Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Chairman Mokgweetsi Masisi’s bid to defend the chairmanship faces setback in North West region following his team’s decision to drop former Cabinet Minister Jacob Nkate. A recent visit to the area has revealed to the Masisi team that Nkate has a lot of loyal backers in the region.
Information gathered by this publication indicates that activists in region are not happy with a swift coup which left the former party Secretary General in the wilderness. North West region remains one of the few structures which Nkate has a strong grip on. The Masisi camp is worried that they need the numbers since Nonofo Molefhi has proved to be a strong contender in this race.
Nkate served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Ngami from 1994-2009 and was once an influential member of both President Festus Mogae and President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s cabinet. A factionalist at heart, Nkate rose to the ranks in 2003, after being elected Deputy Secretary General and ascended to the Secretary General position in 2007 following Daniel Kwelagobe’s retirement.
Masisi camp dumped Nkate after he revealed his plans to challenge Masisi for the presidency of the ruling BDP at the party’s special congress expected in early 2019. This annoyed Masisi’s supporters and they had to quickly replace him with Mpho Balopi in the slate. Nkate has since declared that he is an independent BDP candidate for the position of secretary general at the upcoming BDP elective congress expected to be held during the first week of July.
Meanwhile this publication has also been informed that Vice President Masisi has failed to endear Mpho Balopi to the region because the latter is accused of plotting Nkate’s down fall. Balopi, who served as BDP Secretary General from 2011 – 2015 was the man who facilitated a cooperation which saw Nkate giving up his chairmanship ambition to contest the Secretary General position instead, under Masisi camp.
Weekend Post has it on good authority that Balopi had met secretly with Nkate several times before sealing an agreement but the deal fell through when after Nkate announced that he may challenge Masisi for the presidency in 2019 if the need arises. “The idea that I have a deal with Masisi and that he will make me vice president is not true. No deal like that exists,’ he denied and added that, “Upon arriving in a country from Japan, I thought let me hear what the situation is on the ground and my conclusion was that maybe I should support him so that I do not cause too much disruptions in my party. And then we can take it from there. If between now and 2019, me and Masisi do not agree, my rights are on the table. All the options are on the table.”
Balopi reportedly convinced Masisi to drop Nkate following the utterances regarding his presidential ambitions. The news of Nkate’s removal was delivered by Balopi himself, telling the former ambassador to Japan that “he is now on his own.” A source close to the developments revealed that when Masisi was approached by some of North West activist sympathetic to Nkate at the Woman Wing Congress held in Maun three weeks ago, and he distanced himself from the decision to drop Nkate. “Masisi told them that the idea of bringing Nkate to his team was facilitated by Balopi, including the decision to drop him from the team,” he revealed.
Balopi has however told this publication that he has not met the councillors or the North West region itself so far but revealed that he has been talking with individuals that he has always known from his time as party Secretary General. “I do not understand the issue of Nkate being dropped. He is still a member of BDP and has the right to contest for any position he wishes to,” he said.
“It is also the democratic right of BDP members to support whoever they wish to support but we will continue soliciting for support from party structures. Perhaps what you could be asking Nkate is whether he support Masisi, and if Masisi support him.” Nkate has however decided to soldier on and will take Mpho Balopi head on, now as his rival. Nkate also faces frontrunner, Botsalo Ntuane, who is the incumbent and Philp Makgalemele of Nonofho Molefhi camp.
Nkate’s removal from Masisi’s camp has seen him suffering major setback given the factor that he has not been in the party politics for a long time. Nkate has been inactive since losing his parliamentary seat in 2009 until the beginning of this year after returning from Japan. Although Nkate has insisted on contesting the Secretary General position he has been advised to consider resorting to Additional Member position in order for him to have a seat in the central committee. Nkate has remained steadfast in his bid for Secretary General position.
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.
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.