The embattled Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) president, Advocate Sidney Pilane has promised to step down from the position of party president following a verdict by the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which declared his leadership illegitimate.
This publication has established that Pilane accepted the ruling on the basis that it affirmed that the BMD remained a member of the UDC. “Had they made any decision that sought to suspend or expel the BMD from UDC, I would have fought them with everything I have. I believe that we must accept the decision of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana National Front (BNF) and do as they say in order to deny them the excuse to continue excluding the BMD from UDC activities,” he shared in one of the social media platforms – facebook.
The latest ruling by the UDC comes as a shock following an earlier resolution by the UDC to recommend power sharing in the battle for party control instead of congress re-run as requested by the other faction. The UDC leadership also instructed BMD to hold an elective congress within 90 days. The resolution has however been received with mixed feelings with some section of the opposition especially those sympathetic to Ndaba Gaolathe, the former BMD leader, opining that the decision to call for a congress should have been made before formation of the Alliance for Progressives.
The current resolution follows the departure of the Gaolathe’s faction from the BMD after losing confidence in the UDC’s efforts to restore stability within the BMD. The group has since established a new party, the Alliance for Progressives (AP) which was launched last weekend. In explaining the decision not to call for a congress re-run in the BMD; UDC president, Duma Boko contended that had he made the same resolution earlier, it would have proved impossible to hold another congress since the two factions were embroiled in bitter war.
He said the Matshekge Congress, which turned into chaos, leaving several people severely injured, was a case in point and he did not want a repeat of the same violence. The Gaolathe faction had however then requested UDC to supervise the proposed congress re-run to ensure peace and stability. The major cause of dispute was the composition of congress, with parallel delegates proving to be contentious. “We are not apologetic about the BMD verdict as the UDC. We applied our minds long and hard,” he said.
Various schools of thoughts have emerged following the latest UDC resolution with some believing that it has been designed to eventually throw out Pilane and BMD in order to bring back Gaolathe’s AP into the UDC fold. Some had anticipated that Pilane, who had previously indicated that UDC had no business in telling BMD how to run its affairs, would reject the new verdict. Pilane has however agreed to UDC’s demands. Another school of thought is that the verdict did in fact legitimise Pilane’s presence in the UDC. Within 90 days Pilane will regain his position in the UDC as one of the Vice Presidents, the other being BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando.
The new resolution also wants the BMD to dismantle the leadership elected in Matshekge in favour of the previous one for the purpose of preparing for the proper congress. “It is therefore feasible and advisable to the BMD to fall back on the Ghanzi elected leadership to be caretaker of the party awaiting a legitimate congress which will elect the party leadership,” Boko said. The BMD is also expected to send four persons to represent the party in the UDC National Executive Committee (NEC). Boko said the UDC will not dictate who the BMD sends as their representatives to serve in the NEC.
The UDC leader further added that the new draft constitution, which is subjected for adoption at the party’s congress billed for the 24th of February next year, provides for the two positions of Vice President, both of which are equal to each other but with different responsibilities. He said, contrary to popular opinion that there is 1st Vice President and 2nd Vice President, none of the Vice President is superior to the other.
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.
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.