board will be charged with directing the affairs of the Authority. Day to day executive activities of the Public Procurement Authority will be run by a Chief Executive Officer who will be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the board.

PROCURING ENTITIES AND ACCOUNTING OFFICERS 

The actual procurement will now be handled by the Accounting Officers who will lead their procuring entities. The entities will consist of the procurement oversight unit, a procurement unit, an ad hoc Evaluation Committee, the user Department; or any other appropriate structure put in place by the Government.

The Accounting Officer will be in charge of establishment of appropriate procurement structures to undertake the procurement functions under the new act, which shall be staffed at an appropriate level in line with the model structure issued by the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority.

The Accounting Officer will also be charged with establishment, as may be prescribed, of a committee within a procuring entity which will oversee procurement activities, establishment, as may be prescribed, of an oversight committee to monitor procurement activities in a procuring entity.

The primary role of the Accounting Officers will be adjudication and award of tenders, including the adjudication of a bid recommendation submitted to him/her through a procurement oversight unit.

The Accounting officer will have powers to cancel a tender process and reject a tender offer at any time prior to entering into a contract, in the manner as may be prescribed, and the Accounting Officer shall not compensate the bidder of a tender that has been cancelled.

Under this proposed Act new set of regulations and guidelines will direct procurement complaints and appeals.

COMPLAINTS & TENDER DISPUTES

A procuring entity  will, after the publication of an award decision — allow a cooling-off period of 10 days in order for the procuring entity to receive and address complaints, if any, from any contractor who is aggrieved by the award decision; and not enter into a contract relating to the award before the expiration of a cooling period.

A contractor who is aggrieved by a breach of any provision of this Act or claims to have suffered or is likely to suffer loss or damages due to a breach of a duty imposed on a procuring entity shall, at the first instance, lodge a complaint before an Accounting Officer for review.

A contractor who lodges a complaint shall have the right to participate in the review proceedings before an Accounting Officer. A contractor who fails to participate in the review proceedings shall be barred from subsequently lodging the same complaint.

Under this proposed Act an Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint after a contract has entered into force. After considering a complaint and determining that the complaint is a frivolous or vexatious complaint, Accounting Officer shall dismiss such complaint.

Notwithstanding subsection (1), an Accounting Officer may refer a complaint considered and determined to be frivolous or vexatious to the Tribunal for the Tribunal to take any appropriate action as may be prescribed.

An aggrieved person shall submit his or her complaint in writing to an Accounting Officer within 10 days from the date of the publication of an award decision by the Accounting Officer, relating to the complaint.

The Accounting Officer will not entertain a complaint unless it is submitted to him/her within the period referred to under subsection.

A contractor who is aggrieved by a decision of an Accounting Officer may appeal to the Tribunal within 14 days from the date of the decision of the Accounting Officer.

Where a contract has been concluded by a procuring entity, based on an award decision of an Accounting Officer, the contract shall be irrevocable and its execution shall proceed without interruption whether the award decision by the Accounting Officer may in itself remain disputable by a contractor through the Tribunal.

Notwithstanding subsection (5), the Tribunal may suspend and subsequently revoke or terminate the execution of a contract if in the opinion of the Tribunal, sufficient evidence has been adduced to demonstrate that the execution of the contract may cause substantial loss to the public revenue or prejudicially affect public interest.

A complainant who wishes to lodge a complaint shall exhaust the dispute resolution processes provided in this Act before the complainant refers the complaint to a court.

PUBLIC PROCUREMENT TRIBUNAL 

The Tribunal will be a body established independently from Public Procurement Regulatory Authority, and shall constitute retired High Court judges or practicing attorneys who qualify to appoint high court judge.

The Tribunal shall adjudicate over any matter brought before it by a complainant for a breach of any of the provisions of this Act, or any appeal brought in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

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COVID-19 hits hard on BITC

4th August 2021
BITC

The COVID-19 pandemic which weakened world economies had left a devastating impact on Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) existence in 2020. According to the group’s 2019/2020 Annual Report, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was sluggish for the first two quarters at P126 million and P426.96 million respectively. They then took an upward trajectory in Q3 and 4 at P1396 million and P1456 million respectively.

The year closed with a reduced performance at 73% for Q4. According to the financial report, export earnings opened the year at 83% which is approximately P671 million, before dropping to 81% (P1299.55 million). However, Quarter 3 experienced a slight rise in performance to 82%, or P1978.42 million before a drop in performance to close Quarter 4 at P74.9%, which was P2403.91 million.

Even if that is the case, the Centre continued to promote local investors by facilitating for local entrepreneurs to produce and find markets for their products both locally and internationally. The trend for Domestic Investment/Expansions indicated a continual upward performance surge from Quarter 1 through Quarter 4.

In percentage points, performance results reflected opening of 93% performance followed by a dip in performance to 82% Quarter 2, and then an increase to 100% in Quarter 3 and closing performance of 84.2% in Quarter 4.

For this financial year under review, BITC posted solid financial results with a surplus of P872.968, representing a decline from the previous year’s surplus of P13.991.337. The Centre started on track from the beginning of the financial year with successful execution of activities planned for the year.

However, following the subsequent onset of COVID-19 in the last quarter for the financial year, a few of the activities were negatively affected resulting from restricted cross border transfers. The impact is expected to be severe in the following financial year, especially on the Centre’s financial statements, clearly reflecting the negative impact of COVID-19.

In the financial year ended March 2020, BITC received a total subvention of P96.504.860 which represents a 5% decrease from the previous year’s subvention of P101.830.560. the Grant subvention received for the past 5 years has not been constant due to the financial constraints that the government has experienced over the years which prompted for alignment of financial resources to cover the Centre’s strategic imperatives.

For the year under review BITC’s annual FDI capital inflows realised stood at P1.456 billion against an annual target of P2 billion, which is largely attributable to more than expected performance from the Financial Services sector. The total Domestic Investment for the period was P875.5 million against the set stretched target of P952 million. The total number of jobs registered by the organisation during the year under review was 3329, against an annual target of 3340.

BITC ACHIEVEMENTS

Notwithstanding that, BITC realised high level achievements for the year under review. Chief Executive Officer Keletsositse Olebile said facilitated to establish the Selibe-Phikwe citrus project, which has a job creation expectation of 1000 vacancies as well as the expansion of Kromberg and Shubert Company through the allocation of land for construction of 7000 square metres factory to manufacture wire harness for Mercedes Benz, with over 800 jobs expected this year.

Further, the Centre continued to deliver improved investor facilitation services to both local and foreign investors through the Botswana one Stop service centre (BOSSC). “BOSSC houses relevant government departments under one roof to provide prompt, efficient and transparent services to investors. The services offered by this Centre have grown from slightly above 130 applications for government authorisation in 2013 to 752 in the year under review,” said Olebile.

BITC continued to monitor Botswana’s performance in global competitiveness indicators such as the World Bank’s ease of Doing Business Index. “In an endeavour to improve the investor facilitation mechanism in the country, we have motivated for the drafting of a Business Facilitation Law, which will expedite the setting up and operations of businesses in Botswana.”

ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION DRIVE

BITC continued to respond to government’s call to stimulate direct investment and growth of local companies by procuring goods and services from locally based manufactures and services providers. The message to promote locals to actively grow the national economy has been driven through campaigns such as ‘PushaBW’ which utilised an Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach. As at March 2020, local purchases constituted 84% (2019:85%) of the total procurement with foreign purchases at 16% (2019:15%).

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