The Alliance for Progressives is officially launching today and the interim secretary general Dr Phenyo Butale had told this publication by Friday that they were expecting a crowd of close to 10 000 at the launch venue. He promised surprises at the launch indicating that they have iconic backers among their many supporters.
Dr Butale said AP has already started preparing for 2019 and only time will tell if they will be going alone or they will be working with some of the opposition parties. “But I must make it clear that we will not under any circumstance work with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD),” he said.
He said they could be a new party but they have a recognizable base of membership because of the circumstances that led to the formation of AP. He said the launch will demonstrate that they have a big number of former regional chairpersons of the BMD and their committee members. He further indicated that the first 1000 membership numbers have been taken and more people are still applying for the party membership.
He projected that by next year they intend to have about 100 000 registered members, “as you may be aware we already have members we just have to formalized their status,” he said. He gave the example that out of 35 councillors who were elected under the BMD of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), only four remained and the rest have joined AP.
Dr Butale stated that there is confusion in Tlokweng because “about two councilors feel that the constituency is a Botswana National Front (BNF) stronghold.” He further indicated that they have new members who have joined them from all political parties including some from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). AP has since been joined by former BNF Youth League President, Richard Khumoekae among others.
Speaking to the launch, Dr Butale said they were struggling to contain interest because the 10 buses they have sent out to bring members from across the country to the launch are not adequate. He said they have also invited all opposition parties to the launch except the BMD, “we are also expecting international media.” The 2014 opposition parties conveners and representatives of the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) will all be present at the launch of AP, Dr Butale said.
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.
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.