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BOCONGO, BCC accuse Gov’t of Economic and Social Injustices


The collapse and ultimate closure of BCL has impacted on the not only economic justice of the Selibe Phikwe residents and surrounding areas. It has more badly eroded the little social justice that was aspired at the then copper mining town.

 

In the light of these, basing its authenticity on its newly adopted strategic plan, Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) is riding on partnership of its affiliating member; Botswana Christian Council (BCC) on the ongoing study to identify the social injustices preceding the economic injustices imposed on the people of Selibe Phikwe and surrounding areas through the abrupt and unforeseen closure of the BCL mine.


The ongoing survey has through its preliminary report, of which final report will be made public before the end December 2016, painted a dehumanising impact of the BCL closure on residents, vulnerable communities and families, businesses and the Non-Governmental Organisations that have been serving the dead mining town.

 

The BOCONGO Board Vice Chairperson Mr. Olebile Machete responding to the Weekend Post enquiries as to the exact purpose of the impact survey assessment explained that “we at BOCONGO together with our affiliating partner BCC are of the strong view that inclusive development through democratic ownership involves empowering people as primary beneficiaries, but also as actors in their development”. He continued that what BOCONGO is currently engaged in is just a grain of the new strategy.

 

This study is aimed at BOCONGO and BCC learning the impact of uncertainties from the Selibe Phikwe community and what is going to be of their lives.  BOCONGO expresses that this scenario will essentially impact the whole nation and thus needs mitigation of affiliating BOCONGO members to mitigate.


BOCONGO expresses that, though it does in its new dispensation continues to recognise the Government of Botswana as the most immediate strategic partner, as all the BOCONGO work is strategically aimed at complementing efforts of the Government, it is however concerned at the rate of economic and social injustices where communities have become the victim and Government being the perpetrator.

 

Machete points out that “BOCONGO shall in response to this  prevailing and growing unfortunate fashion and behavior by the Government, thus as guided by the new the new three year strategic plan, endevour to motivate more formal partnerships on delivery of certain targets in specific thematic areas based on our member comparative advantages”.


BOCONGO shall in the next three years 2017 – 2020, guided by its new strategic plan, embark on joint plans within relevant structures and appropriate entities, including government departments where direct and deliberate plans shall be developed, monitored and evaluated to a certain progress and value addition.

 

Machete is quick to emphasise that, as much as possible, the new BOCONGO, having learnt from the past will avoid casual agreements and partnerships and rather will be more legal, constitutional and obliging to ensure concrete efforts towards inclusive development as obligated by its member affiliates at the recent Annual General Meeting where the new strategy was adopted. The new strategy shall be branded and marketed for stakeholder knowledge and buy-in and follow up efforts shall be made to explore opportunities for new partnerships.

 

Machete continued that “BOCONGO readily recognises that the new targets are ambitious and therefore strongly require an aggressive approach to partnership prospecting for co-responsibility and subsidiarity for value addition in service delivery. And we shall be engaging several stakeholders such as BONELA and BOSASNET and other social justice, economic justice and human rights institutions to address social and economic injustices that we find not only in Selibe Phikwe but nationally. We can no longer pretend that the situation is normal”.


Amongst other things coming from the impact assessment survey done by BOCONGO and BCC in Selibe Phikwe is that extracting companies operating in Botswana are not regulated to the benefit of local communities. They make millions from geographical areas and not plant anything back into the communities. The Phikwe pollution has left disastrous health effects. And Machete insists that BOCONGO shall through lobby and advocacy ensure that these issues are addressed and appropriate regulation put in place.

 

“BCL for example should have set up respiratory control and treatment centres funded by the mine. This should have been a pre-requisite to mining and we will be dialoguing with Government and appropriate institutions on the way forward not only for Selibe Phikwe but for other mining areas that are ongoing and that shall arise. We have agreed that if need be we shall frequent the courts to ensure that not only economic justice is met but that social justice be upheld.


The preliminary report carries amongst other things complaints by neighbouring villages such as Sefhophe where the head teachers have already complained to the village chief that they are unable to enroll all students being transferred to their schools from Selibe Phikwe schools. Health facilities are also not coping as luxuries of private hospitals have diminished overnight. These are social pressures that were not taken into consideration when authorities decided to close the mine.

 

BOCONGO expresses worry that “it is not only with the employees that consultation should have been done but it should have also been with authorities in neighbouring villages to prepare for such drastic changes that impact directly on the day to day affairs of their operations in schools, clinics, hospitals etcetera. Micro loans are taking all the monies that have been paid to the former employees and landlords are struggling, it is all economic and social injustice misery that could have been mitigated had things been done in consideration of all affected parties.

Machete also told this publication that the new BOCONGO strategy is aligned to the reality that, in representative democracies, it becomes indispensable to have organised groups like the NGOs effectively working for the people and representing their interests. It is about creating structured and permanent forums for dialogue that includes diversity of thoughts in advising and monitoring development policies, plans and strategies.

 

The main mission of BOCONGO is to provide an enabling environment for the NGO sector to become a recognized partner in the development process in Botswana. “Furthermore, BOCONGO aims to promote experience sharing with other NGOs as well as provide and we shall carry out this mission without a grain of apology”, noted Machete who continued that, human rights norms and standards do not operate in a vacuum, they lead to a conceptualisation of political and social relations between the state and citizens from the perspective of legitimate claims and obligations.

Of central significance is seeing individuals as rights holders and states as duty-bearers. With regards to social protection such a standpoint means that the state is obligated to guarantee economic and social justice and that citizens can claim it.


Machete further emphasised that the new strategy is a focus to ensure that the concept of citizenship, in terms of what is necessary for and meaningful about being a citizen, focuses on important matters such as the quality of relationships between citizens, the distribution and mix of resources necessary for ensuring that relationships are positive in nature.

 

This perspective underscores the value in pursuing a social inclusion agenda undergirded in the idea of social citizenship. Under a social citizenship framework social resources are not granted by the state out of benevolence or other motives but rather are conferred as a right of citizenship. All these point to the painfully felt impact of closure of the BCL mine and based on the increasing inequalities in the country in other areas beyond Selibe Phikwe.


When the Weekend Post asked the BOCONGO Deputy Leader on the position of BOCONGO with regard to SPEDU plan and implementation of the same, he narrated that, according to the World Bank Report, Botswana is the third most unequal country in the world. The government of Botswana has since 1966 delivered myriad mixtures of infrastructure, goods and services with a view to fighting poverty and improving the quality of life of the people.

 

However, this social provision has not made a significant impact on poverty reduction for the majority of the people in the country. “For the funds spent, not enough has been gained in terms of enhancing the overall quality of life by reducing levels of poverty and bridging the widening gap between the rich and the poor and SPEDU if not guarded by the NGO world led by BOCONGO will simply join the fray of lost promises. We shall thus through a lot of activities planned and aligned to our new strategic plan, in robustness, in resoluteness through and with our members, address all these challenges”.

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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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