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Tshekedi activated judges, Khama ceasefire

Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama is said to be the long time architecture of a reconciliation reached this week between President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama and the four suspended Judges of the High Court.

It is understood that Tshekedi was doing it out of interest for the legacy of his brother, President Khama. President Khama and the suspended judges being Justices Justice Key Dingake, Justice Modiri Letsididi, Justice Mercy Garekwe and Justice Ranier Busang reached an out of court settlement agreement after heated long negotiations bridled with pride, arrogance and principle.


Some of the conditions of the agreement include withdrawing the noxious letter they wrote to Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo in which they called him to resign citing that he is unfit for office, and they later said it was never the intention to undermine the authority and duly apologized. They also withdrew the petition that they have signed dated 17th August 2015 addressed to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) together with the letter of the 12th of August 2015, with serious allegations to the Chief Justice, which was copied to all other judges.


They also agreed to repay the outstanding housing allowances and other legal costs of the Government of Botswana, as taxed or agreed, in litigation under MAHGB-000783-15, all previous costs orders, as well as costs in the review application currently pending in the High Court and not to further proceed with it in future.


“In the interests of our country and the judiciary, I am desirous of resolving this matter that has been running for too long. To that extent I am happy to accept unequivocally all the conditions contained therein,” Justice Key Dingake is said to have written to Khama. In the settlement President Khama also said he shall lift their suspension from duty and recall the tribunal which he has set up. He added that The CJ Dibotelo will direct them (suspended four judges) when to report to work.


It is understood that Tshekedi, was later joined by the Minister of Defense, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi, both of who are said to have been instrumental in bringing Khama and the suspended Judges together. Kgathi is related to Key Dingake, a presumed leader of the suspended judges who was said to be the main target of the suspensions. Speaking to this publication on Thursday, Kgathi said he welcomes the move insisting that it’s for the good of the judiciary.


“It’s a very progressive move in the sense that for the judges to have done what they have done in the interest of the judiciary and smoked the peace pipe with the president and let bygones be bygones – is a sense of patriotism on their part,” Kgathi pointed out. The Defense, Justice and Security Minister maintained that after long 2 years, the settlement is a healthy situation for the judiciary and is commendable.


“I am impressed by the willingness of both President Khama and the suspended four to forgive and forget. Both are merciful and they are a true example of eldership,” Kgathi said. When asked if the police criminal investigations against the four judges will be dropped, he said it is obvious since the president has recalled the tribunal investigating them and re-instated them.  Law Society on the controversial Khama, Judges agreement


For its part, Law Society of Botswana asserted that they believe that the four (4) Judges have, given the immense moral support they received, let down the legal fraternity, the Judiciary and the nation at large. “They have especially let down and compromised the three Judges who to date have refused to apologise for signing the Petition by the four (4) Judges.” The Society believes that the credibility of the Judiciary has no doubt suffered immensely and will take time and men and women of character, maturity and courage to heal.


“There will always be suspicion as to why there was this sudden change in approach by the Judges to apologise after they had withstood pressure to do so for about two (2) years. There will be a perception out there that the four (4) Judges are now beholden to the President and that their independence from the Executive is compromised. That is a natural consequence of their actions.”


It is however also important to note that, Law Society insisted that the whole matter raises some very critical Constitutional issues; can the President lawfully make a prima facie determination that the Judges are not fit and proper, establish a Tribunal to consider such a determination and on his own again revoke the decision to establish the Tribunal based solely on an apology to him and the Chief Justice.


“It emerged there from that the four (4) suspended Judges had apologised to His Excellency the President and the Chief Justice (CJ). It was reported that they further withdrew the letter containing their concerns on the leadership of the CJ and subsequent Petition to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Whilst it may be possible that the Judges’ meeting with the President to discuss settlement was on invitation and not on the Judges’ own volition, what is however important is that there is truth in the Government’s statement that they have apologised,” Law Society pointed out.


The Society said they are surprised by this action since the Judges have repeatedly stated that they committed no wrong in bringing their concerns on the leadership of the CJ to the JSC. They continued to highlight that it cannot be an excuse that the apology was justified since the case was patently being manipulated against them and that the costs associated with this were heavy.


They maintained in their statement that therefore they are disappointed by the settlement agreement between Khama and the 4 suspended judges particularly the conditions thereof. “Law Society of Botswana has noted the events of the 28th March 2017 with disbelief, disappointment and a deep sense of foreboding,” they said.


They reminisced that although the Chairman of the Law Society in his address at the Ceremony of the Opening of the Legal Year encouraged all parties to the dispute relating to the four (4) suspended Judges to smoke the peace pipe and amicably resolve the matter he said they were prior excited but were disappointed by such details of the settlement.


He stated then that this was necessary for the good of the integrity and credibility of the Judiciary and ultimately for Botswana. He poignantly pointed out that if that were to happen, there would be no losers and the undeniable winner would be the Judiciary, litigants and Botswana.


 “The Judges knew, or at best ought to have known, that the case was going to be long, fraught with pitfalls and one of attrition. Their plan therefore would have anticipated this.” According to the law Society, to even suggest that the public has some blame for the apology by not assisting with funding as it seems to be suggested is unacceptable. “How was the public to know that funds were required? They asked while also wondering why the public was not to think all was well given the moral public support given by the public, civil society, business and International Organisations.”


The announcement that settlement had been reached was initially received with excitement, the Society said while adding that for a moment thought that the parties had displayed the strength of character and maturity that it had recommended. But as the saying goes, they stated that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In no time the Government published a detailed account of the settlement process and the details of such settlement were disappointing to say the least.

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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
Stan-Chart

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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Botswana ranked 129 in female MPs representation

26th July 2022
Minister of Finance & Economic Development Peggy Serame

The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.

The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.

This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.

Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.

The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.

The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).

Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).

The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.

Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors.
Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.

Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.

In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.

The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.

The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.

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