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We won’t go for congress rerun – Pilane

Embattled Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader Sidney Pilane has vowed not to allow any mediator in the party impasse to allow them to hold a congress re-run following the recent disputed Bobonong one.

The umbrella of opposition parties in Botswana, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is expected to mediate between the two after receiving communication from both parties claiming to be the legitimate National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, with one led by Pilane and the other by Ndaba Gaolathe.

In his inaugural press briefing this week after the disputed congress, Pilane maintained that they will not allow for a re-run of the congress as they won fair and square in line with the constitution of the BMD. “Let me make it clear that we had a lawful congress at Matshekge CJSS in Bobonong. It has been called in terms of the constitution of the BMD by the National Executive Committee. All was done in accordance with our constitution and so, we will not agree to any suggestion by anybody to call another congress,” the BMD leader insisted to journalists earlier this week.

He however said they are prepared to compromise in terms of matters regarding which they have power to compromise that are outside the ambit of the movement constitution. He thus emphasized that: “what we cannot do is give anybody anything that we do not have the power to do. And what we cannot agree is to anything that we do not have the power to agree to it, and so even others we agree that they are thinking about us and might want to assist and it will be grateful, but they must understand that we are limited by the constitution of the BMD.  We work within it, we stay within it, we live within it and we act in accordance with it at all times. It’s a matter we do not compromise.”

The Advocate asserted that they told Batswana that they would like to run this country and therefore should show to them that indeed they will run the country according to the law. The Constitution is never compromised, he stressed adding that Batswana need to know that when they elect them into government they will obey the law and run government affairs in terms of the law, and nobody should ask to compromise on the law to suit any party end.

In terms of suggestions that the UDC will intercede, Pilane said he does not recall UDC leader Duma Boko talking about two factions in the BMD. Instead, his recollection is that Boko pointed out that they have received two reports from two groups, both of whom claim to be BMD. And that he said they might call them. “The question now is; are we going to go there if the UDC calls? Yes, if the UDC calls we would go, to see what they would have called us for,” the highly decorated lawyer highlighted.
He however assured the briefing that no one will call BMD without its authority or blessing.

“We run this movement by a constitution. We have a constitution which governs the affairs of the movement. No other constitution does. And no other individual does. So anybody that wants to mediate between us obviously we would be very grateful. We will go wherever we are called. We shall hear whatever we will be called for. We have a discussion according as we might be invited. And we will state our position,” the controversial politician warned. Pilane also reiterated that in terms of the calls for a re-run of the congress, even if they are given money to hold the congress they will not hold that congress as they have already held one. “We have too much work to do to rebuild our movement,” he asserted.

Pilane discusses his association with DIS Director Isaac Kgosi

It is the Advocate’s contention that indeed he has relations with Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director Isaac Kgosi and he has represented him as a lawyer, and never did so for the DISS. “I practice law. I represent people who require representation. I do not care about your political affiliation or where you work, it is a matter which I have never compromised and I will never compromise,” he said of Isaac kgosi when quizzed by a pack of journalists who wanted the predicament explained. The quandary has mainly pitted him against some BMD members who despise his re-admission into the party citing his connections/relations with the notorious DISS.

Pilane also maintained that it was true that he had represented Isaac Kgosi and other BDP members when he was still a BDP member and added that he is still representing some BDP members, despite now being with the opposition. He stated that he can still represent the leader of the Secret Service, Kgosi should he need his services as a lawyer. He continued: “I can also represent President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama if he also requires legal representation even though he has destroyed our country.”

Says Ndaba faction approached a Judge to utilize for forum shopping

The Pilane faction has made speculations that the Ndaba led faction has approached a certain judge to place their case for forum shopping. However, Pilane has refused to name the said Judge. He said that the Ndaba faction had notified them of their intention to declare the recent congress nullified and call for a re-run of the elections. “In terms of the said Judge, we know the name of the Judge in question but we won’t reveal the name to you. But when they do go to court if they do go court we will know whether they got the judge they want or have failed to do so. And they should get the Judge who we know they want, we will act accordingly at the time,” Pilane told the press.

Pilane attacks opposition MPs in parliament for poor performance

The BMD leader expressed concern over the lack of vibrancy by the current crop of opposition legislators as opposed to the past. “There was a time when the opposition parliament was strong and vibrant. It was speaking for the people, expressing the feelings of Batswana, articulating them vibrantly in which they had an impact on the audience, Batswana in general. We need to hear you more. Perhaps we do not hear this or assess this issue the same way. But we don’t hear you comrades. We hear you too little,” he said.

The contentious politician also observed that “we need to hear you and see you make a difference. We need to be inspired. I am afraid I am little inspired. We want you to be as vibrant as the opposition parliament of Kenneth Koma, Paul Rantao, Maitshwarelo Dabhuta, Robert Molefabangwe, and others. They made noise and were vibrant, but were just a small number. But today, you are so much a larger number. Please be vibrant, with your intelligence, articulate issues that affect Batswana.”

The Advocate also weighed options of running for parliament in 2019

When asked on whether he has ambitions of running for parliament in the coming 2019 General Elections Pilane was cagey in his carefully articulated but loaded response. “Do I intend to run for parliament in 2019? I do not know. It’s not a matter I have thought about. It’s not a matter I have considered. I do not think the time for that decision has come. When the time comes, I will make it. I will see whether there is a constituency which I am interested in running. I will see whether people want me to run. And so, I have not yet made that decision. O mpotse tsa ko ke go tswang. Tsa ko ke yang ga di itse (I only know of my past but I cannot say the same about the future.)”

Other BMD issues…

He also warned that those other members from the other faction who are not entitled to call meetings, or call meetings without anyone’s authority will be dealt with when that time comes. “Those expelled also should re-apply into the party; I believe they will be re-admitted. But of course anyone joining the BMD, expelled or otherwise, has to commit their self to obey the constitution, and being disciplined. It goes without saying. They should always follow BMD constitution, rules and regulations as well as respect the structures.”

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Boko’s rivals plan new party

15th August 2022

Following their loss to the Duma Boko-led lobby in the Botswana National Front (BNF)’s national congress last month, some members of the party are reportedly considering forming a new political party.

According to members, the new party will be formed after they receive a tip-off that the BNF will do all it can to ensure that the aggrieved members do not participate in the 2024 national elections. This will reportedly done through a carefully orchestrated primary elections elimination campaign. 

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

12th August 2022

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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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