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Gaolathe blames DIS for Botswana troubles

Leader of newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP) Ndaba Gaolathe has said the formation of the controversial intelligence unit; Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) was the beginning of troubles that have led to the collapse of the country’s governance standards.  

Gaolathe said the formation of the DIS is the indication that government has seemed to focus on those reforms that made Botswana’s entire governance system to regress. “As long as we are here, we will not relent from pouring cold water on the legislation that brought the DIS to life, which monster has injected a rapacious poison into our life-blood as a people,” he said.

DIS was established amid controversy shortly after President Lt Gen Ian Khama assumed office in 2008. The Disaster Fund was diverted to help establish the organisation amid strong resistance from Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbenchers as well as opposition legislators.

“Whether it is real or perceived the DIS is at the heart of everything that is wrong about our Governance system – it is an institution that has been associated with extrajudicial killings, the nepotistic award or non-award of mega-lucrative tenders, immigration decisions for expatriates and investors as well as non-merit appointments to key Government roles in the Executive and Judiciary,” Gaolathe said.

The former Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) President said that the DIS has caused many to fear their own Government and further indicated that it is a remarkable irony that the DIS’s most robust defenders are the ones that actually fear it most. “And yes, there is room for an intelligence agency in any democracy provided that there are legislative safeguards against abuse of such powers,” he said.

“Botswana is ripe for such safeguards including ones that set up technical/specialized panels with rights and powers to audit the uses of funds by the DIS, and independent panel with full oversight functions including treatment of abuse cases.”
Gaolathe said to date, there has been no audit of the DIS by the Auditor General, or at least such a report had not reached the Legislature describing a major blemish from which citizens cannot and must not hide as a people.

The AP leader also expressed his opposition to the use of the controversial Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) in the upcoming 2019 general elections. “We know the majority are opposed to the use of the EVM in the next elections, yet the Executive seems bent on disregarding the voice of the majority. We must do all we can to resist this blatant miscarriage of justice.” Last week, leader of opposition Duma Boko promised that, if the government did not back down on the Electoral Amendment Bill, there would be no elections in 2019.

Gaolathe said under the current leadership Botswana has failed as a nation to live up to even the basic tenets and promise of the spirit of the constitution as originally envisaged by the forefathers. “Those who came before us must have believed or expected us to perfect their idea of Government – first, by putting to life whenever resources allowed the ingredients for a three-armed Government with not only the requisite checks and balances but the capacity and capabilities to dispatch the mandate of governing with distinction and, second, by reforming our systems in accordance with the dictates of our ensuing circumstances. We have fallen short on both counts,” he observed.

“Our parliament is in a state of paralysis in that ordinary members of parliament that are not part of the executive lack the professional support to draft bills in a comprehensive and timely fashion. Allow me to be fair, our Parliament is no superior to the Student Representative Councils of the more established schools around the world.”  Gaolathe, who prior to joining BMD in 2010 was viewed as a BDP future cabinet member said for decades many countries benchmarked on Botswana’s Judiciary.

“There was a time when our judiciary was the pride of our nation, arguably the arm of Government that enjoyed almost perfect goodwill from our people, for impeccable fairness as well as intellectual rigor and integrity,” he noted. “Today, the Judiciary is increasingly viewed as an extension of the President’s sphere of influence, sharing in the political contamination that comes with a Presidency that believes in centralizing power around itself.

This is a source of alarm, in a country whose legislature is already almost defunct, as a result of an overbearing and short-sighted Executive.”Effectively, he said, Botswana is run by a single arm of Government, the Executive branch, and in particular, the Presidency. “The idea of the three arms of Government as enshrined in our Constitution is nothing more than just that, an idea,” he said.

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Boko’s rivals plan new party

15th August 2022

Following their loss to the Duma Boko-led lobby in the Botswana National Front (BNF)’s national congress last month, some members of the party are reportedly considering forming a new political party.

According to members, the new party will be formed after they receive a tip-off that the BNF will do all it can to ensure that the aggrieved members do not participate in the 2024 national elections. This will reportedly done through a carefully orchestrated primary elections elimination campaign. 

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

12th August 2022

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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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