The legal frame work and judicial leniency are perhaps the major cause of rising incidences of drug dealing and possession in Botswana, Deputy Commanding Officer responsible for Narcotics, Fauna and Flora Investigations, Albert Morapedi has revealed.
Botswana, completely landlocked by four countries South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and slightly by Angola is faced with a saddling experience of having to deal with drugs coming in from all fronts.
“Our investigations indicate that drugs don’t come from Botswana, but from other countries,” he said.
The Botswana Police Service has seen a staggering rise in the number of hard drugs, which are considered more dangerous, compared to soft drugs. Hard drugs include cocaine, nicotine and cat among others which have been discovered by the police in Botswana.
Of all the drugs in general, marijuana remains the most common. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, between periods of January to July, there were 295, 339 and 394 cases of marijuana alone as compared to 5, 18, 27 cases of hard drugs in the same period respectively.
The largest consumers of these drugs are youth, with those belonging to age groups of 18-39 being major participants in the business. According to Morapedi there are rare cases involving primary school kids and recently involving a 52 year old man.
While the rise in drugs cases are a cause for concern, Morapedi also highlighted that for the police, it is a good sign as it shows that they are now able to detect drugs better than they used to.
“Unlike in other crimes where we want the cases to go down, in drug cases we want the detection rate to go high to uproot the harm which they are causing especially to the young people,” he said.
From statistics, it is apparent that pupils at secondary schools are the major victims of drug dealing in Botswana which leads to compromised health, aggressive behaviour and poor performance in schools.
Legal frame work and repercussions
Unlike in other countries, drug dealing and possession in Botswana does not carry hefty penalties and worse of all, the judiciary appears to be lenient by letting suspects off the hook with paltry bail amounts.
According to the Drug and Related Substance Act of 1992, a person can only be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years for dealing or possession.
The Act further states that: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any written law, any Magistrate Grade I, Senior Magistrate or Principal Magistrate shall have special jurisdiction to impose any penalties provided in this Act for any contravention of the provisions of this Part, or any regulations made under this Act relating to this Part, or to exercise any of the powers provided therein in respect of such contraventions.”
Morapedi said this is a big challenge because the law does not act as deterrence. The Deputy Commanding Officer also contended that the law also gives drug dealers who are released on bail the opportunity to continue with the illegal dealing.
“Our aim is to make clean the country and destroy network of drug dealing syndicates,” he said. “Personally I believe drug dealing syndicates should not be released on bail, they should remain in custody so that the network is destroyed,” he said.
Judiciary leniency on drug dealers
However, Morapedi said that although releasing of suspects on bail is defeating the whole purpose of striving for drug free communities, the police will not be discouraged by that.
Morapedi stated that there are four cases in which serial offenders have been granted bail.
“Judges and Magistrates are independent and sometimes use their discretion in making rulings on whether to release the accused on bail or not, but sadly most of time they succeed in getting bail,” he said.
Morapedi quipped that the review of Drugs and Substance Abuse Act, which is underway, will address some of the concerns raised by the stakeholders.
Penalties for drug dealing and possession vary depending on the quantity the accused is found in possession or is dealing with. The penalties range from three years imprisonment to 15 years or P1000 to 15 000 in fines or a combination of both.
Where do the drugs come from?
Although Morapedi could not reveal to this publication the most common area for origination of drugs to Botswana, this publication’s investigations revealed that Swazi nationals as per recent court appearances lead the number of foreign offenders, mostly dealing jointly with locals.
Drug dealers have been able to penetrate the country, with some drugs passing through the country in destinations outside the country, including from South Africa to Zambia, and other neighbouring countries.
“Drug dealers are using all tactics to bring them to Botswana, including using un-gazetted areas to get them inside the country,” he said.
Recently the Police were able, in a rare case to arrest drug syndicates in possession of drugs weighing from 1kg -102 kg, something which Morapedi said was a breakthrough because they were arrested before distribution.
Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.
The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).
Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model. BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.
“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.
Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.
Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board. However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.
He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.
“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).
“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.
“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.
Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.
“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.
“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.
WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs. High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.
Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.
The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.
“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.
As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.
“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.
Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.
“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.
The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.
“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.
BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.
“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.
Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.
In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.
“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.
The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.
“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”