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Botswana, UK clash on key human rights issues

The United Kingdom (UK) and Botswana’s divergence on key elements of human rights may expose the vulnerability of the countries in as far as straining relations between the two is concerned, this publication can reveal.


Botswana is a former protectorate of Britain and does not only enjoy shared bilateral relations and values to date, but are also both members of the commonwealth. WeekendPost understands that the UK and most of the western countries have deep reservations about some countries’, Botswana included, reluctance to abolish death penalty and de-criminalise homosexual acts. In Botswana homosexuality is illegal as espoused in the country’s significant legal instrument, the Penal Code.


Penal Code section 164 states that “any person who (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; (b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or (c) permits any other person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.”


In an interview with WeekendPost this week in Gaborone, the British High Commissioner in Botswana, Kate Ransome stated firmly that homosexuality should not be discriminated against in the legislations and laws of Botswana. “The penal code criminalises homosexual acts, and being a homosexual itself is not a crime in Botswana. That’s a very important distinction. So for somebody to be homosexual and discriminated against is, under the law of the country, illegal,” she pointed out as the interview slowly took pace.   


She said in the UK homosexuality was decriminalised in the 60’s. She explained that the not so long ago Court of Appeal judgement has made it very unambiguous in a case between Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) and the government of Botswana on what the law says and making the gay organisation eligible for registration as per the law. This, the British High Commissioner believes was a milestone for minority human rights in Botswana.


“It says everyone has human rights. It doesn’t differentiate. In other sense everybody have human rights. And it’s about looking at those human rights and making sure that people don’t violate and discriminate those with various differences,” she further pointed out.  
She said the rule of law is being upheld for them and that she thinks it’s the same thing for this country adding that they want to make sure that those rights are being respected and not discriminated against and that there is no violence on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation.


“Working with LEGABIBO was about helping people understand their own lives, and making sure that they are not discriminated against in their own constitution. They have rights as citizens of this country and we want to make sure that their rights are respected, not discriminated against or suffering violence. We contribute to promoting rights of all individuals as the constitution of the country maintains.”


The constitution of the country points out in section 3 that “whereas every person in Botswana is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, that is to say, the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest to each and all of the following, namely— (a) life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law; (b) freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association; and (c) protection for the privacy of his home and other property and from deprivation of property without compensation.


The section continues: “the provisions of this Chapter shall have effect for the purpose of affording protection to those rights and freedoms subject to such limitations of that protection as are contained in those provisions, being limitations designed to ensure that the enjoyment of the said rights and freedoms by any individual does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others or the public interest.”

Every country can choose whether to maintain death penalty but…


The UK British High Commissioner said that her country, the UK abolished the death penalty some time ago. “We did that because we didn’t feel that it actually served us any real purpose anymore, and it didn’t act as a deterrent or necessarily fulfil the justice I suppose in it, so for us in the UK we abolished the death penalty.” She however highlighted that it’s obviously for each country to decide for themselves on whether it wants to maintain the death penalty or not.


Ideally, she insisted that she would want to live in a world where the death penalty is not being practised. “I think it needs to be clear about the death penalty, so I think each country has to make a decision in line with their justice system but obviously we do encourage countries to question if they need the death penalty anymore and to look into having more moratoriums when carrying out executions.”


On Khama having being born in the UK..


The current President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama was born in 1953 at  HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chertsey" o "Chertsey" Chertsey, Surrey, UK during the period in which his father Sir Seretse Khama (first President of Botswana) was in exile due to the antagonism by the colonial government in Botswana and the emergent apartheid regime in   South Africa to his marriage to a white woman, Ruth Williams who was a British national.


Ransome commented that she was not sure if the president being born in her country of origin would make any difference in how they interact. “I mean his role is to lead Botswana and represent Botswana, and I think it is what he does just like any head of State do for their countries. So I think where he is born and grew up is irrelevant in that respect for us,” she said about Khama.  


On the long serving Botswana High Commissioner to the UK Roy Blackbeard..


Prior to his long diplomatic position, Roy Warren Blackbeard had worked for De Beers and Price Waterhouse Coopers before he became a Member of the National Assembly of Botswana in 1989, representing the then Serowe North under the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) banner.


He later served as the Assistant Minister for Agriculture in 1992 and the Minister in 1994, which he held until 1997; in 1998, he abruptly left parliament paving way for Bangwato paramount Chief Ian Khama who has just been recruited from the Botswana Defence Force where he served as Commander, to represent the constituency at his royal home village Serowe.


Blackbeard was subsequently appointed the High Commissioner in London, the position he served since 1998 to date. This has subsequently sparked debate on why he has served that long, unlike other ambassadors and High Commisioners. Observers believe Blackbeard is likely to come home after the end of term for Khama as president. The British Commissioner treaded carefully when asked of the developments, instead pointing out that it’s not really for her to say whether how long a High Commissioner should be sent to other countries.


“Different countries do it differently. There are many High Commissioners and ambassadors at the UK, some serve for a short time and some serve many years. We welcome all of them and we enjoy working with all of them,” she said cautiously. However, when pressed further she added “I am here worrying about my work and I am sure he (Blackbeard) takes instructions from his Ministry and the President and he delivers what they want; that’s his role, that’s the role of a Head of a Mission, you follow instructions from governments and Head of State of the day and to deliver them on behalf of their country.”  


On BREXIT and impact on Botswana…


Following a referendum last year in June in which the Britons voted in a closely contested referendum to leave EU, last week the UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50. An official British government website indicates that a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill was published, setting out the Government’s approach to converting existing EU law into domestic law on the day UK leaves the EU. It is said that the paper aims to give maximum legal certainty for businesses, workers and investors and sets out how the Great Repeal Bill will deliver a smooth and orderly exit.


This process is said will ensure that the same rules and laws will apply after the UK leaves the EU as they did before, from the moment UK leaves. After the UK has left the EU and sovereignty has returned to the UK Parliament, it will be able to decide which elements of law to keep change or repeal.


Ransome said last week that “today is quite a momentous time because it’s the day that Prime Minister triggered the treaties that allow UK to leave EU. So that’s what has been going on today in Bruxels.” She said as per UK Prime Minister’s statement, leaving EU is about being more global, being more open to the world. “Our future impacts in future relations with the UK do not affect relations with countries outside the EU as she spoke with that we will reinvigorate and build relations with countries even inside Europe. We want to engage more globally.”


According to her, the UK is hosting the commonwealth, next year in 2018 (in Britain), she said they want to see relations being invigorated, delivering for the members or the people of the commonwealth nations. “And that will include looking at the range of issues including skills development and it’s the kind of change that would benefit Botswana,” she said.

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Botswana’s development agenda in jeopardy

21st September 2020
Botswana’s-development-agenda-in-jeopardy--water-construction

Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.

The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.

The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh

The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.

It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.

The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.

Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.

Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.

For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.

Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.

The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.

The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.

In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.

This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.

The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.

These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.

Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.

Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.

According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.

It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.

Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.

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OP leases Orapa House

21st September 2020
Orapa House

Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.

For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.

However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”

The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.

“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.

These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.

“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.

With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.

The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.

Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.

The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.

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Sad state of Brigades: dumped and ignored!

21st September 2020
Brigades

Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.

In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.

According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.

Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.

Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.

Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.

It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.

The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.

Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.

Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.

This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.

The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.

The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.

After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.

At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.

The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.

A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.

Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”

Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.

At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019.  It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.

In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.

“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.

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