Amid strong winds of discontent and discomfort especially from fellow African countries about the International Criminal Court, Botswana has reaffirmed her support for the court and declared her readiness to engage and reach out to member countries to find lasting solutions to challenges faced by the body.
Speaking at the 15th session of the assembly of state parties to the Rome statute of the ICC in Netherlands, midweek, the country’s Attorney General, Athaliah Molokomme, said Botswana’s determination to honour the court is strong. “Botswana once again reaffirms her commitment to contributing to one of the most indispensable causes of human life – the attainment of justice for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Molokomme noted before adding that, “Our determination to honour our obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is strong. In this regard a bill domesticating the Rome Statute of the ICC has been tabled before Parliament.
It has gone through the First Reading and is now on the agenda for the November 2016 session,” she explained. However, while Botswana domesticates the statute and sings praise to the latest ICC preliminary report, support for the court continues to crumble as other countries are thinking of pulling out their signatures. Already four countries, latest, Russia, have pulled out.
This week Russia withdrew its support for the treaty in protest against an investigation into alleged atrocities it committed in Georgia. The details of the alleged atrocities are contained in the ICC report which was released this week. Not long after Russia’s move, Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte was also quoted in the media as having suggested that he is thinking of withdrawing his signature from the ICC as well. This follows earlier withdrawals from the ICC by three African countries, South Africa, Gambia and Burundi who strongly believe that ICC is biased against Africa.
Meanwhile, the United States of America had also dismissed the ICC’s investigation of potential war crimes that its soldiers could have committed in Afghanistan as unwarranted. The US state Department spokesperson, Elizabeth Tudeau was quoted as having stated that, “We do not believe that an ICC examination or investigation with respect to the actions of US personnel in relation to the situation in Afghanistan is warranted or appropriate.”
The US is said to have praised its own system of “accountability” and contended that it does not even fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC. But the ICC suggests otherwise: “The information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that, in the course of interrogating these detainees, and in conduct supporting those interrogations, members of the US armed forces and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape.
These acts are punishable under articles 8(2)(c)(i) and (ii) and 8(2)(e)(vi) of the Statute.” The US and China are not signatories to the statute that forms the ICC. Meanwhile Botswana has applauded the continued good work of the court and has welcomed the report tabled by the court President, Silvia Fernandez this week.
“With the continuing mass atrocities taking place across the world, we are deeply concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian and political situations in Yemen, Syria, The West Bank and in some parts of Africa,” Molokomme stated and added that, “And while the world is still replete with mass atrocities and grave crimes that continue to shake the conscience of humanity, nations, big and small, can still draw inspiration and solace from knowing that never, never and never again shall the world be ruled by tyrants, dictators and criminals alike.”
Eighteen years ago, according to Molokomme, nations of the world, reeling from the wounds of the bitter and brutal past, tired of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity decided to come together and establish the ICC. She said, with complementarity to national jurisdictions as its hallmark, the ICC resolved to put an end to impunity for all perpetrators of such crimes irrespective of status, power, influence or rank in society.
“The creation of the ICC marked a milestone in the enhancement of International Criminal Jurisprudence and strengthening of the international rule of law. We want it to work effectively. The domestication of the Rome Statue of the ICC will contribute in no small measure to the realization of this shared objective,” she further pointed out.
Molokomme’s contention is that, Botswana's commitment to the core principles of the ICC is to cooperate with the international community, to enable the Court to function effectively and sustainably, as it seeks to bring lasting peace to the world. She says, in fact “the President of the Republic of Botswana, His Excellency Lt. General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama underscored this conviction at the opening of the Plenary of the 10th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Molokomme further stated that President Khama is of the view that progress should be made regarding the Crime of Aggression and that the struggle against impunity in all its forms and manifestations must continue. “Having the requisite threshold of more than 30 ratifications, we look forward to seeing the activation of the ICC's jurisdiction over the Crime of Aggression next year,” she added.
Currently the ICC is investigating 10 situations and 10 preliminary investigations, a situation which Botswana feels needs the support of the international community if it is to build on the new development agenda. “We therefore welcome and support efforts by the President of the Court to carry out reforms within the institution in order to enhance its efficient financial operations,” Molokomme suggested.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.