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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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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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Botswana ranked 129 in female MPs representation

26th July 2022
Minister of Finance & Economic Development Peggy Serame

The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.

The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.

This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.

Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.

The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.

The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).

Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).

The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.

Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors.
Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.

Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.

In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.

The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.

The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.

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