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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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Civil Service volatility: Democracy vs Bureaucracy

19th April 2021
President Masisi

Here is how one Permanent Secretary encapsulates the clear tension between democracy and bureaucracy in Botswana: “President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s Government is behaving like a state surrounded with armed forces in order to capture it or force its surrender. The situation has turned so volatile, for tomorrow is not guaranteed for us top civil servants.

These are the painful results of a personalized civil service in our view as permanent secretaries”. Although his deduction of the situation may be summed as sour grapes because he is one of the ‘victims’ of the reshuffle, he is convinced this is a perfect description of the rationale behind frequent changes and transfers characterising the current civil service.

The result of it all, he said, is that “there is too much instability at managerial and strategic levels of the civil service leading to a noticeable directionless civil service.” He continued: “Changes and transfers are inevitable in the civil service, but to a permissible scale and frequency. Think of soccer team coach who changes and transfers his entire squad every month; you know the consequences?”

The Tsunami has hit hard at critical departments and Ministries leaving a strong wave of uncertainty, many demoralised and some jobless. In traditional approaches to public administration, democracy gives the goals; and bureaucracy delivers the technical efficiency required for implementation. But the recent moves in the civil service are indicative of conflicting imperatives – the notion of separation between politicians and administrators is becoming blurred by the day.

“Look at what happened to Prisons and BDF where second in command were overlooked for outsiders, and these are the people who had sacrificially served for donkey’s years hoping for a seat at the ladder’s end. The frequency of the changes, at times affecting the same Ministry or individual also demonstrates some level of ineptitude, clumsiness and lack of foresight from those in charge,” remarked the PS who added that their view is that the transfers are not related to anything but “settling scores, creating corruption opportunities and pushing out perceived dissident and former president, Ian Khama’s alleged loyalists and most of these transfers are said to be products of intelligence detection.”

Partly blaming Khama for the mess and his unwillingness to let go, the PS dismissed Masisi for falling to the trap and failing to outgrow the destructive tiff. “Khama is here to stay and the sooner Masisi comes to terms with the fact that he (Masisi) is the state President, the better. For a President to still be making these changes and transfers signals signs of a confused man who has not yet started rolling his roadmap, if at all it was ever there. I am saying this because any roadmap comes with key players and policies,” he concluded.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness seems to be the most hard-hit by the transfers, having experienced three Permanent Secretaries changes within a year and a half. Insiders say the changes have everything to do with the Ministry being the centre of COVID-19 tenders and economic opportunities. “The buck stops with the PS and no right-thinking PS can just allow glaring corruption under his watch as an accounting officer. Technocrats are generally law abiding, the pressure comes with politically appointed leaders racing against political terms to loot,” revealed a director in the Ministry preferring anonymity.

The latest transfer of Kabelo Ebineng she says was also motivated by his firm attitude against the President’s blue-eyed Task Team boys. “The Task Team wants to own the COVID-19 pandemic and government interventions and always cry foul when the Ministry reasserts itself as mandated by law,” said the director who added that Masisi who was always caught between the crossfire decided on sacrificing Ebineng to the joy of his team as they (Task Team) were in the habit of threatening to resign citing Ebineng as the problem.

Ebineng joins the Office of the President as a deputy Coordinator (government implementation and coordination office).The incoming PS is the soft-spoken Grace Muzila, known and described by her close associates as a conformist albeit knowledgeable.

One of the losers in the grand scheme is Thato Raphaka who many had seen as the next PSP because of his experience and calm demeanour following a declaration of interest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretary post by the current PSP, Elias Magosi.

But hardly ten months into his post, Raphaka has been transferred out to the National Strategy Office in what many see as a demotion of some sort. Other notable changes coming into OP are Pearl Ramokoka formerly with the Employment, Labour and Productivity Ministry coming in as a Permanent Secretary and Kgomotso Abi as director of Public Service Reforms.

One of the ousted senior officers in the Office of the President warned that there are no signs that the changes and transfers will stop anytime soon: “If you are observant you would have long noticed that the changes don’t only affect senior officers but government decisions as well. A decision is made today and the government backtracks on it within a week. Not only that, the President says this today, and his deputy denies it the following day in Parliament,” he warned.

Some observers have blamed the turmoil in the civil service partly to lack of accountable presidential advisers or kitchen cabinet properly schooled on matters of statecraft. They point out that politicians or those peripheral to them should refrain from hampering the technical and organizational activities of public managers – or else the party (reshuffling) won’t stop.

In the view expressed by some Permanent Secretaries, Elias Magosi, has not really been himself since joining the civil service; and has cut a picture of indifference in most critical engagements; the most notable been a permanent secretaries platform which he chairs. As things stand there is need to reconcile the imperatives of democracy and democracy in Botswana. Peace will rein only when public value should stand astride the fault that runs between politicians and public managers.

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Morupisi fights for freedom in court

19th April 2021
morupisi

Former Permanent Secretary to the President, Carter Morupisi, is fighting for survival in a matter in which the State has charged him and his wife, Pinnie Morupisi, with corruption and money laundering.

Morupisi has joined a list of prominent figures that served in the previous administration and who have been accused of corruption during their tenure in office. While others have been emerging victorious, Morupisi is yet to find that luck. The High Court recently dismissed his no case to answer application.

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Pressure mounts on Biden to suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents

19th April 2021
Joe Biden

United States President, Joe Biden, is faced with a decision to make relating to the Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property after 175 former world leaders and Nobel laurates joined the campaign urging the US to take “urgent action” to suspend intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines to help boost global inoculation rates.

According to the world leaders, doing so would allow developing countries to make their own copies of the vaccines that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies without fear of being sued for intellectual property infringements.

“A WTO waiver is a vital and necessary step to bringing an end to this pandemic. It must be combined with ensuring vaccine know-how and technology is shared openly,” the signatories, comprising more than 100 Nobel prize-winners and over 70 former world leaders, wrote in a letter to US President Joe Biden, according to Financial Times.

A measure to allow countries to temporarily override patent rights for Covid related medical products was proposed at the World Trade Organization by India and South Africa in October, and has since been backed by nearly 60 countries.

Former leaders who signed the letter included Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister; François Hollande, former French President; Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the USSR; and Yves Leterme, former Belgian Prime Minister.

In their official communication, South Africa and India said: “As new diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for Covid-19 are developed, there are significant concerns [about] how these will be made available promptly, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices to meet global demand.”

While developed countries have been able to secure enough vaccine to inoculate their citizens, developing countries such as Botswana are struggling to source enough to swiftly vaccine their citizens, something which world leaders believe it would work against global recovery therefore proving counter-productive.

Since the availability of vaccines, Botswana has been able to secure only 60 000 doses of vaccines, 30 000 as donation as from the Indian government, while the other 30 000 was sourced through COVAX facility.  Canada, has pre-ordered vaccines in surplus and it will be able to vaccinate each of its citizens six times over. In the UK and US, it is four vaccines per person; and two each in the EU and Australia.

For vaccines produced in Europe, developing countries are forced to pay double what European countries are paying, making it more expensive for already financially struggling economies.  European countries however justify the price of vaccines and that they deserve to buy them cheap since they contributed in their development.

It is evident that vaccines cannot be made available immediately to all countries worldwide with wealthy economies being the only success story in that regard, something that has been referred to as a “catastrophic moral failure”, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The challenge facing developing countries is not only the price, but also the capacity of vaccine manufactures to be able to do so to meet global demand within a short time. The proposal for a patent waiver by India and South Africa has been rejected by developed countries, known for hosting the world leading pharmaceutical companies such US, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to the Financial Times, US business groups including pharmaceutical industry representatives, have urged Biden to resist supporting a waiver to IP rules at the WTO, arguing that the proposal led by India and South Africa was too “vague” and “broad”.

The individuals who signed the letter, including Nobel laureates in economics as well as from across the arts and sciences, warned that inequitable vaccine access would impact the global economy and prevent it from recovering.

“The world saw unprecedented development of safe and effective vaccines, in major part thanks to US public investment,” the group wrote. “We all welcome that vaccination rollout in the US and many wealthier countries is bringing hope to their citizens.”

“Yet for the majority of the world that same hope is yet to be seen. New waves of suffering are now rising across the globe. Our global economy cannot rebuild if it remains vulnerable to this virus.”
The group warned that fully enforcing IP was “self-defeating for the US” as it hindered global vaccination efforts. “Given artificial global supply shortages, the US economy already risks losing $1.3tn in gross domestic product this year.”

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