All factors remaining constant, Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi is expected to ascend to the Presidency next year April, and like a natural occurrence, this has motivated ambition among some Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) cabinet ministers who wish to become Vice Presidents next at the time.
A demonstration that a completely new dispensation is coming resonates in the Vice President wish list that has some surprising names, including but not limited to Slumber Tsogwane, Shaw Kgathi, Samson Guma Moyo, and Eric Molale. All these four individuals are serving or have served in Cabinet. As these names are suggested as potential candidates, some within the BDP are quick to dismiss it as a “joke” or “flattery”. But by the look of things, there is credence in the reverberations.
Insiders point to the fact that the ongoing battle for the control of the ruling party is far bigger than the central committee positions. The current axis within the ruling party have nothing to do with the dismembered A Team and Barata Phathi factions, but rather personalized battles for survival as well as the general interest of saving the party beyond 2019. The bigger price could be the Presidency come 2019.
Masisi will definitely pick his Vice President from the current crop of Members of Parliament of his ruling party, at least for the period between April 1st and the 2019 general election. Insiders further indicate that the Masisi battalion is of view that the Vice Presidential pick should be a permanent appointment that can go beyond 2019 elections – they do not necessarily fancy a stop gap appointment for the period between April 2018 and 2019 elections – “why waste time?”, that is the question they are pushing.
This push however eliminates Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Eric Molale who currently has no constituency. For a Vice President, one must be an elected Member of Parliament, Molale was Specially Elected by President Khama and his bid to get the public vote hit a snag when he was hammered by Barolong paramount chief, Kgosi Lotlaamoreng II.
Those close to Molale point out that he remains hopeful because he still harbours the interest to contest the Goodhope-Mabule constituency in 2019. Molale, a former permanent secretary to the president under former President Dr Festus Mogae and recently President Khama is not a popular figure within the ruling party. The fact that he struggled to against Lotlaamoreng in the bye-election sealed his fate in the party circles – all that remains is just his personal ambition.
Slumber Tsogwane’s motivation arises on a stop gap basis according to those close to the script. He is seen as a man who would not hurt a fly and would not want to cling to the position post 2019 election. However his short term ambition works against the agenda of the influential figures within the Masisi brigade who want a permanent appointment on the assumption that the BDP is winning the 2019 general election – “Why waste time?” is the question. But Tsogwane is said to be definitely on Masisi’s side and he is seen as a non-offensive figure who could be trusted to hold fort temporarily.
Shaw Khathi is the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, a very senior ministry under President Lt gen Dr Ian Khama. He is a member of the central committee, serving as the deputy secretary general and chairing one of the critical sub committees of the party – communications and international relations. Kgathi is a key member of the Khama cabinet and is in the good books of Vice President Masisi.
All these factors are said to have pushed his anxiety levels when it comes to the Vice Presidential race – the lobbying is on over drive. He fits both ways, at stop gap and permanent appointment because he has a constituency and he is confident he will get a return ticket from the Bobonong voters in 2019. Insiders say his fate will be decided by the BDP members at the July congress where he intends to defend his position of deputy secretary general.
Interesstingly Tati East Member of Parliament, Samson Guma Moyo is seen as the real contender for the Vice Presidency post. Moyo is one of the known backers of Masisi, he catapulted the current Vice President to chairmanship at the last congress, bankrolling most of the campaign.
Moyo, a former chairman of the party himself who resigned unceremoniously before his term expired, is also an ambitious and calculative politician. Some inside the BDP believe that he is helping Masisi as a way of creating a fertile ground for himself when it comes to the Vice Presidency. BDP people speculate that Moyo could be having presidential ambitions beyond Masisi. At some point the Tati East legislator wanted to sponsor a Private Member’s Bill on Direct Election of the President, a law that would potentially widen the net for Presidential aspirations.
MOLEFHI’S “SYMPATHISERS” LEFT OUT
There is no doubt that Selibe Phikwe East Member of Parliament, who is also Minister of Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Nonofo Molefhi has his own legion of supporters and well wishers within the party. He has expressed interest to challenge for the position of chairman of the BDP, a decision that pits him directly against Vice President Mokweetsi Masisi who intends to defend the chairmanship. Molefhi is seen or was seen as a potential Vice President pick under President Khama and futuristically under Masisi.
But insiders say his decision to challenge for chairmanship has scuttled his chances unless Masisi finds the strength that Khama drew out to appoint former Vice President Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe who had challenged him for chairmanship of the party before. Tshekedi Khama is well known for his outspokenness and had expressed interest in standing for chairmanship and leadership of the BDP, but he has not acted, at least for now, on his ambitions yet. Because of his name and relation with the President, Tshekedi is seen as a potential leader within the party but political correctness has cast doubt on his ambitions. Indications are that both camps need his endorsement to score further points at the July congress. There is also no doubt that he remains a key figure in making the king or becoming one himself in the short to medium term.
Dorcas Makgato is expected to retain her position as chairperson of the BDP Women’s Wing at the weekend. Makgato, who is Member of Parliament for Sefhare-Ramokgonami and Minister of Health and Wellness has dug deep and solidified her political standing. Her name has always been pronounced along the Vice Presidential debate ever since she joined politics but her detractors have smeared her name and associated her with those who are against Vice President Masisi.
In an attempt to further push her down the abyss there was a lobby to motivate Francistown Mayoress, Sylviah Muzila to challenge her for the chairmanship of the BDP Youth Wing but she declined. Makgato is seen as opinionated and not afraid to say her mind on the state of the party and government. She is seen much a Molefhi sympathizer – her chance rests with the July congress.
Dr Venson-Moitoi recently returned from a bruising battle at the African Union Commission where she sought to become the Commission’s chairperson. Some within the BDP saw her as a potential Vice President, especially five years ago. But the assumption that she is not coming back to Parliament after the 2019 general election could rule her out of the ongoing lobby. As for the stop gap appointment – which is the only shot she has at Vice Presidency in the short time – Masisi’s supporters still ask the question, “why waste time?”. But she remains the best candidate for the period between April 2018 and 2019 general election date because she will be exiting the active political scene.
Phillip Makgalemele has ambitions for Vice Presidency and he could be lobbying somehow. He has served as junior Minister at the then Ministry of Presidential Affairs and Public Administratio but his cold war with Molale saw him shipped to a different Ministry. The Shoshong Member of Parliament is not one to shy away from demonstrating his capability; he is expected to stake his claim albeit at a moderated dose.
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.