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1000 likes, 1000 comments equals P100 000 fine

Had Phagenyane Phage made his tribalistic “joke” by means of a computer or computer system a few months from now, he would have attracted the wrath of clause 22 under the proposed Cybercrime and Computer related Crimes Act and would be facing a possible two years in prison and a P40 000 fine!

This is how serious Minister of Justice Defence and Security, Shaw Kgathi’s proposed law looks from plain view. The only difference is that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) activist made the controversial statement at a political rally – the price he is paying now is rebuke and ridicule. He would probably escape because he is not on social media, especially facebook. The specific clause reads: “A person who, by means of a computer or a computer system, insults another person on the basis of race, colour, descent, nationality, ethnic origin, tribe or religion commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P40 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to both.”

Mr Shine Namane of Lentswe La Batswapong through a statement in part expressed thus: “The specific utterances were “… ko ga Mmangwato ha go thokafete kgosi, ha gonwe re hira Motswapong gore atle go lela, a bidikame go dira bohutsana mo lwapeng leo…” We find Mr. Phagenyana’ remarks dehumanising, irresponsible, insensitive, divisive and infringing on the constitution of the Republic of Botswana, especially that they were uttered by a politician who expects Batswapong to vote for him or his party.

We place on record that Batswapong are self-respecting and a dignified community who will not allow themselves to be bought or paraded by anybody or tribe for that matter to create a scenery at anybody’s funeral or event.  We find the utterances in question offensive and toxic to the political landscape, peace and tranquillity of this great country.  It is without doubt that Batswapong have been injured by such utterances.”

Kgathi’s proposed law which looks destined to receive support from across the political divide is going to make life very difficult for a number of social media commentators. In the spirit of this law Phage’s “joke” could be interpreted as ‘Racist xenophobic motivated insult’.  There is general displeasure at Phage’s choice of joke at the Umbrella for Democratic Party (UDC) rally in Molepolole and his party has engaged Lentswe La Batswapong to apologise.

Back to the full might of the Cybercrime and Computer related crimes Act, “A person who, by means of a computer or computer system discloses or publishes a private sexual photograph or film without the consent of the person who appears in the photograph or film, and with the intention of causing that person distress, commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P40 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both. The law captures this behavior as “Revenge Pornography”.  

The proposed law is far reaching, “A person who, by means of a computer or computer system – produces racist or xenophobic material; offers or makes available racist or xenophobic material; and distributes or transmits racist and xenophobic material commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P40 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.”

The Cybercrime and Computer Related Crime Act also tries to shield children from stalkers; “A person, who by means of a computer or computer system, communicates with a person who is, or who the accused believes is – under the age of 18 years, for purposes of facilitating the commission of the offence of child pornography, or offences of prostitution, rape, or indecent assault under the Penal Code; under the age of 16 years, for purposes of facilitating commission of offences of abduction or kidnapping of that person under the Penal Code; or under the age of 16 years, for purposes of facilitating the commission of the offence of defilement or any sexual offence of that person under the Penal Code, commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P100 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both.”  

Interestingly, the proposed law makes it clear that it shall not be a defence to a charge under this clause that the accused believed that “the person he or she was communicating with was at least 16 or 18 years of age, as the case may be, unless the accused took reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the person.”

The Cybercrime law also tackles child pornography. “A person who published child pornography or obscene material relating to children through computer or computer system; produces child pornography or obscene material relating to children for purposes of its publication through a computer or computer system; possess child pornography or obscene material relating to children in a computer or computer system or a computer data storage medium; publishes or causes to be published an advertisement likely to be understood as conveying that the advertiser distributes or shows child pornography or obscene material relating to children through a computer or a computer system, commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P100 000, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.”

Minister Kgathi’s law drafters have crafted what they term, “Offensive electronic communication”. Under this clause they write that, “A person who willfully, maliciously or repeatedly uses electronic communication of an offensive nature to disturb or attempt to disturb the peace, quiet or privacy of any person with no purpose to legitimate communication, whether or not a conversation ensues, commits an offence and is liable to a fine not exceeding P20 000 or to imprisonment of a term not exceeding one year, or both.”

The law is also taking aim at Cyber stalking because it makes it an offence to “willfully, maliciously or repeatedly use electronic communication to harass another person, or make a threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or for the safety of his or her immediate family.” The offence attracts a fine of P20 000 or an imprisonment term not exceeding one year. Cyber harassment is also penalized with perpetrators facing a fine of P10 000 or an imprisonment term of six months or both.

The Cybercrime Act also carries huge fines and long term imprisonment proposal for offences such as cyber fraud (P100 000 or five years imprisonment or both) and cyber extortion (P20 000 or 10 years imprisonment or both). The Act criminalizes unauthorized disclosure of password or access code; damage to a computer or computer system; unlawful interception of data; unlawful possession of devices or data; unauthorized interference with a computer or computer system among other things.

Minister Kgathi’s proposed law is not forgiving to service providers as unlawful disclosure by service providers would attract hefty penalties, “A service provider who, without lawful authority, discloses – that an order under this Act has been made; any act done under an order; or any data collected or recorded under an order, commits an offence and is liable to a minimum fine of P1000 000 but not exceeding P5 000 000.”
Government wants this law to pass in November this year.

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Understanding the US Electoral College and key election issues 

28th October 2020
Mark J Rozell

The United States (US) will on the 3rd of November 2020 chose between incumbent Donald Trump of the Republicans and former Vice President Joe Biden of the Democrats amid the coronavirus pandemics, which has affected how voting is conducted in the world’s biggest economy.

Trump (74) seeks re-election after trouncing Hillary Clinton in 2016, while Biden (77) is going for his first shot as Democratic nominee after previous unsuccessful spells.

US Presidents mostly succeed in their re-election bid, but there have been nine individuals who failed to garner a second term mandate, the latest being George W H. Bush, a Republican who served as the 41st US President between 1989 and 1993.

Dr Mark Rozell, a Dean of  the School of Policy and Government at George Mason University  in  Arlington, Virginia describes the complex US electoral system that will deliver the winner at the 3rd November elections.

“The founders of our Republic de-centralised  authority  significantly  in  creating  our  constitutional  system,  which  means that  they  gave  an  enormous  amount  of  independent  power  and  authority  to  State  and  local governments,” Dr Rozell told international media on Elections 2020 Virtual Reporting Tour.

Unlike  parliamentary  democracies, like Botswana the  United  States  does  not  have  all  of  the  national government elected in one year. They do not have what is commonly called mandate elections where  the  entire  federal  government  is  elected  all  in  one  election  cycle  giving  a  “mandate”  to  a particular political party to lead, and instead US have what are called staggered elections, elections over time.

The two house Congress, members of the House of Representatives have two-year long terms of office. Every two years the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, but senators  serve  for  six  years  and  one  third  of  the  Senate is elected every  two  years.

For this election cycle, US citizens will be electing the President and Vice

President, the entire House of Representatives and one third of the open or contested seats in the Senate, whereas two thirds are still fulfilling the remainder of their terms beyond this year.

An  important  facet  of  US electoral  system  to  understand  given  the  federalism  nature  of  the republic, the US elect presidents State by State, therefore they do not have a national popular vote for the presidency.

“We have a national popular vote total that says that Hillary Clinton got three million more votes than Donald Trump or in Year 2000 that Al Gore got a half million more votes than George W. Bush, but we have what is called a State by State winner takes all system where each State  is  assigned  a  number  of  electors  to  our  Electoral  College  and  the  candidate  who  wins  the popular vote within each State takes 100 percent of the electors to the Electoral College,” explained Dr Rozell.

“And that is why mathematically, it is possible for someone to win the popular vote but lose the presidency.”

Dr Rozell indicated that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won very large popular majorities in some big population States like California, but the system allows a candidate to only have to  win  a  State  by  one  vote  to  win  a  100 percent of  its  electors,  the  margin  does  not  matter.

“Donald  Trump  won  many  more  States  by  smaller  margins,  hence  he  got  an  Electoral  College majority.”

Another interesting features by the way of US constitutional system, according to Dr Rozell, but extremely rare, is what is called the faithless elector.

“That’s the elector to the Electoral College who says, ‘I’m not going to vote the popular vote in my State, I think my State made a bad decision and I’m going  to  break  with  the  popular  vote,’’ Dr Rozell said.

“That’s constitutionally a very complicated matter in our federalism system because although the federal constitution says electors may exercise discretion, most States have passed State laws making it illegal for any elector to the Electoral College to break faith with the popular vote of that State, it is a criminal act that can be penalized if one is to do that. And we just had an important Supreme Court case that upheld the right of the states to impose and to enforce this restriction”

There are 538 electors at the Electoral College, 270 is the magic number, the candidate who gets 270 or more becomes President of the United States.

If however there are more candidates, and  this  happens  extremely  rarely,  and  a  third  candidate  got  some electors  to  the  Electoral  College  denying  the  two  major  party  candidates,  either  one  getting  a majority, nobody gets 270 or more, then the election goes to the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives votes among the top three vote getters as to who should be the next President.

“You’d have to go back to the early 19th century to have such a scenario, and that’s not going to happen this year unless there is a statistical oddity, which would be a perfect statistical tie of 269 to 269 which could happen but you can just imagine how incredibly unlikely that is,” stated Dr Rozell.

BLUE STATES vs RED STATES

Since the 2000 United States presidential election, red states and blue states have referred to states of the United States whose voters predominantly choose either the Republican Party (red) or Democratic Party (blue) presidential candidates.

Many  states  have  populations  that  are  so  heavily  concentrated  in  the  Democratic party or the Republican party that there is really no competition in those states.

California is a heavily Democratic State, so is New York and Maryland. It is given that Joe Biden will win those states. Meanwhile Texas, Florida and Alabama are republicans. So, the candidates will spent no time campaigning in those states because it is already a given.

However there are swing  states, where  there is a competition between about five and 10 states total in each election cycle that make a difference, and that is where the candidates end up spending almost all of their time.

“So  it  ends  up  making  a  national  contest  for  the  presidency  actually  look  like  several  state-wide contests with candidates spending a lot of time talking about State and local issues in those parts of the country,” said Dr Rozell.

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Masisi to make things right with Dangote

26th October 2020

High Commissioner of the Federal Government of Nigeria to Botswana, His Excellency Umar Zainab Salisu, has challenged President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi to move swiftly and lobby Africa’s richest man, Nigerian Billionaire, Aliko Dangote to invest in Botswana.

Speaking during a meeting with President Masisi at Office of President on Thursday Zainab Salisu said Dangote has expressed massive interest in setting up billion dollar industries in Botswana.  “We have a lot of investors who wish to come and invest in Botswana , when we look at Botswana we don’t see Botswana itself , but we are lured by its geographic location , being in the centre of Southern Africa presents a good opportunity for strategic penetration into other markets of the region,” said Salisu.

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Dow wants GBV culprits isolated

26th October 2020
Unity Dow

As murder cases and violent incidents involving couples and or lovers continue to be recorded daily, Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow has called for more funding of non-governmental organizations and accelerated action from government to come up with laws that could inhibit would-be perpetrators of crimes related to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Just after Dr Dow had deposited her views on this subject with this reporter, a young man in Molepolole opened fire on a married woman he was having an affair with; and ended her life instantly. While it is this heinous cases that get projected to the public space, the former minister argues that the secrecy culture is keeping other real GBV cases under wraps in many spaces in the country.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said there is GBV all the time in all kinds of places. “We have become accustomed to stories of rapes, marital rapes, defilement of children, beatings and psychological violence and even killings,” she said.

Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality, Dow is worried that there is absolutely no social punishment for perpetrators; they will continue to have the same friends, jobs, wives, homes, as before. Yet another factor, she said, is that there is little or no “justice” for victims of GBV.

The renowned activist said justice for GBV victims is not just the jailing of the perpetrator. “Justice for victims means an agile, victim-friendly, accessible (time, money and procedures) and restorative justice system.”

Asked what could be leading to a spike in Gender Based Violence cases or incidents, she observed that there is no one factor to which this spike can be attributed. “The most obvious factor is stress as a result of economic distress and or poverty. Poverty makes one vulnerable and open to compromises that they would otherwise not make. For perpetrators with anger management issues, economic stress leads to lashing out to those closest to them. Another factor is the disintegration of families and family values,” she opined.

According to Dow, no government anywhere in the world is doing enough, period. “We know the places and spaces where women and girls are unsafe. We know the challenges they face in their attempts to exit those spaces and places.” The former Judge of the High Court said GBV undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in the culture of silence.

Asked what could be done to arrest GBV cases, Dow said it is critical to involve and fund civil society organizations. She observed that much of the progress done in the area of women’s human rights was during the time when Botswana had strong and funded civil society organizations.

“The funding dried up when Botswana was declared a middle-income country but unfortunately external funding was not replaced by local funding,” she acknowledged.

Further Dow said relevant government institutions must be funded and strengthened.

“Thirdly, create a society in which it is not okay to humiliate, rape, beat or kill women. You create this by responding to GBV the same way we have responded to livestock theft. We need to create agile mechanisms that hear cases quickly and allow for the removal of suspected perpetrators from their homes, work places, boards, committees, etc.”

The former Minister said the much anticipated Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Gender Based Violence will have its work cut out for it. According to Dow, GBV is not just a justice issue, it’s not just a gender issue, but rather an issue that cuts across health, education, labour, economic, housing and politics. “As long as any one believes it is someone else’s problem, we will all have the problem,” she said.

In her view, Dow said every work, educational and other place must have a GBV Policy and/or Code of Conduct. “It is important that we acknowledge that the majority of men are law-abiding. The problem is their silence, in the face of injustice,” she observed.

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