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Divided BDP courts Opposition

The Leader of Opposition in the Selebi Phikwe Town Council (SPTC), Molefhe Molatlhegi says the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s chairmanship race between Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi and Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Nonofo Molefhi has divided the BDP councillors.

He shares that one of the camps has asked for their support to help unseat Leonard Mojuta from the mayoral position in which he is seeking second term. The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) councillor for Botshabelo Central says they have agreed as the opposition to support the ruling BDP councillors who want to dethrone the incumbent mayor whom they believe has failed to protect the integrity of the house.

The SPTC mayoral race is contested by three candidates being the incumbent, Leonard Mojuta and his deputy, Molefi Pilane and nominated councillor and former mayor, Molosiwa Molosiwa. The BCP councillor argues that the fact that more than two people are contesting makes it difficult for the BDP to go for a caucus and nominate one candidate. Factional forces created by the national party chairmanship race is one such strong factor that also make  going for a caucus a tough decision to make for the BDP councillors, Molatlhegi has said.

SPTC has 16 councillors, of which 6 are from the BCP while the remaining majority of 10 are from the BDP. The BCP councillor says they have not fielded a candidate for the mayoral positions not because they lack ambition or they are incompetent, but because they do not have the numbers to beat BDP’s majority. However, the 10 BDP members are said to be divided, thanks to Masisi and Molefhi’s battle for party chairmanship.

Molatlhegi points out that Molefhi’s camp has so far seven of the 10 councillors while Sisi Boy’s camp has only three. He explains that Masisi’s camp started off with the larger numbers but the majority of councillors jumped ship to the other side for purposes of thwarting mojuta’s chances of getting second change to the throne.

The outspoken BCL councillor says that they have forged an agreement with the BDP councillors to jointly look through the rubbles of the SPTC to search and pick up anything worth salvaging and put them in the hands of a better leader to protect. He says they were tempted to sleep with the enemy in order to save the SPTC. He believes that plotting a remarkable fall for Mojuta will offer them an opportunity to restore public confidence and make “SPTC great again”.

“Mojuta was in many respects an incapable leader who has proven overtime that he cannot lead. It is necessary to rescue the dipping faith of the people in the SPTC under Mojuta’s leadership,” he charges. While this affair constitute a compromise of the BCP’s political beliefs, Molatlhegi argues that letting the current mayor continue at the helm of the Selebi Phikwe’s local government institution will equally compromise quality leadership that is necessary to uplift the economy of Selebi Phikwe. He hasten to say the affair is not a proposal for a lifelong marriage but a one day fling necessary to unseat the mayor. Once the objective has been achieved, the two parties will go back to their usual opposing ends.

The BCP boycotted the election of the mayor and his deputy in 2014 but Molatlhegi says this time around they want to participate fully. He notes boycotting does not yield any results as the BDP has the majority, which means the election will go on anyway in their absence. He expresses the BCP’s commitment to fully participate in the election so that they are able to unseat Mojuta and continue to influence policy in subsequent council proceedings.

However, Mojuta says the Leader of Opposition’s allegations are unfounded. The mayor of Selebi Phikwe says there are no divisions amongst BDP councillors, pointing out that he is a true democrat at heart who will not collude with the opposition for any sinister agenda. He said they will go for their caucus tomorrow (Sunday 28 May, 2017) to nominate one candidate each for the position mayor and deputy mayor.

Meanwhile, Molatlhegi is worried that the mandate of the current mayor, his deputy and council committees elapsed on May Day but he says when he sought clarity from the Town Clerk why the election has not been conducted, he was told the mandate of the current leadership elapses on May 27, 2017.  “Surprisingly the council has called for Full Council on May 30 but the question is who is going to chair the proceedings of the full council when there is no mayor,” he said.

According to Molatlhegi, after the mayoral term ends, a special full council must be convened to elect the mayor and the deputy mayor after which they will start executing their official duties after seven days. In the seven days, Molatlhegi says elected persons will be perusing through reports to make their speeches and may even opt to resign from their positions if they feel they are not ready to take up the positions of leadership they have been elected in.

He says after the mayor has been elected, only then can there be a Full Council meeting which the elected mayor will chair and give his maiden speech derived from the reports from various council committees. The Leader of Opposition says they intend to force the house to turn the scheduled full council meeting to a special full council sitting so that they can elect the leadership of the council prior to convening the full council after seven days.

Mojuta on the other hand quashes Molatlhegi’s claim that a special full council has not been scheduled prior the full council sitting scheduled for May 30, 2017. He says the special full council will convene on May 29, 2017, a day prior to the ordinary full council where the newly elected leadership will address the house. The opposition however says they are not aware of the May 29 special full council.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

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.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022

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.

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