With pressure from opposition parties increasing at every election, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has eight (8) candidates unopposed out of the 18 opposition held constituencies’ primary elections. The party is gearing up for the 2019 General Elections.
It is the first time the party sees such an unprecedented number of Members of Parliament (MP’s) candidates going unopposed. The next general elections are promising to be hotly contested with BDP likely to face fierce competition never experienced since independence. The BDP popular vote has been dwindling in the past election years with the party getting 46.5% in the 2014 General Elections, while in 2009 they attained 51.73% and prior to that in 2004 they got 57.17%.
To counter the opposition in the next polls, BDP has suspended primary elections in some opposition held constituencies where compromises were reached to avoid disgruntled losers from Bulela Ditswe dividing its vote. Some of the signature compromises; BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi will represent the party against opposition parties at Gaborone North where MP Haskins Nkaigwa is sitting in for UDC.
On the other hand Anna Mokgethi has also been chosen to stand in for domkrag at Gaborone Bonnington North. UDC’s President Duma Boko is currently the substantive representative of the area. In Gaborone Central, the ruling party has selected Tumisang Hill to lock horns with the opposition in the make of AP’s Phenyo Butale while at Kanye South the party has fielded Lemogang Kwape to try to wrestle the area from UDC’s Abram Kesupile. Up north, Reaboka Mbulalwa will also stand in for domkrag at Maun West, the area currently occupied by an independent MP Tawana Moremi.
Dithapelo Keorapetse, at Selibe Phikwe West also awaits Allen Lekwapa who will be the torch bearer for the ruling party in the area. In addition, Thulaganyo Segokgo is also the compromise candidate for the BDP in the looming national elections in Tlokweng. He is likely to face area lawmaker Masego Segokgo. Meanwhile it is not clear yet as to whether the UDC will replace constituencies that were previously occupied by the departed legislators that formed Alliance for Progressives (AP).
By compromises, has BDP increased its fortunes in 2019?
Asked to shed light on the BDP compromise matter, University of Botswana (UB) lecturer and renowned Political Analyst, Daniel Molaodi pointed out this week that, with the compromises, if genuine, the BDP may have positioned itself well for a good chance in the next elections. “So, yes I believe, by these compromises, BDP indeed has positioned itself well especially if by so doing have solved the uncertainties that often come as a result of its party primary election dubbed Bulelwa Ditswe,” Molaodi told Weekend Post.
According to Molaodi, if the compromise process was smooth and voluntary; it then puts the BDP on a better position to contest effectively at the impending 2019 General Elections. “They may even get those areas currently in the hands of opposition parties. This however will apply only if there is no hidden agenda in the compromise decision,” the academic pointed out.
What prompted the compromises?
He believes the compromises are in fact a response to Bulela Ditswe as it has always had problems that normally followed the internal election where some candidates were often not agreeing with the emerged winner and final candidate. This, he added that often led to resentment and divisions in the party based on drawn lines of who stood elections which mostly ended up with a culmination of independent candidates badly affecting the party fortunes. Other disgruntled party members he said would then also join opposition parties as a sign of dissatisfaction.
The UB lecturer also continued: “some choose to sit back and disengage and sometimes to the extent of even not voting, and that obviously impacts the BDP fortunes. So, this has led to BDP losing constituencies to opposition.” “So, I think more BDP constituencies are unopposed as they are doing this as a healing process to position themselves. Whether or not it will be effective is another issue for discussion. It also hinges on how the compromise was conducted. Were those who compromised genuine about it or were forced?” he asked rhetorically.
Does then opposition stand a chance in 2019?
With regard to the opposition, the independent thinker stated that they won some constituencies in the last 2014 General Elections precisely due to a strong bond, unity and cooperation amongst themselves (opposition parties). But since, opposition is now showing signs of disunity, at least up to this point; Molaodi highlighted that the next elections may be a different case. Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) he cited that it is not united as of now due to the breakaway of Alliance for Progressives (AP).
According to the Political Analyst, although not yet tested, it appears like AP has more numbers than BMD since their departure and if this is accurate it will definitely hurt the UDC at the next polls. But all in all, Molaodi contended that the current debacle in opposition may affect them. “AP looks set to go separate ways with UDC in the coming elections, and this will be a huge loss to opposition. The opposition as a whole might even lose the constituencies they currently hold. They will be a vote split especially if indeed the AP numbers are higher.”
On the flipside he also stated that “it can only be an advantage to opposition only if AP gets more numbers from BDP and not from UDC per se. It may help both UDC and AP and consequently weaken BDP.” He also pointed out that the numbers lost from BMD to AP can also be supplemented by Botswana Congress Party (BCP)’s entrance and therefore there is chance that still UDC can do well “although it remains to be seen.”
Are these BDP compromises undemocratic?
In addition, the UB academic said there are also some within the BDP that believe these compromises are not a good idea as they are in a way undemocratic thereby purging other people against standing despite being their democratic right to do so. “It also denies electorates to elect their preferred candidates at the polls, starting at the primary elections. It also depend on who the compromise candidate is in the eyes of the electorates in terms of whether they believe someone better have been left out behind and this may be detrimental to the candidate and the party.”
Molaodi also wondered as to what extent was the general membership involved in terms of whether there was a thorough consultation with the BDP members with regard to the compromises. “Was there not even a single dissent from the party structures and what has been done about it?” the UB scholar said.
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.
The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.
The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.
This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.
Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.
The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.
The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).
Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).
The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.
Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.
This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors. Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.
In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.
Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.
In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.
The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.
The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.