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BMD’s breakpoint P100 000 congress

There is no doubt that Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) is going for its elective congress in Bobonong next week. What remains uncertain is the events that will unfold at the congress following the expulsion of party president, Ndaba Gaolathe, his deputy, Wynter Mmolotsi and four others.
 

But party chairman, Nehemiah Modubule has assured the BMD faithful that the congress is on and there will be “adequate” security to ensure smooth operations. The chairman told this publication on Thursday that 740 delegates will grace the congress at Matshekge JSS in Bobonong. The delegates will comprise of 18 members of the National Executive Committee (NEC), since six have been expelled from the party; 16 members of the Youth League; 16 members of the Women’s League; and 10 delegates from each of the 57 constituencies. In addition all Members of Parliament, all Councillors, chairpersons and secretaries of branches and regions also attend the congress.
 

However Modubule emphasized that the Youth League that was elected in Ramotswa is not recognized by the party, it was an illegal gathering, he says. He also indicates that expelled members are not welcome into the delegates’ congress. “But those who wish to travel to Bobonong are free to do so. Botswana is a free country hence we cannot bar anyone from travelling to destinations of their choice.” 
 

Matshekge School has billed BMD P24 538 for the usage of school facilities during the congress. He said the party has also budgeted P30 000 for food to be served to delegates at the congress. The other expenses at the congress will go towards production of ballot papers and identification tags for delegates. “We are seriously preparing for this congress and there is no secret plan to postpone it. There are no reasons what so ever to postpone this congress,” says Modubule.
 

According to the BMD chairman, Batswana must be assured that BMD is going for congress next week. “Our hope is that there will not be any disruptions as we have heard some declaring war in Bobonong. We are not going for a fight, we are not a boxing club but a political party. We are aware that some of our members express fear over security issues. We urge those who are intimidating other party members to stop doing that.”
 

 Modubule says he is certain that BMD will elect leaders without a fuss come next week because the committee has ensured that it provides necessary security. He said since this is a delegates’ congress, only delegates will be allowed into the hall. According to Modubule there will be a roll call to ensure that people who enter the hall at Matshekge are delegates. “We will not take anything to chance, the BMD is bigger than all of us,” he says.
 

On allegations that they intend to postpone the congress, Modubule says: “We can’t postpone congress just because we do not have money. Each constituency has agreed to pay P500 as registration for congress. So far all constituencies have paid this money and this is part of the money that we will use to organize the Bobonong congress. In addition members of the party are also pledging beasts to be slaughtered at the congress to feed delegates.”
 

On the issue of parallel delegates, Modubule says that will not be possible because all delegates will be according to process at the venue. “We can’t afford not to have a congress because of some rogue individuals out there. We assure our members that there is adequate security to deal with any possible disruptions,” he said.
 

Modubule continues: “We expect a lot of competition as usual. We have not heard of any lobby list. Personally I do not support lobbyists because they are breeding ground for factions. Lobby groups never die, they continue to an extent that the losing group pushes its agenda against the elected group,” said Modubule.
 

He explains that party members who are not delegates but have interest in contesting certain positions are aware that they can be nominated from the floor or could express their wish by giving their delegates written expression of interest and it would read at the congress.
 

Expulsions and their implications
 

Modubule confirmed that the BMD Disciplinary Committee has reached a decision to expel six party members including party President Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy, Wynter Mmolotsi. As a consequence the expelled six will not be admissible at the BMD congress. 
 

He said the decision was arrived at after the six members failed to appear before the Disciplinary Committee chaired by Mr Njubo Ofentse of Bobonong on two occasions. Modubule says the suspended members failed to appear for the hearing on the 11th of June and they were given a second chance on the 18th June.
 

According to the BMD chairman the DC called witnesses on the 18th and the NEC presented its case and verdict was delivered on the 21st of June and was announced publicly as per the dictates of the constitution. “The Disciplinary committee has the power to reprimand, suspend, or expel,” explained Modubule.  
 

Modubule further shares that the expelled members would find it almost impossible to appeal at the congress because they have failed to honour the recognized structures of the party. “They should have appeared at the Disciplinary Hearing to state their case, depending on the outcome, appeal to the next level if they are aggrieved. It is like someone waking up in the morning and lodging a case with the Court of Appeal without having gone through the High Court or lower courts,” observes Modubule.
 

On the same note, Modubule indicated that the expelled members who are currently serving in Parliament “may continue as if nothing” happened because they were elected under the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) ticket. He says they continue with their normal duties, “but they are no longer BMD members now.” 
 

But why the fracas in the BMD
 

Modubule is adamant that they are being used as scapegoats by those who appear to be against them. He says he is aware that the other group is unhappy with the arrangement of the UDC where Saleshando was made second Vice President. He says they are hurt that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has been admitted into the Umbrella. 
 

According to the BMD chairman, “how can we be enemies of unity when we negotiated and accepted the terms of the BMD participation in the UDC. We know that the other group is of the view that there should be a re-negotiation of constituencies and other terms of the cooperation package under the UDC. We are happy with the terms of the UDC because we are pro-unity. Some of us have been in the opposition for too long and we want to see the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) defeated,” he says.
 

Modubule is further convinced that the UDC will remain intact and says, “The BMD will remain in the UDC even after the congress.”  He says he is afraid that some people are beneficiaries of the BDP regime and they have no moral right to want to place him and others at the centre of a BDP conspiracy theory. “I think they are fearful of how far the UDC will go with investigations should it attain power in 2019. I personally propose that the investigations should stretch way beyond 2008. All wealth accumulated in a shady manner should be repossessed,” he adds.


Some people are beneficiaries of the BDP regime and they have no moral right to want to place him and others at the centre of a BDP conspiracy theory. “I think they are fearful of how far the UDC will go with investigations should it attain power in 2019

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Masisi, DIS come under scrutiny at UN Rights Committee 

25th October 2021
masisi & magosi

President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and the Directorate of Intelligence (DIS) came under the lens of the United Nations Human Rights Committee during the just ended dialogue between committee members and the Botswana delegation. 

Scores of issues, among them the country’s reports on topics including whether Masisi abused the State of Emergency Act during the COVID-19 pandemic and alleged surveillance and harassment of members of the public by DIS, were addressed at the session.

A Committee expert asked about legislation in the Penal Code allowing the Government to investigate people who expressed opinions against public figures, particularly the President. How many cases were there of journalists who had been investigated, prosecuted and tried?
Concerning the COVID-19 Emergency Powers Act, there was a provision for a fine or a five-year jail term for journalists using “source(s) other than the Director of Health Services or the World Health Organization” when reporting on COVID-19. The Committee Expert asked for the number of cases and other measures taken under this Act.

Another committee expert wanted to know that the scale and scope of electronic surveillance, which had sharply increased in recent years, was concerning. Furthermore, the Committee was troubled at the lack of a sufficient independent oversight mechanism over the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services that reportedly had contributed to a growing climate of fear and chilling effect on journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians. In this respect, a Committee Expert asked about the measures taken by Botswana during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the right to privacy was protected (collection and management of personal data).

The Expert also enquired about a database website, which was not functioning but was supposed to contain documents of Botswana’s international human rights commitments.
In terms of the freedom of assembly, while the Constitution of the State party guaranteed it, the Committee had received information that, in practice, the Public Order Act required citizens to apply to the nearest police for a permit to hold an assembly, and police had sometimes denied requests for unclear reasons.

The Committee Expert asked if the Public Order Act of the State party had been applied in conformity with those tests. Would the State party indicate the measures it had taken and/or intended to take to make the application of the law in question strictly compatible with the requirements under article 21? Furthermore, the Committee had also received allegations that police officers sometimes used force to compel gathering people to disperse. In this regard, the Expert asked for information on legal provisions and practical guidelines under which police officers may resort to force and any training programme if any, for police and other law enforcement officers to respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly.

A Committee Expert asked about cases of holding people for longer periods under pre-trial detention than the maximum period provided for in legislation, 36 months, instead of six. Were there any plans to shorten the duration of pre-trial detention in legislation? The Committee noted that there was no provision for local community broadcasting. What measures were the State party taking to ensure that the local communities could also communicate in their language in the media?

What measures had been undertaken by Botswana to increase sustainable development in the country regarding climate change in particular. What efforts had been undertaken to ensure that customary courts worked up to speed? A Committee Expert asked about children in rural areas who travelled a long way to their schools. The delegation was asked about the independence of the Ombudsman Office, including provisions for appointing the Ombudsman. What budget was envisaged for this Office?

The Expert acknowledged the established procedures and institutions for anti-human trafficking but expressed concerns about the lack of reported cases. The Expert asked about the accountability of the public prosecution, as well as the intelligence services. Replying, the Botswana delegation, led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng, said there was an ongoing consultation for revising provisions that would ensure better protection for journalists and media freedom in Botswana.

Still, the delegation said, freedom of expression was assured in the State party without any restrictions, including in Parliament. There was an education programme providing the opportunity for children in primary school to be taught in their mother tongue. It also explained that the Ombudsman would be dealing with issues of human rights promotion and protection.

“National policies and procedures were envisaged to control the distribution of natural resources. Botswana was also taking measures to increase the access of minority groups to education. Regarding pre-trial detention, the delegation explained that the criminal procedure assured justice was preserved in the country,” said the delegation.

On the issue of torturer and alleged use of unreasonable force on suspects, the Botswana delegation explained that police officers were trained to use minimal force, ensuring that human rights were preserved, including in the cases of assemblies. On the use of surveillance, no legal provisions were breached, and such measures were used in accordance with national legislation. Legal aid was very costly, and it was not possible to keep the record in detail as asked by the Committee.

Morwaeng told the Committee that the Government maintained a robust consultative approach to policy development and legislative process. He said this was a system of governance that ensured that the voices of ordinary citizens were respected and taken into account in the social, economic and political process that affected them the most, giving full effect to the full enjoyment of human rights across the board. The delegation took due note of the views of the Committee, including the importance of harnessing information technology to give a broader appreciation of the provisions of the Covenant.

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Masisi on P1 billion water investment

25th October 2021
water project

The P1 billion water project launched by President Dr vMokgweetsi Masisi this week is said to be critical to the success of key projects planned in Lobatse – the Lobatse Milk Afric and Leather Park. After commissioning the multi-million Pula Masama-Mmamashia water project last week following its completion, on Thursday, Masisi performed ground-breaking ceremony of yet another major water project, the Lobatse Water Supply Master Plan (LWSMP1).

The water project was conceptualized in 2009 to address water shortage in areas along the Greater Gaborone zone. These areas include Ramotswa, Otse, Mogobane, Mankgodi, Manyana, Goodhope, Lekgolobotlo, Mmathethe, Molapowabojang and villages surrounding. It was said that some major upcoming projects in Lobatse such as Lobatse Leather Park, Milk Afric and the Pioneer Border Gate are dependent on the success of this project, in order for them to take off and operate effectively. The two projects have been struggling to take-off despite government having put the necessary resources.

The Lobatse Leather Park is anticipated to create about 4700 jobs at the initial stage and 7000 jobs at full capacity. The project entails the development of a complex for different tanneries with the support of state-owned beef company, Botswana Meat Commission. It will comprise primary infrastructure such as a common effluent treatment plant, sewage treatment plant, and others.

When operational, the park is expected to supply the private sector with hides and skins, raw to finished leather tanneries, and the manufacturing of different leather products. These products include shoes, belts, jackets, and others, thereby playing an instrumental role in stimulating economic activity. Leather Beneficiation Park is seen as important for the leather industry as it would ensure that Botswana moves from exporting raw leather to finished leather goods. It is said research has established that there are plenty of hides and skins in the country from the three million cattle and 1.8 million goats.

Meanwhile, Milk Afric dairy farm project which was expected to be complete by the second half of 2018, is in the wilderness after the initial partnership between Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and Milk Afric failed to bear fruits. BDC has been searching for a new partner for the project. Once fully operational, the farm will produce a total of 21.9 million litres or one third of the national milk demand, which is 65 million litres a year. At present, Botswana imports over 58.8 million litres from South Africa at a cost of P345 million annually.

The P120 million project is a Public Private Partnership deal between Lobatse Town Council (LTC),  with 10 percent shareholding through leasing its 1375.4 ha farm for 25 years; and 26 percent (P40 million) by Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). When speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony held in Ramotswa, Masisi said, in addition to improving the water supply for domestic needs and livelihoods, this infrastructural development will facilitate major projects in the Lobatse region, which are critical to the ailing, old town.

“Our objective as a country is to align developments with the National Vision 2036 Pillar 3 on Sustainable Development, which recognizes water as a very scarce resource which requires strategic management by key players.” Botswana is a developing country with an increasing population, Masisi said, adding that an increase in population naturally causes exponential growth in the demand for water. This is a reality that Botswana is faced with and challenged to address for sustainable water supply, the President said.

He indicated that this is why they are continuously witnessing major water projects undertaken by government, in collaboration with key partners. “Gaborone and surrounding areas have been experiencing an acute water supply deficit due to infrastructure that has outlived its potential to meet the growing demand for water by citizens. This particular project entails the construction of a Pump Station at Forest Hill in Gaborone, a 57 kilometre pipeline from Gaborone to Lobatse and a new Northern reservoir.”

The project, awarded China State Construction and Engineering Corporation/Van and Truck Hire Joint Venture at over P1 billion, is currently at 49% of its completion stage. There are 637 jobs created by this water project. “The transmission pipeline will convey 63 million litres of water a day from Gaborone to Lobatse. This is a great improvement compared to an average supply of 14 million litres of water that has been supplied to Lobatse, Borolong and surrounding areas,” Masisi said.

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UN quizzes Botswana on gays, Sebina defilement case

25th October 2021
EU

The United Nations Committee on Human Rights has taken Botswana to task over what it considers to be discrimination laws against lesbians and gays and delay in prosecuting suspects in the infamous Sebina defilement case.  The Botswana delegation led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng found itself against the wall before the United Nations Human Rights Committee of experts in Geneva, Switzerland.  

First to take Botswana head-on was the UN Committee member, C SOH, who noted that the recent ruling of the High Court pays particular attention to the penal code penalising same-sex sexual conduct as it found that it infringed on the constitutional rights, dignity, liberty and privacy of the LGBTI persons (lesbians and gays).  “Nonetheless, I note with deep concern that those discriminatory provisions of the of the penal code remain in effect and regrettably the government stated in its periodic review before deciding whether or not to repeal section 164 it would still await the final determination of the court of appeal in the case of Motshidiemang vs State,” said Soh.

According to Soh, “This statement makes us cast doubt on the will of the government to vigorously” strike out section 164, which criminalises sex between people of the same sex.  “In this respect, I would like to ask the delegation to explain what the intended goal by the government was when it filed an appeal against the unconstitutionality ruling of the High Court,” he said. Soh said the Botswana Government had also explained that no persons had been convicted under this provision, section 164, ever since the penal code was enacted.

“However, media reports indicate that in August 2016, the government of a Gaborone Magistrate Court sentenced a man three years in prison who had been charged and convicted under section 164 for engaging in unnatural acts. Can the delegation explain these discrepancies relating to persons who have been convicted and sentenced under section 164 of the penal code,” he said.  He also wanted the Botswana delegation to explain how the government addresses how customary courts have been discriminating against LGBTI persons.

Another member of the UN Committee, Duncan Muhumuza, expressed concern that the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has taken more than four years to prosecute suspects in the Sebina saga in which a councillor was alleged to have slept with a student who was also a minor.
Replying to concerns raised by the UN experts, Mogakolodi Segwagwa, chief state counsel at the Attorney General Chambers, noted that one of the UN committee members has “become fearful that the fact that government appealed the case could be a sign that there is lack of will or doubt on the part of the government as to abolishing or outlawing of same-sex relations.”

“But I would like to assure the panel that Botswana has over the years proved itself at all times to be compliant with court orders. There are many examples I could put forward where the government had to make sure that court orders were executed. That is the assurance I can give out to the committee,” said Segwagwa.  He said there was a good reason for appealing the decision of the High Court in which it outlawed section 164.

“This was a High Court decision, and as you know in our jurisdiction when a judge is at the same court with his brothers and his sisters and fellow judges, whatever decision he puts out so far as that particular court is concerned, it is not law because it is not binding on his fellow brothers and sisters and it is not binding on fellow judges,” explained Segwagwa. He added that “It is merely persuasive so much so that some other judges may choose to when a similar case comes before him or her, depart and ignore the position that that particular judge espoused, and he or she can do so with ease.”

Segwagwa further explained that “There was a very pressing need for this matter to be appealed to the Court of Appeal for purposes of crystalising the law and for purposes of ensuring that if there is any aspect of the law that the High Court had overlooked in arriving at this particular decision, then such an aspect can be taken into consideration by the Court of Appeal.” “So we are waiting for that judgement, and once it comes, it will be implemented. I take it that the committee would like the Court of Appeal to uphold the decision below and strike out this particular section.”

He assured the UN experts that when the High Court struck out section 164 in 2019, the country did not erupt into violence, adding that this was an “indication that we don’t have anything against people of LGBT. They are our brothers and sisters, and we co-exist with them.”  Regarding the Sebina saga, Segwagwa said the painful case “where this councillor was said to have had sexual intercourse with a child is the police dealt with a matter as it is the law and we all know that the police are bound by their Act to do so without fear and prejudice.”

He said Upon completion of their investigation, “the matter was handed over to the prosecuting authority, as Mr Muhumuza had indicated, it has been four years and we concede that four years is a long time and that it is unreasonably a long time and that it defeats the whole adage that justice should be sweetest and freshest so much so that the case needed to be speeded along.”

He added that “But the problem we have which is not a problem in the sense of it being a problem, but the impediment we have in the sense that the Constitution created the Office of the Director of Prosecutions under section 51 subsection A and if you go to that particular section and you read subsection six, the director shall not be subjected to the control of another authority.”

Segwagwa said, “this is the section that was inserted in this constitution to safeguard the independence of the Director of DPP to ensure that he or she prosecutes matters without fear, favour and prejudice and it presents impediment where we can’t try and say to the DPP, go and register or indicate your position now, tomorrow or next year and that is why it has taken all this time, but we believe attempts are being made that it finds its way to the court.”

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