When Chief Justice Julian Nganunu deliveried his judgement in favour of President Ian Khama in 2009 against Gomolemo Motswaledi, the judgement marked a new beginning which changed the course of Botswana’s politics forever. For the past two years, BMD has been thrown in disarray, with the emergence of two factions threatening not only the existence of BMD as viable political party but also the prospects of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) attaining power in two years time, writes ALFRED MASOKOLA.
The formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) will remain a centre of debate for many years to come. The political movement was conceived in the wake of the suspension of Gomolemo Motswaledi from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The rising political star had been recently elected secretary general when he collided with party president Lt Gen Ian Khama. In the build-up to the 2009 Kanye Congress, at which Motswaledi was elected the party secretary general, tensions were brewing within the party.
Factions had returned-the Barataphathi, which Motswaledi was a member of had wanted the party to hold central committee elections, meanwhile, Khama’s A-Team preferred a compromise arrangement in which women would be allowed to assume the position unchallenged.
Daniel Kwelagobe, who had retired his secretary general position from the previous congress after serving 27 years, had returned to the fold this time around to contest the party chairmanship. DK became the subject of humiliation from the A- Team faction because he reneged from his earlier promise that he had retired. However, the real battle was between Khama and Motswaledi, the Barataphathi prince. Khama had been at cross roads ever since the 2003 congress, in which against all the odds, Motswaledi, then a Youth Wing chairman, joined a small group of those who stood with Ponatshego Kedikilwe against Vice President Ian Khama for the party chairmanship.
Five years later, when Motswaledi wanted to succeed Khama in the Serowe North West constituency, the former was made to back down. Instead it was Tshekedi Khama, the president’s brother who took over the throne. The 2009 Kanye Congress was a continuation of the Motswaledi/Khama battle, but its aftermath left a ruin in the BDP and set in motion a chain of events which led to the formation of the BMD.
After the victory of the Barataphathi at Kanye, a series of events hastened the hostility in the party. Khama was in control of government, while Barataphathi were in control of the party. The ultimate point came when Motswaledi, two months into his position was slapped with a suspension letter supposedly for defying president Khama’s authority. Motswaledi was suspended for 60 days from the party and re-called as party parliamentary candidate for Gaborone Central. The suspension came after Motswaledi had written to two law firms seeking clarification on whether the party president had powers to make unilateral appointment of sub-committee members without consulting the central committee.
Collins and Newman Law firm responded through newspapers, stating that Khama indeed had powers to do so. Motswaledi wrote back, rebuking Collins and Newman’s Parks Tafa for running the opinion in the newspapers. This ended Motswaledi’s political career at BDP. A few months later, crowds of well wishers left the Court of Appeal with one resolution: to stand by Motswaledi through and through. Immediately after the judgement, Botsalo Ntuane, then Motswaledi’s sympathiser-in-chief had convinced Motswaledi to form a political party. It was a decision taken in the benches of the court.
After a few months later, BMD was born; it was the new kid in the block and immediately assumed the position of main opposition in parliament. Many theories have been said about the party but, its break through transformed the politics of Botswana, either for better or for worse. Many have said the party would not survive the politics of opposition, but the party has stayed to live, for seven years now. Part of the BMD legacy, which will stay forever is that for the first time in the history of Botswana, BDP experienced a split which weakened the party. BDP had been for years a major beneficiary of fragmented opposition parties.
EMERGENCE OF FACTIONS IN BMD
BMD is party which is a product of BDP factionalism. The suspension of Motswaledi from the party and barring him from contesting for parliamentary constituency was the turning point. Motswaledi’s court loss was met with a new five year suspension from the party. When announcing his resignation from the party in 2010, Motswaledi said he had to fight “what looked like a five-year sentence, while in fact was a 10 year sentence.” The five years suspension meant that Motswaledi would have not been eligible to participate in the 2013 party primary elections, ruling him out of the possibility of running for a parliament seat until 2019.
Ndaba Gaolathe, then Motswaledi’s campaign manager published an article in newspapers in which he condemned the party’s decision to suspend Motswaledi. Gaolathe said the decision was not in line with what the party stood for and that the decision was taken in bad faith. Meanwhile Botsalo Ntuane who chaired the committee which oversaw the formation of BMD, and later became its Vice President was of the view that after the 2009 Kanye Congress, the victory of democrats was sabotaged and undermined at every turn. He contended that the BDP had abandoned faith in democracy.
In the formative stages of BMD Ntuane never stopped insisting how BMD was important to the future politics of Botswana, and that if there was ever to be any change of government, BMD would be central to all the events. The former Gaborone South West legislator was then the leader of opposition. Ntuane has since returned to BDP and is not part of the boiling pot currently brewing at the party.
At the centre of the controversy lies party chairman Nehemiah Modubule and secretary general Gilbert Mangole while the other side of the divide is party president Ndaba Gaolathe and his deputy Wynter Mmolotsi. The two factions have failed to reconcile. The fire was stoked by the presence of former party spokesperson; Sidney Pilane who has since self declared his return to the party, defying an earlier resolution by party president, Gaolathe that his membership will only be dealt with at next year’s party congress. A liberal BMD constitution, which vests more powers on the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), has made it difficult for the party to resolve the impasse as NEC members remain divided.
The adoption of a liberal constitution by BMD at the 2011 Inaugural Congress was motivated by the manner in which the late party leader, Motswaledi was suspended by President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama Seretse Khama from his position as BDP Secretary General in 2009, a few weeks after being elected into the position at the party congress. Pilane is the chief architect of BMD’s constitution. Gaolathe, who formed part of the inaugural NEC as National Policy Director became party president following the untimely death of Motswaledi in July 2014. Prior to assuming the presidency, Gaolathe had served as Motswaledi’s deputy. Pilane quit the party in 2012, a year after being defeated by Motswaledi for the party leadership at the party’s inaugural congress.
BMD president, Gaolathe had insisted previously that the process which was adopted to grant Pilane membership was unconstitutional since his earlier application at Gaborone North was rejected. Pilane would later be granted membership at Mochudi West branch after being abetted by party secretary general, Gilbert Mangole to do so. Pilane’s BMD return talks started making rounds in 2015 ahead of the BMD Youth League congress held in Mochudi where it was reported that he had funded the team which emerged victorious.
It was also reported that the BMD founding member was on the verge of return to the party and also eyeing the party presidency. Pilane however ruled out the possibilities of him returning to politics, only to announce his arrival later. Pilane was later listed as one of the negotiators representing BMD at the cooperation talks, something which Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction opposed. The Gaolathe faction pushed for a special congress last year, despite winning support in 29 branches, the Modubule/Mangole faction controlled NEC rejected special congress on the basis that due process was not properly done. The Gaolathe faction is of the view that the Modubule/Mangole faction feared facing the wrath of party members are playing delaying tactics.
Last week, at the eleventh hour, the part NEC took a decision to postpone the Youth League elections billed for that weekend in Ramotswa. In another factional bout, the Mangole/Modubule faction diverted another contest but reasoned that the decision was taken after fears that the youth league would not have enough delegates to form a quorum. The Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction did not buy that reason and insisted that, again it was another ploy to avoid defeat by the team. The Gaolathe/Mmolotsi team went ahead and held the congress where the new youth league was elected. However, the Modubule/ Mangole faction had insisted the congress was unconstitutional, referring to it “a wasteful gathering of friends.” Modubule has threatened to suspend those who attended the congress for bringing the party into disrepute.
IMPLICATIONS ON OPPOSITION COOPERATION
BMD forms a vital cog in the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). After the 2014 general elections, of the 17 elected UDC MPs, nine of them belonged to BMD (that was before Kgosi Tawana Moremi tendered his resignation). The UDC project is mainly attributed to hard work of Duma Boko, the Botswana National Front (BNF) President and Motswaledi who passed away a few months ahead of the 2014 general elections. In the run up to those elections, Gaolathe was Boko’s vice presidential candidate and also party secretary general.
One school of thought opines that the Gaolathe/Mmolotsi faction is also not happy with the gains of the BMD in the new UDC set-up following the arrival of Botswana Congress Party (BCP). They have since rubbished those claims. Meanwhile on the side of factional divide, Pilane and co are content with the gains of the BMD. A new deal insists that the position held at UDC was given to parties not individuals, which means, Gaolathe’s vice presidency is subject to him retaining the BMD presidency in July. Mangole and Modubule have announced at a press briefing earlier this week that they have lost confidence in Gaolathe.
Earlier last year, BNF senior figure and legislator for Molepolole North, Mohammed Khan warned UDC that BDP is alive to the fact that opposition parties are in pole position to take over power in the next general elections, and therefore will do everything to frustrate them. Khan was vying for the party vice presidency when he told this publication last year that already there were efforts made to infiltrate opposition parties and cause some sort of instability including by luring members with attractive packages to have them dump their parties. The Molepolole North legislator expressed that the UDC leadership should intervene in the ongoing BMD internal wars for the sake of protecting the mother party.
“At leadership level UDC should intervene with the bigger picture in mind. We are all UDC, people don’t care about BNF, BMD, BPP (Botswana Peoples Party) or BCP (Botswana Congress Party) because they will be voting UDC,” he said. “If the leadership does not intervene, the matter might get out of control and as a result hurting the UDC electoral success in 2019. I have experienced this situation before and I will be able to help.” However Boko has chosen not to intervene in the matter preferring to allow the party to sort itself out. Boko has said BMD is going through a normal process like any party and will pass through that phase.
On the other side, BOFEPUSU have been on the receiving end of the Modubule/Mangole faction, who said their appearance at BMD YL congress in Ramotswa over the weekend was interference in the internal affairs of the BMD. BOFEPUSU Secretary for Labour, Johnson Motshwarakgole and Deputy Secretary General Ketlhalefile Motshegwa were present at the congress. It is reported that BOFEPUSU has pledged to support Gaolathe and his team.
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.