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Ntuane sets tone for compromise

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General Botsalo Ntunae is thinking of persuading the two party chairmanship contestants to consider brokering a deal that will see them not contesting against each other in a bid to preserve unity ahead of 2019 general elections.

With rivalry between supporters of Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Cabinet Minister Nonofo Molefhi growing by the day, Ntuane fears that if the party does not intervene and a compromise is reached, the Congress aftermath could hurt the party badly. “One of the resolutions that came out of the 2016 special congress in Mogoditshane is that the party should strive to promise consensus/ compromise in every contest within the party for the purpose of promoting unity,” Ntuane told WeekendPost.

“I am saying let us put the party first. I have been in this game for too long, I have seen it all; I know the damage that lobby groups can bring to the party. Already there are groups forming around the two chairmanship contestants.” Ntuane said not only will the party be divided in the run up to Tonota Congress; its aftermath will also spill into primary elections and general elections where party members will fight and de-campaign each other to the benefit of the opposition.

Ntuane is proposing that maybe Molefhi should consider giving up his chairmanship ambitions and allow Masisi to contest the position of chairman unchallenged. In return, he will make way for Molefhi to contest the position of party secretary general and will support  him.
“I am ready to sacrifice my current position for the sake of the party. We need to do this because divisions might worsen and we are faced with more challenges than ever,” he said.  

‘All I am saying let us begin to have a conversation on consensus because it is something that will benefit the party and strengthen it.” The former Barataphathi stalwart has implored his colleagues to lend an ear to his proposal because he has seen the factional battle since his formative years in the party during the era of the late former Vice President Peter Mmusi and Lt Gen Mompati Merafhe  of the Big Two and Big Five factions. And he was at the thick of the things when the party split after Kanye Congress.

“When I say let us consider compromise I know what I am talking about. I have seen political careers being destroyed, party losing constituencies it was not suppose to lose all in the name of factions,” he said. “When we went for Mmadinare Congress in 2015, I took deliberate decision not to contest under any lobby list. I contested as an individual and won. I did that because I know factions will never help the party in the long run. The only thing that factions bring at the end is tears even for the  so-called winners.”

Ntuane received the highest number of votes a single person has ever recorded in recent years in BDP Central Committee elections. He beat Barataphathi erstwhile strategist Gus Matlhabaphiri with 724 votes while the latter got paltry 180 votes. Ntuane opined that what even makes it imperative for BDP to consider a compromise is the fact that the party is managing a transition something which he said should be handled with care. Secondly, Ntuane is of the view that a united opposition presents a serious threat to BDP’s stay in power.    

‘We should not just dismiss them. The fact that they are experiencing instability does not mean that they do not stand a chance against us. We should be strong and united to beat them. If we are divided, we will go to the general elections weaker,” he said. The former BDP Executive Secretary has dismissed suggestion that he is offering his post to Molefhi because he does not have enough support on the ground.

‘Look I just want peace; I have done enough fighting in my career. Remember I am the incumbent, and I was voted with the highest number in the last congress. If I choose to go ahead and contest, again shunning lobby lists I will win,” he said confidently. Ntuane is only second to Daniel Kwelagobe in the current BDP central committee when it comes to experience. Ntuane became a member of Central Committee at the age of 24 in 1995 following the Mogoditshane Congress. He served in the Central Committee while he was still a student at University of Botswana.   

In 1996 he was given a post at Tsholetsa as Political Officer, and the following year, he was appointed the party’s Executive Secretary, the position he held until 2004 when he was appointed Specially Elected Member of Parliament. “I have seen many political careers beginning and ending.  I have been witness to transitions and in my generation; I know BDP more intimately than anyone  so much so that  I am actively thinking of writing  a book  on my experiences,’ he contended.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

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.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022

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.

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