Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has kick-started the process of lobbying civic society and Members of Parliament (MPs) towards a process that will lead to constitutional reform in the country.
The federation, which is the biggest and the most influential labour movement in Botswana this week held a forum where various organs of civic society deliberated on the matter of constitutional reforms. BOFEPUSU comprises of four public sector unions; Botswana Sector of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU), Botswana Land Boards, Local Authorities and Health Workers Union (BLLAHWU), Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and National Amalgamated, Local and Central Government and Parastatal Workers Union (NALCGPWU) and other auxiliary trade unions outside the public sector scope.
Speaking at the conference organised by the federation this week, BOFEPUSU Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa said the aim of the discussion was one way initiating debate that would eventually lead to constitutional reforms. He noted the importance of legislators in taking part in the conversation including in future because they are the core of constitutional reforms as lawmakers. “We had invited all MPs and political parties, but the turnout is not what we expected because our MPs are the main target of this gathering as lawmakers,” he said, commenting on lack of participation by MPs in the conference.
Several MPs and politicians were however in attendance, among them Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader Dumelang Saleshando, Tlokweng MP Masego Segokgo, Mogoditshane and Ghanzi North MPs Sedirwa Kgoroba and Noah Salakae respectively. The constitutional reforms talks have never really had buy-in from influential people. As per the current constitution, major constitutional reforms require a national referendum, a process that can only be set in motion by parliament majority.
Different speakers from the civil society alluded to reforms in the judiciary to make it more democratic and independent from the executive. “It would be in the best interest of democracy that judges are appointed by parliament, not the president,” said Attorney Carlos Salbany. “Although the judiciary’s role is not to make laws but to interpret laws, one way or another through court rulings [judicial precedents], the courts make laws.”
1997 CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
In the mid-1990s, ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was forced to undergo major constitutional reforms, for the first time since independence. The reforms were brought in by a number of factors at that time. BDP was going through turbulence, owing to factional infightings in the party. The polarity in the party saw the party Young Turks and other progressive individuals in the party pushing for reforms. Individuals such as Kabo Morwaeng, a rising star in the party; Jacob Nkate the party’s youth league leader; Sidney Pilane a resilient lawyer within the party, were instrumental in bringing about reforms in the party.
After a period of self examination, the BDP top brass relented and acceded to the reforms. In 1997 BDP enacted the new political reforms that were highly welcome across the political divide. The newly introduced constitutional provisions included; introduction of the 10 year presidential tenure limit; reduction of voting age from 21 to 18; introduction of Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as well as the controversial automatic succession section.
BDP CONGRESS’ 2015 CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
BDP is currently sitting on the 2015 congress resolutions in which the party delegates adopted the possibility of exploring electoral and political reforms. Political Education and Election Committee (PEEC) Sub-committee chaired by former Barataphathi stalwart Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri was mandated with the task. At the heart of the reforms are several proposals such as adoption of hybrid electoral system encompassing First Past The Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR).
For the first time in history, the BDP opened up to the possibility of introducing political party funding, a subject that has been a ‘taboo’ within the party. Political funding was part of the debate and discussions held by the regions with the view of adopting the idea or maintaining the state of affairs. Political party funding has attracted a number of credible proponents in the last few years that are of the view that, a matured democracy like that of Botswana should have by now embraced such an initiative. Among them is the late former President Sir Quett Ketumile Masire who said that failure to do so may result in political parties sourcing funds from undesirable organisations in foreign countries. The reform talks have their own opponents within the BDP as influential members of the central committee who believe the introduction of Proportional Representation or hybrid system as proposed by Ntuane will essentially hand over power to opposition in 2019.
PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION AND WOMEN REPRESENTATION
Botswana has continued to fare badly in the ‘The Global Gender Gap Index’ report in the category of political empowerment, a reminiscent of the country sidelining of women in policy and law making decisions. In light of this, BCP Women’s Wing President Daisy Bathusi has proposed the introduction of the proportional representation as the only way that will ensure that more women are brought in parliament.
She said the current environment, where women are expected to compete with men through the First-Past-the-Post system has proven that it will never be friendly to women representation in the country’s law and policy making institutions such as council and parliament. The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time.
The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income group. The category of political empowerment measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in minister-level positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, it includes the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.
At present Botswana has only six female MPs out of 63 seats, the recent entrant to the list being Bogolo Kenewendo who was sworn in last year following constitutional amendments in the last session of parliament to increase the number of specially elected MPs from four to six. The low number of female MPs has been attributed to the country’s electoral system which emphasises that winners in the legislature are only elected through first-past-the-post, an enduring system for women.
In Africa, Rwanda outclassed the whole world in political empowerment, according to the 2016 report. Rwanda remains the country with the highest share of female parliamentarians in the world, with 64 percent of representatives in its legislature being female. Neighbouring South Africa which was ranked 13th overall is ranked ahead of Botswana in the category of political participation, with a ranking of 7th position. Other African countries which were ranked ahead of Botswana overall include Namibia, Cape Verde, Mozambique and Burundi.
In the past there were efforts to increase representation of women in parliament through the special election nomination dispensation. In the 9th parliament MP for Mahalapye East Botlogile Tshireletso tried to trigger constitutional amendment to increase the number of specially elected MPs from four to eight of which four seats will be reserved for women. The motion was opposed famously by then Specially Elected MP Ntuane, who argued that increasing the number of special parliamentary seats may not be the best way to increase women's representation in Parliament.
Ntuane suggested that it would be better to change Botswana's electoral system to proportional representation than to add new Specially Elected seats in Parliament. He argued that the voters were not in favour of increasing the number of special MPs because they dilute the power of the elected MPs.
In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy.
The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.
However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world. The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.
Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.
“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.
The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)
Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.
“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.
“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.
“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.
“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”
The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.
For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.
In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.
According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.
In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled. Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.
Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects. During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies. Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).
A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination. The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.
The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.
Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.
He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful. Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.
But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB. FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.
Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.
Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB. “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.
The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).
FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders. Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.
In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.
But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings. “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.
FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries). The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?
“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.
“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.
He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”
“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.
Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.