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 the past two years, the world has been at combat with various COVID-19 variants. A new variant of concern which is considered to have a combination of the greatest hits (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta) has sent alarm bells around the world.
Botswana’s COVID-19 genomic surveillance, which actively monitors COVID-19 variants in Botswana, picked four samples that were concerning and discovered a completely new variant. In accordance with international obligations, as a responsible member state under the International Health Regulations of 2005, Botswana submitted the suspected new variant for the entire global scientific community to respond to this early finding. Shortly after, the Republic of South Africa, also submitted a similar concerning variant.
The new variant, ‘Omicron’ is named after the 15th letter of the Greek Alphabet to avoid public confusion and stigma. The news spread like wild fire which resulted in European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America imposing travel bans on Botswana and other sister SADC nations, resulting in drawing a wedge between nations.
In his address on the occasion of an update on Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has shunned the response by some countries to Botswana’s detection of the Omicron variant stating that it is unfortunate as it appears to have caused unnecessary panic amongst the public across the world. He considers it defeating the spirit of multilateral cooperation in dealing with this global pandemic.
“The decision to ban our citizens from travelling to certain countries was hastily made and is not only unfair but is also unjustified while remain confident that reason and logic will prevail, the harshness of the decision has the effect of our shaking our belief in the sincerity of declared friendship and commitment of equality and economic prosperity for us,” he said.
President Masisi has appealed to the nations that have imposed travel restrictions on Botswana to reflect and review their travel restrictions stance against the Southern African region.
African leaders and heads of state are in agreement on a matter. Some stating that the travel bans are ‘uncalled for, afro phobic, unscientific, strict, unfair and unjustified’. They have come out to bash the unilateral travel bans and request immediate upliftment of the restrictions imposed on SADC member states by European Union member states, the United Arab Emirates and United States of America.
While Batswana are banned from international travel, locally as at 26th November 2021, a total of 195 068 COVID19 cases and 2 418 deaths had been reported since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We have been steadily witnessing a decrease in the number of new cases and deaths in the last three months. We are currently reporting an average of less 10 infections per 100 000 people compared to 648 cases per 100 000 people at the peak of the third wave. We have also observed a gradual decline in hospitalizations across the country with an average of less than 10 patients at a time at Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital (SKMTH) and our other health facilities countrywide,” pointed out President Masisi.
Masisi encouraged Batswana not to despair as to date, all the nations’ key indicators remain stable. “This is comforting although it still does not warrant any complacency on our part in terms of behaviour and other attitudinal patterns towards this dreadful disease. We are actively monitoring the evolving situation in view new variant of concern,’’ he sternly advised.
Government through the different Ministries leading the different sectors, has been working tirelessly to prepare for potential outbreaks and a fourth (4th) wave. This will be achieved through; installing oxygen generating plants and increasing skilled human capacity.
With regards to the vaccination programme; as of 29th November 2021, an estimated One Million and Fifty Three Thousand Three Hundred and Sixty One (1 053 361) people translating to 75.7% of the target Batswana citizens and residents over the age of 18 years have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. A total of Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy Three (950 973) people translating to 68.4% have been fully vaccinated. This number exceeds the 64% target Botswana has set to achieve by end of December 2021.
Masisi enthusiastically revealed that; “We are one of the three countries in Africa that have achieved the World Health Organisation target of vaccinating at least 40% of the entire population by December 2021. We are committed to ensure that all is done to reduce the transmission of the virus in the country.
More vaccines are being procured to ensure availability for those who have not yet received any dose. Government is also considering booster doses for those who may be identified as qualifying for them.”
President Masisi urged Batswana to continue observing the COVID-19 health protocols of social distancing, washing hands or sanitizing and wearing masks and avoid unnecessary travelling.
As COVID-19 pandemic continues to shake the world, China has promised to donate a billion coronavirus vaccines, advance billions of dollars for African trade and infrastructure, and write off interest-free loans to African countries to help the continent recover from the coronavirus pandemic. All these promises emerged at the Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Senegal at the end of November 2021.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China will provide one billion doses of vaccines to Africa when delivering keynote speech at the Eighth Ministerial FOCAC via video link on 29th November. Of those, 600 million would be via donations and the rest would be produced jointly by African countries and Chinese companies. In addition, China would send medical teams to help the continent deal with the pandemic.
President Xi also announced nine programmes that China will work closely with African countries in the next three years. He mentioned the medical and health program, the poverty reduction and agricultural development program, the trade promotion program, the investment promotion program, the digital innovation program, the green development program, the capacity building program, the cultural and people-to-people exchange program, the peace and security program. President Xi hailed China-Africa relations as a shining example for building a new type of international relations.
Furthermore, Xi said Beijing would pump US$10 billion into African financial institutions for onward lending to small and medium enterprises. He promised to extend another US$10 billion of its International Monetary Fund allocation of special drawing rights, which would help stabilise foreign exchange reserves. In addition, China will write-off interest-free loans due this year, to help the economies that had been ravaged by the pandemic. Last year, China also promised to write off interest-free loans due at the end of 2020.
Beijing pledged US$60 billion to finance Africa’s infrastructure at the forum in Johannesburg in 2015, and a similar amount when the gathering was held in the Chinese capital in 2018. But in the past few years, Chinese lenders, including the policy banks – Exim Bank of China and China Development Bank – have become more cautious and are now demanding bankable feasibility studies amid debt distress in the continent.
Besides seeking more money for projects, Xi said China would encourage more imports of African agricultural products, and increase the range of zero-tariff goods, aiming for US$300 billion of total imports from Africa in the next three years.
China would also advance US$10 billion of trade financing to support African exports into China. He said the country would also advance another US$10 billion to promote agriculture in Africa, send 500 experts and establish China-Africa joint agro-technology centres and demonstration villages. African countries are pushing to grow exports of agricultural products into China. At the moment, Beijing maintains an enormous trade surplus over the continent. African imports from China include machinery, electronics, construction equipment, textiles and footwear.
Meanwhile, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi summarized FOCAC achievements when meeting with journalists ahead the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference. Wang said that the FOCAC is a crucial platform for collective dialogue between China and Africa and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation.
He said since the inception of the FOCAC 21 years ago, Chinese enterprises have built over 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 kilometers of roads, nearly 1,000 bridges, nearly 100 ports, and over 80 large-scale power facilities in Africa.
In addition, they have assisted Africa in building over 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums and more than 170 schools, and training over 160,000 professionals in various fields. Chinese medical teams have provided medical service to an accumulated number of 230 million, and China’s network service has covered around 700 million user terminals.
Yi said that the Eighth FOCAC Ministerial Conference was a great success. According to Yi, the success of the conference confirmed the strong will of China and Africa to work together to overcome difficulties and seek common development, and showed the huge potential and bright prospects of China-Africa cooperation.
Wang summarized the most important consensus reached at the conference as following: 1) both sides will promote the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation; 2) China and Africa will work together to defeat the pandemic; 3) both sides will work to enrich China-Africa cooperation in the new era; 4) the two sides will work together to practice true multilateralism; 5) China and Africa will jointly build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.
FOCAC, is one of the developments that came as a major shift in the dynamics of the China-Africa relationships came about in the 1980s when China embarked upon its “Opening up and Reform Policy” –a wide-ranging policy that gave birth to the new China. Economic and geo-strategic interests rather than the desire to export a specific political philosophy drive China’s current relationship with Africa.
For Africa though, the key problem is that our economies are weak in value creation. As argued by one economist, what workers and factories produce is produced more efficiently, with better quality and at lower cost, by other economies. “In such circumstances, making money is easier through rent than through value creation.
African governments should be capable of guiding their private sector towards value creation, a key factor for achieving a sustainable competitive edge in the global market. Furthermore, partnerships that Africa forges should be targeted to enhance such an environment”. The question remains as to whether China’s intervention in Africa will help address this challenge.
A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) has given its outlook for the rise and fall of living costs around the world.
The report is based on current and past trends impacting the cost of living, including currency swings, local inflation and commodity shocks. In addition, it compares more than 400 individual prices across over 200 products and services in 173 cities.
The Worldwide Cost of Living (WCOL) rankings continue to be sensitive to shifts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which have pushed up the cost of living across the world’s major cities. Although most economies are now recovering as covid-19 vaccines are rolled out, the world’s major cities still experience frequent surges in cases, prompting renewed social restrictions. In many cities this has disrupted the supply of goods, leading to shortages and higher prices.
The report highlights that “the inflation rate of the prices tracked in the EIU’s WCOL across cities is the fastest recorded over the past five years. It has accelerated beyond the pre-pandemic rate, rising by 3.5% year on year in local-currency terms in 2021, compared with an increase of just 1.9% in 2020 and 2.8% in 2019.”
However; supply-chain problems, as well as exchange-rate shifts and changing consumer demand, have led to rising prices for commodities and other goods. The most rapid increases in the WCOL index were for transport, with the price of a litre of petrol up by 21% on average.
Tel Aviv, a city on Israel’s Mediterranean coast tops the WCOL rankings for the first time ever, making it the most expensive city in the world to live in. The Israeli city climbed from fifth place last year, pushing Paris down to joint second place with Singapore. Tel Aviv’s rise mainly reflects its soaring currency and price increases for around one-tenth of goods in the city, led by groceries and transport, in local-currency terms. Property prices (not included in the index calculation), have also risen, especially in residential areas.
The cheapest cities are mainly in the Middle East and Africa, or in the poorer parts of Asia. Damascus has easily retained its place as the cheapest city in the world to live in. It was ranked the lowest in seven of the ten pricing categories, and was among the lowest in the remaining three. While prices elsewhere have generally firmed up, in Damascus they have fallen as Syria’s war-torn economy has struggled. Tripoli, which also faces political and economic challenges, is ranked second from the bottom in our rankings, and is particularly cheap for food, clothing and transport.
“Over the coming year, we expect to see the cost of living rise further in many cities. Inflationary expectations are also likely to feed into wage rises, further fuelling price rises. However, as central banks cautiously raise interest rates to stem inflation, price increases should moderate from this year’s level. We forecast that global consumer price inflation will average 4.3% in 2022, down from 5.1% in 2021 but still substantially higher than in recent years. If supply-chain disruptions die down and lockdowns ease as expected, then the situation should improve towards the end of 2022, stabilising the cost of living in most major cities.”
“The survey has been designed to enable human resources and finance managers to calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. It can also be used by consumer-goods firms and other companies to map pricing trends and determine optimum prices for their products across cities. In addition, the data can be used to understand the relative expense of a city to formulate policy guidelines,” highlights the report.