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.
Former High Court Judge Professor Key Dingake has made his opinion known about gay rights in a glowing tribute to his retired former colleague Justice Ian Kirby.
Late last month a panel of Court of Appeal (CoA) led by Judge Kirby upheld a 2019 High Court ruling that decriminalised same-sex relations and stroke down two sections in the penal code. In his seminal judgment, Justice Kirby said these sections served only to incentivize law enforcement agents to become keyhole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens.
In this case one Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a homosexual had instituted an application in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of Sections 164 (a) and 164 (c).
Paying tribute to Justice Kirby, Justice Dingake said overall the Kirby court was restrained and brilliant in its genre of conservatism. Judge Dingake said the case of Motshidiemang is evidence of the latter. “In a stroke of a pen, he ended the long and tortuous road to equality of gay people.
I was reminded of this long and tortuous road by a piece written by, Zackie Achmat, that indefatigable human right defender, recently, when he reflected on a union of gay men, one Khoi and the other a Dutch sailor, way back in 1735, who for their love for each other were brutally murdered,” Justice Dingake said.
He said in truth Botswana’s Constitution never denied the right to equality for gay men. It was society and the judges who did – some arguing that the time is not right to extend equality rights to gay persons – forgetting the self-evident truth that we are all born equal and that rights are not negotiable – not even with Judges.
“It ought to be remembered that the Motshidiemang case was similar to the case of Kanani that preceded it. Justice Kirby was part of the panel that sat in Kanani. In Kanani he agreed with the other Justices and refused to strike down the offensive legislation. The same legislation he struck down in Motshidiemang.
There is no doubt in my mind that Kanani was wrongly decided at the time, as several of my writings thereafter contended, having regard to the legal injunction to always interpret constitutional rights liberally and to treat the constitution as a living organism,” Justice Dingake wrote.
He added that in Kanani the Court of Appeal held back “our march to freedom for more than a decade – and perpetuated the suffering of gay persons as their being was criminalized based on an inaccurate and narrow reading of the Constitution”.
The truth of the matter is that, he said, our Constitution never denied gay persons the rights to equality and the right not to be discriminated against. “Some sections of society (may be the majority) and the bench did so. The bench did so because of the choices they exercised.
They chose to interpret the constitution restrictively, which is not permissible; they chose to be blown away by ‘public opinion’, which was not right, and they chose not read: ‘sexual orientation’, into section 15 of the constitution, which they could have done.”
Botswana’s Constitution he said commands that it be interpreted in a manner that saves humanity from the scourge of indignity – and with a sense of the future – and to secure the rights of generations yet to be born. It is always the duty of Judges to breathe life into the Constitution – and to effect the promise of the Constitution – by among other things rejecting the tyranny of the majority.
“Section 3, the principal section conferring fundamental human rights in Botswana has always been there. It was ignored in Kanani, and thankfully given effect to in Motshidiemang. A big lesson here is the often overlooked fact: Judges matter! Who the Judge is may be life changing in any given matter.
When one considers the decision in Kanani and Motshidiemang, based on similar facts and the diametrically opposed conclusions, one may be given to think that may be: ‘the constitution is what the Judges say it is’, at any given time, as that brilliant luminary judge and scholar, Charles Evans Hughes (1862 -1948) LLD, once ruminated.”
Interestingly, Judge Dingake wrote about homosexuality more than 12 years ago in his book ‘Key Aspects of the Constitutional Law of Botswana’. Justice Dingake expressed his views on what was said then to what was said in the recent judgment.
In that book, he began the debate by stating that homosexual issues are not frequently debate in Botswana. “Empirically, the extent of homosexual tendencies is not known. In any event the phenomenon does not appear to be widespread,” the Judge wrote.
He said serious debate however cropped up sometime around August 1995, after president Robert Mugabe’s much publicized anti homosexuals speech at the Harare International Book Show. Even then, he said, the debate was only confined to a small circle of intellectuals, with the broader community generally contemptuous and not willing to engage in serious debate about the issue.
“Although the intellectual community is by no means unanimous, there are some voices, particularly emanating from the University of Botswana, that are calling for equal treatment for homosexuals. Despite the enormous capacity of such arguments to court controversy general response of the public was one of cynicism. This general lack of interest among the general populace contrasts sharply with the enthusiasm and interest on the issue, just across the border, in South Africa, where there are numerous homosexual associations,” he said.
He explained that the South African Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which has paved the way for homosexuals to be employed in the army, an advance that is unparalleled in modern democracies. He also explained that Botswana’s criminal law prohibits consenting adults of the same sex from having a sexual relationship, because that is said to be unnatural.
“Within the framework of Botswana’s Constitution there can be no doubt that the prohibition of sexual relationships between consenting male adults of the same sex is unconstitutional. No free society can, in this era, afford to treat its citizens differently on the basis that is patently irrational.
Every individual, is in terms of the Constitution equal before law and has the right of equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The legal recognition of homosexuals will confirm Botswana as a democratic country that is advancing with time.”
He added that it needs to be said that it is however fruitless to bury “our heads in the sand and hope the issue will disappear for good”. He concluded: “In time we will have to confront the issue head on. In time blind prejudice that stigmatizes homosexual relationships will have to stand up to rational scrutiny. It is advisable not too turn a blind eye to the pain of discrimination suffered by few of our fellow countrymen and women. In a democracy it is unacceptable that the majority should oppress the minority”.
Consumers could pay more for electricity this year, as the government owned power producer, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) plans to increase prices for electricity by 5% with effect from the 1st of April 2022.
BPC recent statement on tariff adjustment shows that with the planned 5% increase in electricity tariffs, electricity prices per kWh could increase by 111 thebe for household users, 226 thebe for government, 148 thebe for commercial businesses and 111 thebe for the mining sector.
Botswana economy is registering growth as the country emerges from one of its worsts economic recessions since independence, following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
In late December 2021 Statistics Botswana released the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for the third quarter of 2021.
The nominal GDP for the third quarter of 2021 was P49, 260.5 million compared to P48, 684.0 million registered during the previous quarter. This represents a quarterly increase of 1.2 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.