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Khama “alone” can appoint Judges – SA Advocate

Government has reiterated that the president Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama is under no obligation to follow the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) recommendations when appointing Judges of the High Court.


In a packed open Court of Appeal session this week during oral arguments on the Khama versus Law Society of Botswana (LSB) and Omphemetse Motumise case, a South African Advocate, Senior Counsel, Mohammad Anwar Albertins representing Botswana government maintained that, in accordance with the constitution, President Khama alone can appoint a judge and that extends to rejecting a recommendation from the JSC.   


Albertins who was engaged by the Attorney General insisted that, “there is no obligation for the president to follow JSC recommendations. Reasons might only be known to him, and he is not forced to state them.” In the matter Law Society of Botswana (LSB) is appealing a High Court judgment in which they were challenging President Khama's decision to reject the appointment of a private attorney Omphemetse Motumise, who was then recommended by the JSC to be an acting judge of the High Court.


The case was then dismissed on 5 February 2016 by a High Court bench consisting of three judges, Justices Lakvinder Walia, Abenigo Tafa and Phadi Solomon. LSB’s pivotal argument was that Khama has no powers to turn down the JSC's recommendations when appointing judges of the High court.


LSB’s borne of contention was also premised on the believe that JSC was acting in line with section 96(2) of the country’s constitution which states that “the other judges of the High Court shall be appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.”


However the government attorney Albertins, in the appeal case of the matter on Monday, maintained that the provision does not force the President to appoint as per the JSC’s recommendations. He insisted to a presiding bench of 5 Court of Appeal Judges Monametsi Gaongalelwe, Isaac Lesetedi, Lord Arthur Hamilton, Lord Alistair Abernethy and Jacobus Brand that Khama is and should the ultimate appointing authority.


“The president has a discretion as he is the one who appoints. He alone can take the ultimate decision of who to appoint or not appoint as a judge. He can also review on reason” the Advocate pointed out. He said the disputed section 96(2) of the constitution sets out procedure of appointing. According to Albertins, the synthesis, formulation as well as wording of the section is clear that president only appoints while adding that it means he can also decline an appointment, and then when another recommendation comes he can accept it.


According to Khama, JSC, AG heads of argument seen by Weekend Post, Albertins maintains that the president has the power and discretion under section 96(2) of the constitution, properly construed, to refuse to appoint candidates recommended for appointment by the JSC.


“He has the power and a discretion to refuse to appoint a judge recommended by the JSC,” court papers point out. “Section 96(2) of course requires the president to act in accordance with the JSC’s advice when he appoints judges, but the section does not require him to exercise his power of appointment whenever the JSC advices him to do so. The president retains an independent discretion to determine if and when to exercise that power.”


Albertins further pointed out that had the constitution framers intended the president to have no discretion to refuse to appoint judges recommended for appointment by the JSC, section 96(2) could simply have said that the president “must appoint judges recommended for appointment” (or indeed that the JSC has the power  to appoint. Section 96(2) says neither, he added.


He said in the papers that JSC has no physical building, staff or investigative capacity. He highlighted: “whilst it is a standing committee it does not have the power to investigate the background of nominees for appointment to the bench or to verify the truth or accuracy of the information provided by the applicants. Hence whilst candidates may be technically qualified they may still nevertheless not be suitable for appointment to the High Court.”


The papers posit that on the other hand the president has the investigative and advisory powers of the State available to him. “The organs of state at his disposal have the power to investigate the background of individual applicants and to verify the information provided by those applicants. The president may rely on advice of his own cabinet and may consult his own advisors.”


The appellants, LSB, represented by Advocate, Senior Counsel, Alec Freund from the onset differed with the state in terms of interpretation of section 96.2 of the constitution. Freund told court also in an oral submission of arguments session that “JSC selects a judge and the president should just approve. The president approves the judge that JSC has selected.”


He said, what is not in dispute at least is that the “president appoints” while adding that “but” it should be done in line with the recommendation of the JSC. According to Freund, the president should only rubberstamp the decision of the JSC. “President only has the power to say yes and not no. He should just act in instruction from the JSC.”


He maintained that the Executive should have no power in the judiciary so that the arms of government remain independent. “Once the president receives a recommendation from the JSC to appoint someone as a judge he must appoint. Yes he must just appoint. The constitution confers JSC to make the judges appointment.”  


In addition LSB, Motumise court papers further point out that the High Court should have adopted the universally settled meaning of the phrase “acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission” in section 96(2), taking into account the provision’s language, history and purpose.


“We submit that the ordinary meaning of the language of section 96(2) was that it imposed a duty on the president to act in accordance with the advice of the JSC by implementing its advice. If he refuses to make the appointment, he cannot sensibly be said to act in accordance with the JSC advice,” Freud stated in the papers.


He said that it is also clear from the history of section 96(2), as with all similarly worded commonwealth constitutions, that it was intended from the outset to vest the effective power appointment of High Court Judges in the JSC. The president’s role was a mere formality, he stated.


The Advocate highlighted that the purpose of the requirement that the president act in accordance with the advice by the JSC is to enhance the independence and standing of the judiciary entrusting the effective power of appointment to the JSC, a non-partisan and independent body of standing.


Another constitution section which was brought into sharp focus was section 47(2) which states that “in the exercise of any function conferred upon him by this Constitution or any other law the President shall, unless it is otherwise provided, act in his own deliberate judgment and shall not be obliged to follow the advice tendered by any other person or authority.”


According to the LSB heads of argument, section 96(2) clearly “provides otherwise” because it says in so many words that the president must act in accordance with the advice of the JSC. The society further stated that when appointments are done as per JSC recommendations, it instills a sense of confidence in the public as far as the independence in the appointment of judges and separation of powers is concerned – both of which are under heavy scrutiny from some quarters in the society.


At the end of the Appeal session, Lord Hamilton, who was sitting in for President of the Court of Appeal Ian Kirby – who was not present for unclear reasons – reserved judgement in the matter adding that it will be communicated in the sands of time.
Meanwhile, after rejecting Motumise to be a High Court judge as per JSC recommendation, Khama then moved swiftly to, instead of him (Motumise), appoint Zein Kebonang who is a twin brother to one of his cabinet minister under his government Sadique Kebonang.

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Gov’t has no budget for Magosi’s SADC chase

12th April 2021
Elias Magosi

Despite the government of Botswana’s ambition to have one of its own to lead Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) since its establishment in 1980, the Presidency says there is no budget specifically dedicated to the campaign.

The Government has released the name of Permanent Secretary to the President, Elias Mpedi Magosi, as the candidate for the SADC Executive Secretary position. Magosi is expected to face off with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) candidate, Faustin Mukela. The position will become vacant in August this year.

However, despite the optimism the Botswana Government has not yet set aside a budget to assist Magosi to win against the seemingly DRC giant. “We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the country’s ability to effectively fund any new project. This campaign is not an exception. As such, we do not have any budget for the campaign. However, we have so far managed to take advantage of His Excellency the President’s working visits to the neighbouring countries to also carry out the campaigns,” Press Secretary to the President, Batlhalefi Leagajang, explained.

Botswana has housed SADC since the establishment of the then SADCC in 1980, but has never occupied top most leadership positions at the SADC Secretariat.  “We therefore, strongly believe that we should also have an opportunity to contribute to the management of our regional body as it continues to drive the important issues of regional integration industrialization and socio-economic development.

This will also profile Botswana as a strong advocate of regional integration,” he responded to this publication’s questionnaire as to why the Government wants to occupy the plum post. SADC is a Member State driven organization. As such, Leagajang said, needs a well-grounded Executive Secretary with a blend of management and leadership acumen; a transformational leader with political awareness and integrity; private and public sector experience; a deep culture of corporate governance; as well as strategic agility and result-oriented consummate diplomat.

“These are the unique attributes of our candidate,” he said. So far President Mokgweetsi Masisi has visited nine out of 16 SADC member states on a working visit and also taking an opportunity to present to them his candidate.

“The countries have appreciated this effort and we remain hopeful. However, it is important to note that this is a democratic and competitive process which must be respected,” he responded when asked about the reception and assurances from various countries to cast a vote for Magosi.

In 2018, when Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi challenged for the Africa Union (AU) Chairperson, the government appointed former President Festus Mogae to be the campaign leader. Does the Government have anyone apart from Masisi to help with the campaign?

“The campaigns for the candidate are strictly led by the Government of Botswana. Since this is a candidate for Botswana, not just the Government, it will be appreciated if all Batswana, including the media, could also shoulder the responsibility to campaign for the candidate in their own spheres of influence,” Leagajang responded.

While there are sceptics on Magosi winning against the DRC man, the Government is confident and believes that with the unique traits that he possess, Magosi stands a chance. He is said to be a strong advocate of justice and fairness as he has played this role in his current role as PSP and in his previous roles as PS and in the private sector. He has helped individuals and companies to find justice and fairness in most of their dealings with Government.

Magosi is also said to be a proponent of corporate governance and which he has relentlessly pursued in most of his career including in Government and other sectors. A strong believer in following laid down procedures and laws. “He carries a variety of skills as an HR expert with experience in different sectors, a strategist and an Organization development specialist.

His experience and exposure spans government, parastatal, private sector and at regional level as well, thus making him a suitable candidate for the regional role. He has worked with governments, businesses, development partners and politicians and is comfortable navigating through all of them,” Leagajang concluded.

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Mzwinila’s P4.3 Billion gamble to keep water flowing

12th April 2021
orth-South-Carrier

The Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Kefentse Mzwinila looked a politician set to shoot the moon as he laid bare his billions of pula development agenda recently in Parliament.

His Ministry’s combined Recurrent and Development Budget Proposals for the 2021/ 2022 Financial Year is pegged at Four Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty – Five Million, two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P4, 365, 219, 560). This is a budget 38.3% more than the allocation for the 2020/2021 Financial Year.

Mzwinila preluded his request to parliament with a demonstration that his Ministry has no champagne taste on a beer budget – indicating that his ministry’s expenditure at the end of February 2021P2.111 Billion or 96% of development budget; and P910 million or 90% of the recurrent budget.

Notwithstanding the budget dust, the Minister justified this year’s increase in the Ministry’s total budget. He attributed the escalation to the commencement of major projects under the water sector. These include the implementation of the North South Carrier (NSC) 22.2 covering various sub projects. Mzwinila noted that these are all public value projects which are aimed at improving the lives of Batswana.

Mzwinila’s Ministry has projected that the sum of Nine Hundred and Sixty –Three Million, Nine Hundred and Forty – Seven Thousand, Five Hundred and Sixty Pula (P963, 947, 560) be permitted for the Recurrent Budget and stand part of the 2021 / 2022 Appropriation Bill ( No. 1 of 2021).

“55% of the Recurrent Budget is geared towards the Revenue Support Grant for 12 Land Boards and their subordinate authorities while the sum of P5 Million is allocated to the Real Estate Advisory Council (REAC). The remaining 44% is proposed for the Ministry Departments.”

The sum of Three Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Two hundred and Seventy –Two Thousand Pula (P3, 401, 272, 000), for the Development Budget was approved and stand part of the same schedule of the appropriation (2021/2022).

When breaking down the Development Budget, Minister Mzwinila noted that Water Supply and Sanitation projects will account for P1.098 Billion to finance the Maun Water and Sanitation project, Molepolole Sanitation projects and the Shakawe Water Treatment Plant Rehabilitation.

With all the implementation bottlenecks troubling several projects in the country, Mzwinila had to satisfy the question of whether his Ministry demonstrated a dire need for the budget with reference to its execution of the budget for the financial year 2020/2021 and its delivery of strategic initiatives and projects?

Mzwinila’s pitch found favour with parliament and his ministry will get an aggregate budget of P3.198 Billion for the 2020/ 2021 Financial Year. Within this allocation, P2.188 Billion is for the Development Budget and P1.010 Billion will cover the Recurrent Budget.

The Minister revealed his strategic interventions for land management, water and sanitation services. Highlighting that efforts by Government to provide serviced residential land to citizens on the waiting list are being hampered by limited resources. He shared that his ministry needs P94 Billion to cover such costs which will directly link to water, sewage, roads, electricity, telecommunications and storm water drainage leading to the allocation of 4 587 plots on un-serviced land.

The minister projected that 22 952 un-serviced residential plots are planned to be allocated in the next financial year. However, there is a trend where allocated land remains fallow and undeveloped which raises misgivings that the requests could have been made on speculative plans.

Mzwinila noted that in the spirit of forging stronger International connections, the Ministry will in June 2021 sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Land matters between Namibia and Botswana with the aim of opening doors to the creation of Dry Ports in the country, facilitate international trade through Walvis Bay Sea Port.

Botswana is already challenged by scarcity of naturally occurring water resources due to the aridity of the country creating persistent water shortages. The type of infrastructure required to improve national water security is a true reflection of intensive investment needed in the water sector The Minister stressed.

“An emerging issue such as the COVID -19 pandemic poses serious challenges as the control of the virus requires reliable water supply. In an effort to mitigate the challenge, the Ministry has undertaken extensive bowsing throughout the country which included the provision of additional capacity for supplementary bowsing to areas with pervasive water shortages, plus an additional forty one (41) un-gazetted settlements.

Operational costs due to bowsing were at an average of P6 Million per month before the COVID-19 pandemic and increased to an unsustainable amount of the order of P13 Million per month, since the beginning of the State of Emergency in April 2020,” the minister shared.

Through the support of a World Bank Loan, the Ministry is implementing several initiatives under the Botswana Emergency Water Security and Efficiency (BEWSE) project. Through BEWSE the Raw Water Pricing and Abstraction Strategy will assess the pricing of water in a manner that enables the provision of water to support new economic development, the strategy is planned to be completed in June 2021.

The Ministry has commenced the development of a long term National Water Security Strategy to improve resilience to climate change impacts. The strategy development entails prioritization of the proposed future mega water transfers such as the Chobe – Zambezi water transfer, the Atlantic Ocean water transfer to Botswana through Namibia and Lesotho – Botswana water transfer.

Following the signing of the tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa in November 2017 for the Lesotho –Botswana Water Transfer project, a 24 months contract for a combined prefeasibility and feasibility study for the development of a bankable Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer project feasibility study was signed and is to be completed in 2022.

One of the Ministry’s famous major water supply projects such as the North South Carrier (NSC) 2.2 has experienced hiccups; having tenders for contract 1 (Masama to Mmamashia Pipeline) and Contract 2 (Mahalapye to Masama Pipeline) cancelled due to budgetary constraints.

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Will Botswana’s Climate Change policy climax?

12th April 2021
Botswana Climate

The Botswana Climate Change policy draft of 2021 was tabled in Parliament by the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng for consideration and adoption.

The policy attempts to indicate the country’s environmentally conscious development agenda as Substantial resources are being dedicated to research and policy efforts to mitigate climate change and support adaptation to the current and future impacts of greenhouse gas emissions.

Kereng indicated that Botswana is not immune to the impacts of climate change and it continues to delay the country’s national development efforts and that the key economic development sectors dependent on the climate system have recorded declines over the years due to the variability of the rainfall and other climatic conditions. Experts elsewhere have pointed out that lack of consideration of population dynamics hampers the development of stronger, more effective solutions to the challenges climate change poses – hopefully this policy if effectively implemented could partly answer this question.

Kereng underscored that sectors such as agriculture, water, bio diversity, health and tourism have suffered the most and the consequences of these have contributed significantly to the decline of livelihoods in Botswana especially in rural areas.

To respond to the changing climate, Botswana has embarked on sectoral reform such as climate smart agriculture, poverty alleviation initiatives, building resilience on the economic productive sectors, diversification of tourism for the improvement of livelihoods and income generation, local economic development and sustainable environment.

The efforts require a coordinated mechanism that will provide an enabling environment for an integrated approach to the formulation and implantation of development plans and socio economic related policies in Botswana that are responsive to the changing climatic conditions.

Minister Kereng explained the draft policy is characterized by an inclusive and integrated approach to social, economic development and governance modalities that would enable the country to achieve a sustainable development pathway. It provides opportunities for improved livelihoods through creation of green jobs, development and transfer of relevant technologies as well as creation and ease of access to both local and international markets. It also commits the government, private sector and non-state actors to adopt adaptation and mitigation measures that would facilitate sustainability and building of resilience of all sectors.

While Members of Parliament were trying to comprehend the policy, this publication got in touch with Green Botswana to solicit their views on the policy draft. Ms. Sela Motshwane, the Founder of the Trust highlighted that “the Climate Change policy was meant to be read in August 2019. It is long overdue, and we all need to see it and understand it in full.

I understand the current budget does not allow for a full implementation- but I could be wrong. More funds could have been allocated since. I think generally, Batswana need to understand fully what this means to our daily lives. I believe the true understanding is by policy drafters and the Ministry of Environment only.”

In the same vein, Green Botswana Trust took to the streets to provide a community solution to climate change on World Health Day (Wednesday). Green Botswana held a “Free Trees for Babies” at Extension 2 Clinic where fruit trees were gifted to parents, expectant mothers, 25 health workers, police officers and the prison officers who had accompanied prisoners to the clinic.

Motshwane said: “The decision to do the “Free Trees for Babies” by gifting fruit trees was to raise awareness to our imminent food security issue as stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Mr. Thabang Botshoma and encourage the general public to plant a tree so that we can reach our SGD Goal 13 : Climate Action. The trees gifted are to be named after the baby recipient”.

Green Botswana is calling for the urgent action from government and members of the public to create a culture of community accountability and collegiality in moving Botswana towards climate action and sustainability. To achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement Pledge, it will take all citizens and not just the government to reach goals.

Parliament resolved to adopt the Botswana Climate Change Policy, 2021.

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