President Lt Gen Ian Khama, who is also paramount chief of Bangwato has been dragged into the chieftainship feuds in the Bamangwato territory after various sections expressed displeasure with Regent Sediegeng Kgamane’s decisions.
There is an ongoing impasse surrounding the chieftainship in two villages of Mmadinare and Nata, which are within the jurisdiction of Bamangwato. Bangwato regent, Kgamane, who is the appointing authority for chiefs designated to these villages, is accused of pushing his own agendas by the sections of the villages. This has forced them to seek redress from President Khama to douse the fires. In Nata the villagers want the appointing authority to give Kgosi Rebagamang Rancholo the throne.
Last week Kgamane and his lieutenants cancelled a meeting on the eleventh hour despite residents of Nata having already convened at the kgotla. No reason, according to sources, was put forth. The residents want the appointment of the Kgosi to be done through elections in which Rancholo appears the most likely to win as he originates from the village. On the other hand highly placed sources say the Bangwato regent is considering a certain Letsogo Kgaswa. This would have irked the residents hence the meeting was called off.
The dispute according to village leadership will be addressed by President Khama on Thursday during his visit to the Nata-Gweta constituency. “It is on the agenda, the President will be briefed about the marathon dispute and we are hopeful that from there the decision will be taken. Besides we are optimistic the royals from Serowe will also be here to hear our cry and listen to our recommendations,” a source said. Nata is dominated by the Basarwa community and they are somehow clear that only Mosarwa should lead them.
There are reports doing rounds in the village that Kgamane would want to impose a different person and the villagers are resolute that they will block any move to appoint an ‘illegitimate’ person to the throne. The vacancy of a senior tribal authority was created following the retirement of Mokgwathi Makgesi from public service in September 2015 and a delegation sent by Kgamane then addressed the villagers and announced that they should choose a person of their choice. Villagers had wanted the position to be filled by Makgesi’s immediate junior, Rebagamang Rancholo only for the delegation to state that the two junior chiefs, Rancholo and Kgaswa were not eligible for the position since they were already employed.
When villagers were busy searching for a suitable name to send for consideration, Kgamane handpicked Kgaswa for the position but the nomination angered villagers. In response Kgamane leaned on section 18 of Bogosi Act. “A Kgosi shall have power, after consultation with the tribe or any section thereof in accordance with customary law, to facilitate the integration of persons wishing to settle within the tribe,” but he failed to make it known to residents.
And the Mmadinare Chieftainship crisis deepens
Efforts by Kgamane and his lieutenants to mediate in the persisting Mmadinare chieftainship feud hit buffers as members of morafe insist they will deploy any tactic at their disposal to block the coronation of any kgosi they deem illegitimate. The residents are contemplating to report Kgamane who is overseeing Mmadinare Chieftainship to President Khama for maintaining his stance of bringing back Seeletso to lead them. It was almost a consensus from Morafe within the village that Kgosi Phokontsi Seeletso should not be reinstated. They believe that with heir to the throne still pursuing his studies there are other legitimate people who can hold the fort for him than Phokontsi, to be specific Maureen Mphoeng.
Contention from Morafe is simple- they want a Mmadinare native to lead them. Further they believe Seeletso has not been working well with them hence the need to be led by someone who well understands the village and its dwellers. The Bogosi conflict in the village exacerbated subsequent to the death of the father of Mphoeng Mphoeng. Mphoeng has now been considered succeeding his father but he is still pushing his academics until next year. Kgosi Mokhutshwane Sekgoma who was standing in for Kgamane however highlighted that consultation was done by the royal family in Serowe and they decided Seeletso is the perfect shepherd to lead Mmadinare.
On the other hand livid residents quote Bogosi act that they should be consulted. “A Kgosi may, after consultation with the people of the area at a kgotla in the customary manner and with the approval of the Minister, recognize any person designated by his or her tribe as Kgosana in respect of the area of his or her tribal territory or tribal area and may in like manner withdraw the recognition,” article 22 (a) read Bogosi act in which Bangwato principals are leaning on. the appointment of the person proposed by the Kgosi as his or her Moemela Kgosi would not be in the interests of the people of the area, make such appointment as he or she considers appropriate after consultation with the tribe; or
However the residents believe the recognition of a Kgosana has been made without due consideration of the wishes and interests of the people of the tribal territory or tribal area hence the need to cancel the recognition of such Kgosi Seeletso. “I was among the delegation that went to Serowe. We were not allowed to say even a word and we were not happy that we left without any of our voices heard. We made it clear that we are against the decision because it was not consultation, but a decision imposed on us. We strongly object to the decision on Seeletso and I am wondering how he will work with such an angry community,” Kgosi Thatayaone Marumo lamented about consultation.
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.