The ongoing opposition talks are far from over, but there are certain elements of the discussion that are not contestable or have been agreed upon at the moment.
With an all inclusive name of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC+) having been adopted, the criteria for constituency allocation has made it easy for partners to spread constituencies evenly safe for two being Lentsweletau-Mmopane and Lerala-Maunatlala. However, the adopted criterion presents a dilemma for one of the negotiating partners, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).
Before his shock loss to the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD)’s Dr Phenyo Butale in the 2014 general election, BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando had represented Gaborone Central as Member of Parliament for two terms – 2004-2009 and 2009 – 2014. Now he finds himself without a constituency.
The BCP is said to have decided to demonstrate commitment to the talks by not contesting or putting pressure on other partners to secure at least one constituency in Gaborone for its president – something that they had wanted. Insiders point out that the BCP knew from the onset that the criteria will not favour them in Gaborone constituencies where they were convincingly vanquished in the 2014 general election. “But we had assumed that Dumelang Saleshando as President of the negotiating partner could be given a special treatment and negotiate a package for him in Gaborone, but it was never to be,” said an insider.
Indications are that the BCP had also tried to lobby for Gaborone South which is currently under the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), but they lost out because the Botswana National Front (BNF) had come out second best in that constituency in the 2014 general election. The criteria is very clear, negotiating teams consider incumbency – which favours the BMD of the UDC+ in Gaborone Central; and second best performing party – which favours the BNF of the UDC+ in Gaborone South.
“As the BCP, we are not going to allow this to distract us from the main goal, that is opposition unity because that is the only way we can wrestle power from the ruling BDP,” said a BCP insider. The BCP is currently searching for a constituency for Dumelang Saleshando. This publication gathers that it is going to be a long process because it will involve reaching a compromise with party members who have been contesting in the constituency to be identified. “We are determined to make sure that our President goes to Parliament,” the BCP elder said.
Weekend Post has been informed that the BCP fears are also grounded on the fact that a Vice President of the country must have a constituency according to the constitution. Although the BMD is opposed to the BCP being given the Vice Presidency, the BCP is said to be fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Saleshando gets a constituency and wins it in 2019.
It is understood that Selibe Phikwe East, which is currently held by Nonofo Molefhi of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) appears to be the most likely constituency that will welcome Saleshando. BCP came second in the 2014 general election through Kgoberego Nkawana who polled 3134 votes to BDP’s 3376. The UDC attracted 979 votes through Dimpho Mashaba while an Independent candidate, Oarabile Tshenyego was voted by 818 people. Selibe Phikwe East is one of the 17 constituencies that the BCP hopes to clinch based on the agreed criteria of the ongoing negotiating teams.
Saleshando is not a stranger to Selibe Phikwe because his family is domiciled in the mining town and he grew up there. The ongoing challenges facing Seilbe Phikwe also present a fertile campaign platform for the opposition to denounce the ruling party and its representatives. This week at a Panel Discussion organized by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) at Masa Centre, BCP deputy leader responsible for policy, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang told the audience that “we are in a situation of urgency, something must be done to wrestle the BDP out of power, the urgency we are talking about supersedes any other factors.
We made a mistake by not being part of the Umbrella in the 2014 general election,” he said. While he pointed out directly that his party had more solid policy positions and a well structured manifesto, the UDC appealed more to the emotions of the voters. “It was not much about the mind in 2014, it was about the heart. In 2019, it should be about the mind and the heart,” he said.
The only two constituencies that are currently on the table for further negotiations is Lentsweletau-Mmopane and Lerala-Maunatlala. The BCP wants Lentsweletau-Mmopane because they came out second best to the BDP. Phagenyana Phage was voted by 3150 people against Vincent Seretse’s 7170 votes. Moeng Pheto, an independent candidate than attracted 3120 votes while the UDC got 2999 voters.
The BMD also wants a cut because their recruit who came after contesting the general election as an independent, Moeng Pheto got good numbers. Another independent candidate from the 2014 general election in the Lerala-Maunatlala constituency, Setlhabelo Modukanele, has since joined the BMD and he had 4115 votes against Prince Maele’s 6356 votes. The BMD’s argument of second best performing is being questioned by other partners. The BCP represented by Montwedi Mokhurutshe was voted by 1147.
Weekend Post is informed that the BCP is concerned that factors are conspiring against their president – first the Vice Presidency is hotly contested; and then he has no chance to stand for elections in the capital city.
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.