BMD Vice President of the Gaolathe led faction, Wynter Mmolotsi says Advocate Sydney Pilane has emerged as the covert third force behind the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)’s turbulence in the run up to the National Congress in Bobonong.
Pilane is said to have made sure that the mediation meeting held at Bobonong Police Station to map a way forward following the violence that erupted at Matshekge Hill Secondary School bears no fruit, leaving Gaolathe’s faction with no option but to hold a parallel congress at Bobonong Junior Secondary School (JSS).
Addressing the media after delivering a closing speech at their congress at Bobonong JSS, Mmolotsi revealed that while they expected the infamous triple M(Module, Mangole and Mmatli) at the mediation meeting at the police station, instead arrived Sydney Pilane who vehemently pointed out that nothing can be done except for proceeding with the election. While at the meeting, Modubule remained at Matshekge busy with the preparations for the election, making the mediation efforts worthless.
Mmolotsi says it is then that they realised that Pilane was all along the undercover hand secretly twisting the arms of the infamous “triple m” to skew the axis in his favour. Mmolotsi says Pilane is a high profile learned Advocate who however deliberately misinterpreted the constitution to favour his intention to abduct the movement from the people.
Mmolotsi says theirs was a legitimate congress as it involved all the relevant structures and delegates as per the BMD constitution as opposed to the Matshekge congress where the delegates were “hired from Gaborone and divided into groups of twelve as delegates of different branches.” He posits that the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will recognise them as the legitimate committee as what the other faction did has all the hallmarks of criminality and therefore it will be irrational for Pilane’s led committee to be legitimised. He also pointed out that Pilane cannot possibly lead the BMD as his membership is still contentious, and therefore not a member of the BMD in good standing. Admittedly, Pilane’s membership is one of the items that will make the agenda of the committee when it starts executing its duties.
He says their aim is to open a new office at an affluent area where the vast majority of the BMD can easily have to access to. He further says their immediate action plan is to put into place functional structures of the BMD to ensure the smooth running of the movement in preparation for the 2019 General Election under the UDC. The emphasised the need for expediting the appointment of Disciplinary Committee as they foresee a lot of indiscipline following the congress. He says the Pilane faction members are still members of the BMD as they are still card carrying members of the movement.
Pilane on the other hand has claimed legitimacy, pointing out that the national congress of the BMD is organised under the auspices of the National Executive committee (NEC). He emphasised that the congress was not an opportunity for the suspended members to launch an appeal or negotiate terms of inclusion. Like Mmolotsi, Pilane accused Gaolathe’s faction to have hired delegates in order to stage a separate congress, something that he described as power hungry tactics.
He stated that the mediation meeting with the police did not bear any fruit as the Gaolatlhe faction demanded the appointment of a new electoral board that would verify the voters roll yet the congress is called by the NEC which deals with all the preparations including verifying the voter’s roll. Pilane says that they are open for reconciliation but they are tired of begging Gaolathe’s faction to come to the table for reconciliation. He says the reports that vilifies his candidature for the BMD presidency are ill-advised as the BMD presidency does not belong to any particular individual but open to all members of the movement who express interest in the position.
BMD’s Liberal Constitution
Pilane who is reported to be the architect of the BMD liberal constitution told his followers at Matshekge that when they crafted the constitution, they were wary of centralising executive powers on the president as in the constitution of their former political home, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). He says theirs was carefully fashioned to avoid the fate that befell them at the hands of President Khama at BDP. In hindsight, Pilane says they had to make sure that the president is not too powerful as they knew that they might encounter a similar problem if the presidency falls on the wrong hands. In BMD, Pilane says the more powers are entrusted on the Chairperson and the structures of the party but not the president.
The triple m faction led by Nehemiah Modubule, Gilbert Mangole and Dr Tlamelo Mmatli elected Advocate Sydney Pilane as President with Dr Mmatli as the Vice President. Modubule and Mangole retained the position of Chairman and Secretary General respectively. Tseleng Botlhole deputises Mangole as Deputy Secretary General. Percy Bakwena was elected Treasurer General deputised by Simon Zingu while Freddy Ramodise and Christine Ramakgobo were elected National Organising Secretary and National Policy Director respectively. Nineteen (19) additional members were also elected. All positions were unopposed. Pilane has also requested the members to go nominate five more additional members who will be women.
When voting commenced, due diligence was not conducted to ensure that the delegates in the hall met a quorum. Pilane said there was no doubt the people on the hall formed a quorum, explaining that the quorum is only confirmed at the beginning of the congress and not when the voting commences.
The Gaolatlhe faction held their separate congress at Bobonong JSS where all suspensions were reversed to allow the expelled leaders to contest for positions in the NEC. The faction also rescind the decision to derecognise the BMD Youth League which the Modublue/Mangole faction had described as an unlawful gathering. It was moved that the election continue despite the absence of the NEC’s chairman and the secretariat. The new electoral board was endorsed with Dr Margaret Nasha being the election officer.
Ndaba Gaolatlhe retained the presidency together with Wynter Mmolotsi as Vice President. Major General Pius Mokgware was elected party chairman while Dr Phenyo Butale bagged the position of Secretary General assisted by Moalosi Sebati as deputy secretary general. The position Treasurer went to Rassie Oarabile Tshenyego with Vasco Tathego as Deputy Treasurer while Kabelo Mahupe and Fedric Kololo were elected policy director and national organiser respectively.
The committee has 15 additional members and additional five women that include Dr Margaret Nasha. These women, Mmolotsi referred to as national appointees. Unlike at Matshekge, Gaolathe’s faction confirmed the numbers of delegates from all relevant structures in the voters roll prior to voting. It had 40 branches with total number of delegates of 415 which included the four members of parliament and 30 councillors.
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.