In a potentially telling twist, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is abuzz with reports that President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama has requested his Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi not to contest for the ruling party’s chairman position at the party’s elective congress expected next year July.
Masisi had made it clear to his inner circle that he intends to defend his position next year. His reasoning oscillated around cementing his stature as the future president, a need to put to bed doubts over his influence in the party, and plain need to demonstrate his character and strength to his detractors. The Vice President continues to be very active within the BDP structures, recruiting hordes of disgruntled opposition figures and is at the forefront of a campaign to paint a resurgent ruling party after the grueling 2014 general election.
But word that Khama has asked him not to defend his position of chairman could throw the spanner into the works, with Masisi’s backers scratching their heads beyond normal, what could be up Khama’s sleeves – if these reports are true? Officially, Masisi’s supporters learn that the Vice President has been asked to focus ‘on the bigger picture’, push more of official government business, and prepare for the transition. Masisi has been tasked with the task of job creation among his many assignments within government. The country is currently experiencing exponential job losses in parastatals and the private sector.
What irks those who are already discussing the latest development is the suggestion that President Khama has indicated that his younger brother, Tshekedi Khama could run for chairmanship instead. There is confusion within the Masisi camp, with some who are determined to block Tshekedi already working around the clock to find a ‘confident and robust’ opponent to stand in the way of the potential candidature of the younger Khama.
BDP insiders say Vice President Masisi finds himself without many options; he is at the mercy of President Khama at the moment. “He has no choice but to step aside and focus on government business. He has a job to do, regardless of the unofficial or postulated reasons as to why he should make way for Tshekedi or any other candidate,” said a BDP senior figure.
NKATE RETURNS END OF THIS MONTH
Those who want to block Tshekedi are running short of options, but their most attractive route could be Jacob Nkate who is returning from his ambassadorial role in Japan at the end of this month. Nkate has made it clear that he will return to stake a claim in the party presidency, launching his bid with a quest for chairmanship.
But with the latest turn of events, insiders say Nkate will have to ask himself a few questions before taking the bait – is he ready to take on a candidate who has the backing of President Khama? What is in it for him if he wins or loses the chairmanship race? Will he ever ascend to the Presidency or the Vice Presidency? And what would be Vice President Masisi’s attitude and or role in his (Nkate)’s campaign for chairmanship? Insiders continue to point out that the road will be bumpy for Nkate because most of his lobbyists could decide to be hidden because they are not ready to oppose an influential President Khama.
Indications are that President Khama still commands a very strong influence within the BDP. Compared to his predecessor, Dr Festus Mogae, at the same stage towards his retirement in 2007, the latter was a ‘lame duck’ President with little influence. It is well known that Khama was already influential at this point. BDP MPs who spoke to this publication concede that the President Khama addressed BDP caucuses are the most attended and definitive; when compared to those addressed by Vice President Masisi. “Who would dare not toe the line?” one MP asked rhetorically.
Hypothetical suggestions are already on the table on how Khama could have already moved to neutralize Nkate. The elevation of Thato Kwerepe to the position of Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Basic Education is seen as a strategy to gloss Kwerepe and insulate him against an anticipated onslaught from Nkate in the forthcoming BDP primary elections in preparation for the 2019 general election. The former Minister of Education has made it clear to his supporters back at the constituency (Ngami) that he is coming back to claim a constituency he once represented before he was outdone by his political nemesis in the 2013 primary elections.
Before Khama’s reported intervention in the BDP congress puzzle, Nkate was being coerced to take on Botsalo Ntuane for the position of secretary general. However Nkate was not keen because the position of secretary general spells out nothing for him in terms of his bigger picture of eyeing the high office. The 2017 BDP elective congress is potentially seen as a platform that will make and break kings and queens – and the succession issue within the ruling party could be settled for good in July next year.
The anti-Tshekedi battalion has reportedly rushed to Nkate because of their view that another potential person of interest, Minister Nonofo Molefhi does not appear to be willing to publicly express his interest. They also fear that his family ties with the Khamas will dissuade him against contesting. Those who question Molefhi’s confidence to take on Tshekedi also point out that he is a man who believes too much in the ‘order of things’, “he believes that if something is destined to be his, it will come to him. He does not want to fight for anything hence it will be a risk to bank on him,” said one of the BDP seniors.
While Molefhi is seen as having the goodwill within the BDP and across the party divide, those who doubt his readiness question his fighting spirit and his grasp and presence at party structures. They believe that he cannot be compared to Masisi, who they believe will put up a good fight against Tshekedi. While Tshekedi himself is not a strong party person, they believe Khama’s clout could carry him through and help him cross the bridge. Molefhi, who has been likened to South Africa and African National Congress (ANC)’s Kgalema Motantlhe, is expected to throw his weight behind Tshekedi if the reports on Masisi’s position come out to be true. Motantlhe’s loss to President Jacob Zuma in the race for ANC presidency was put squarely on the former’s indecisiveness and late declaration of interest.
The recent nomination of two extra Specially Elected Members of Parliament (SEMPs) has also pushed some BDP activists over the edge hence realigning allegiances in the process. Some felt that they have been overlooked for new comers into the party. It is expected that Nkate’s return this month could mark the beginning of a spirited campaign within the party – a journey that will leave hind causalities because of the ongoing succession talk.
Tshekedi Khama has made it publicly known that he wants to be BDP chairman and President and should an opportunity arise he will gladly take it. Those around Masisi are asking themselves plenty of questions such as – what could Tshekedi aspire next should he win the chairmanship next year?
They speculate that for Tshekedi to become President at least in the foreseeable future under the current automatic succession plan, he must hope that Masisi makes him Vice President when he takes over as President in April 2018. But there are no guarantees in politics, BDP insiders say. They point out that there will be nothing compelling Masisi to make Tshekedi his Vice President. Further, they speculate that there is nothing incentivizing Tshekedi not to go for the jugular and this could force him (Tshekedi) to act on his affinity early by challenging Masisi for the party presidency.
CAN THE KHAMAS WAIT ANOTHER 18 YEARS?
There is also a school of thought that questions the prospect of Tshekedi waiting until 2019 congress to challenge Masisi for the party presidency. They point out that it will be risky for the party to change the leadership four months before the general elections in 2019. Some BDP insiders believe that the succession issue will be concluded by next year after congress. The Khamas have had to wait for 18 years to come back into power after the death founding President Sir Seretse Khama.
Lt Gen Ian Khama was Commander of the BDF during the time at the goodwill of former President Sir Ketumile Masire. Another former President, Dr Festus Mogae had to use his influence and goodwill to make President Khama his Vice President. “I am of the view that they are tired of being at the mercy of other people, they may decide to control their destiny this time around, with Tshekedi challenging for positions at party level,” reasoned a seasoned BDP politician. He points out that he does not see Tshekedi waiting on the wings and hoping for another Good Samaritan to bring them back into the thick of things. “There is so much at stake, interests and political control,” says a BDP insider.
KHAMA MAGIC STAYS ON
Meanwhile President Khama has indicated that he is retiring from the Presidency but he will not be retiring from the party. He has made his next move very clear at three platforms of the BDP. At a regional meeting in Tutume in the north east, President Khama told his listeners that he will lead the BDP campaign in the 2019 general election. He also communicated that he has raised a lot of funds for the elections and the figures have already surpassed those of the 2014 general election.
He repeated the same message at a meeting of the BDP held in Kanye last month. At a recent BDP Members of Parliament caucus President Khama made the same proclamation, something which party insiders say points only in one direction – President Khama is not going anyway far, and he is interested in the next course or direction the party takes.
(Note that we have spoken to four BDP MPs, two ministers, six senior party figures who all indicated that they are aware of this development. It remains as we reported it, reports and a debate within the BDP.)
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and the Directorate of Intelligence (DIS) came under the lens of the United Nations Human Rights Committee during the just ended dialogue between committee members and the Botswana delegation.
Scores of issues, among them the country’s reports on topics including whether Masisi abused the State of Emergency Act during the COVID-19 pandemic and alleged surveillance and harassment of members of the public by DIS, were addressed at the session.
A Committee expert asked about legislation in the Penal Code allowing the Government to investigate people who expressed opinions against public figures, particularly the President. How many cases were there of journalists who had been investigated, prosecuted and tried? Concerning the COVID-19 Emergency Powers Act, there was a provision for a fine or a five-year jail term for journalists using “source(s) other than the Director of Health Services or the World Health Organization” when reporting on COVID-19. The Committee Expert asked for the number of cases and other measures taken under this Act.
Another committee expert wanted to know that the scale and scope of electronic surveillance, which had sharply increased in recent years, was concerning. Furthermore, the Committee was troubled at the lack of a sufficient independent oversight mechanism over the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services that reportedly had contributed to a growing climate of fear and chilling effect on journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians. In this respect, a Committee Expert asked about the measures taken by Botswana during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the right to privacy was protected (collection and management of personal data).
The Expert also enquired about a database website, which was not functioning but was supposed to contain documents of Botswana’s international human rights commitments. In terms of the freedom of assembly, while the Constitution of the State party guaranteed it, the Committee had received information that, in practice, the Public Order Act required citizens to apply to the nearest police for a permit to hold an assembly, and police had sometimes denied requests for unclear reasons.
The Committee Expert asked if the Public Order Act of the State party had been applied in conformity with those tests. Would the State party indicate the measures it had taken and/or intended to take to make the application of the law in question strictly compatible with the requirements under article 21? Furthermore, the Committee had also received allegations that police officers sometimes used force to compel gathering people to disperse. In this regard, the Expert asked for information on legal provisions and practical guidelines under which police officers may resort to force and any training programme if any, for police and other law enforcement officers to respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly.
A Committee Expert asked about cases of holding people for longer periods under pre-trial detention than the maximum period provided for in legislation, 36 months, instead of six. Were there any plans to shorten the duration of pre-trial detention in legislation? The Committee noted that there was no provision for local community broadcasting. What measures were the State party taking to ensure that the local communities could also communicate in their language in the media?
What measures had been undertaken by Botswana to increase sustainable development in the country regarding climate change in particular. What efforts had been undertaken to ensure that customary courts worked up to speed? A Committee Expert asked about children in rural areas who travelled a long way to their schools. The delegation was asked about the independence of the Ombudsman Office, including provisions for appointing the Ombudsman. What budget was envisaged for this Office?
The Expert acknowledged the established procedures and institutions for anti-human trafficking but expressed concerns about the lack of reported cases. The Expert asked about the accountability of the public prosecution, as well as the intelligence services. Replying, the Botswana delegation, led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng, said there was an ongoing consultation for revising provisions that would ensure better protection for journalists and media freedom in Botswana.
Still, the delegation said, freedom of expression was assured in the State party without any restrictions, including in Parliament. There was an education programme providing the opportunity for children in primary school to be taught in their mother tongue. It also explained that the Ombudsman would be dealing with issues of human rights promotion and protection.
“National policies and procedures were envisaged to control the distribution of natural resources. Botswana was also taking measures to increase the access of minority groups to education. Regarding pre-trial detention, the delegation explained that the criminal procedure assured justice was preserved in the country,” said the delegation.
On the issue of torturer and alleged use of unreasonable force on suspects, the Botswana delegation explained that police officers were trained to use minimal force, ensuring that human rights were preserved, including in the cases of assemblies. On the use of surveillance, no legal provisions were breached, and such measures were used in accordance with national legislation. Legal aid was very costly, and it was not possible to keep the record in detail as asked by the Committee.
Morwaeng told the Committee that the Government maintained a robust consultative approach to policy development and legislative process. He said this was a system of governance that ensured that the voices of ordinary citizens were respected and taken into account in the social, economic and political process that affected them the most, giving full effect to the full enjoyment of human rights across the board. The delegation took due note of the views of the Committee, including the importance of harnessing information technology to give a broader appreciation of the provisions of the Covenant.
The P1 billion water project launched by President Dr vMokgweetsi Masisi this week is said to be critical to the success of key projects planned in Lobatse – the Lobatse Milk Afric and Leather Park. After commissioning the multi-million Pula Masama-Mmamashia water project last week following its completion, on Thursday, Masisi performed ground-breaking ceremony of yet another major water project, the Lobatse Water Supply Master Plan (LWSMP1).
The water project was conceptualized in 2009 to address water shortage in areas along the Greater Gaborone zone. These areas include Ramotswa, Otse, Mogobane, Mankgodi, Manyana, Goodhope, Lekgolobotlo, Mmathethe, Molapowabojang and villages surrounding. It was said that some major upcoming projects in Lobatse such as Lobatse Leather Park, Milk Afric and the Pioneer Border Gate are dependent on the success of this project, in order for them to take off and operate effectively. The two projects have been struggling to take-off despite government having put the necessary resources.
The Lobatse Leather Park is anticipated to create about 4700 jobs at the initial stage and 7000 jobs at full capacity. The project entails the development of a complex for different tanneries with the support of state-owned beef company, Botswana Meat Commission. It will comprise primary infrastructure such as a common effluent treatment plant, sewage treatment plant, and others.
When operational, the park is expected to supply the private sector with hides and skins, raw to finished leather tanneries, and the manufacturing of different leather products. These products include shoes, belts, jackets, and others, thereby playing an instrumental role in stimulating economic activity. Leather Beneficiation Park is seen as important for the leather industry as it would ensure that Botswana moves from exporting raw leather to finished leather goods. It is said research has established that there are plenty of hides and skins in the country from the three million cattle and 1.8 million goats.
Meanwhile, Milk Afric dairy farm project which was expected to be complete by the second half of 2018, is in the wilderness after the initial partnership between Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and Milk Afric failed to bear fruits. BDC has been searching for a new partner for the project. Once fully operational, the farm will produce a total of 21.9 million litres or one third of the national milk demand, which is 65 million litres a year. At present, Botswana imports over 58.8 million litres from South Africa at a cost of P345 million annually.
The P120 million project is a Public Private Partnership deal between Lobatse Town Council (LTC), with 10 percent shareholding through leasing its 1375.4 ha farm for 25 years; and 26 percent (P40 million) by Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). When speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony held in Ramotswa, Masisi said, in addition to improving the water supply for domestic needs and livelihoods, this infrastructural development will facilitate major projects in the Lobatse region, which are critical to the ailing, old town.
“Our objective as a country is to align developments with the National Vision 2036 Pillar 3 on Sustainable Development, which recognizes water as a very scarce resource which requires strategic management by key players.” Botswana is a developing country with an increasing population, Masisi said, adding that an increase in population naturally causes exponential growth in the demand for water. This is a reality that Botswana is faced with and challenged to address for sustainable water supply, the President said.
He indicated that this is why they are continuously witnessing major water projects undertaken by government, in collaboration with key partners. “Gaborone and surrounding areas have been experiencing an acute water supply deficit due to infrastructure that has outlived its potential to meet the growing demand for water by citizens. This particular project entails the construction of a Pump Station at Forest Hill in Gaborone, a 57 kilometre pipeline from Gaborone to Lobatse and a new Northern reservoir.”
The project, awarded China State Construction and Engineering Corporation/Van and Truck Hire Joint Venture at over P1 billion, is currently at 49% of its completion stage. There are 637 jobs created by this water project. “The transmission pipeline will convey 63 million litres of water a day from Gaborone to Lobatse. This is a great improvement compared to an average supply of 14 million litres of water that has been supplied to Lobatse, Borolong and surrounding areas,” Masisi said.
The United Nations Committee on Human Rights has taken Botswana to task over what it considers to be discrimination laws against lesbians and gays and delay in prosecuting suspects in the infamous Sebina defilement case. The Botswana delegation led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng found itself against the wall before the United Nations Human Rights Committee of experts in Geneva, Switzerland.
First to take Botswana head-on was the UN Committee member, C SOH, who noted that the recent ruling of the High Court pays particular attention to the penal code penalising same-sex sexual conduct as it found that it infringed on the constitutional rights, dignity, liberty and privacy of the LGBTI persons (lesbians and gays). “Nonetheless, I note with deep concern that those discriminatory provisions of the of the penal code remain in effect and regrettably the government stated in its periodic review before deciding whether or not to repeal section 164 it would still await the final determination of the court of appeal in the case of Motshidiemang vs State,” said Soh.
According to Soh, “This statement makes us cast doubt on the will of the government to vigorously” strike out section 164, which criminalises sex between people of the same sex. “In this respect, I would like to ask the delegation to explain what the intended goal by the government was when it filed an appeal against the unconstitutionality ruling of the High Court,” he said. Soh said the Botswana Government had also explained that no persons had been convicted under this provision, section 164, ever since the penal code was enacted.
“However, media reports indicate that in August 2016, the government of a Gaborone Magistrate Court sentenced a man three years in prison who had been charged and convicted under section 164 for engaging in unnatural acts. Can the delegation explain these discrepancies relating to persons who have been convicted and sentenced under section 164 of the penal code,” he said. He also wanted the Botswana delegation to explain how the government addresses how customary courts have been discriminating against LGBTI persons.
Another member of the UN Committee, Duncan Muhumuza, expressed concern that the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has taken more than four years to prosecute suspects in the Sebina saga in which a councillor was alleged to have slept with a student who was also a minor. Replying to concerns raised by the UN experts, Mogakolodi Segwagwa, chief state counsel at the Attorney General Chambers, noted that one of the UN committee members has “become fearful that the fact that government appealed the case could be a sign that there is lack of will or doubt on the part of the government as to abolishing or outlawing of same-sex relations.”
“But I would like to assure the panel that Botswana has over the years proved itself at all times to be compliant with court orders. There are many examples I could put forward where the government had to make sure that court orders were executed. That is the assurance I can give out to the committee,” said Segwagwa. He said there was a good reason for appealing the decision of the High Court in which it outlawed section 164.
“This was a High Court decision, and as you know in our jurisdiction when a judge is at the same court with his brothers and his sisters and fellow judges, whatever decision he puts out so far as that particular court is concerned, it is not law because it is not binding on his fellow brothers and sisters and it is not binding on fellow judges,” explained Segwagwa. He added that “It is merely persuasive so much so that some other judges may choose to when a similar case comes before him or her, depart and ignore the position that that particular judge espoused, and he or she can do so with ease.”
Segwagwa further explained that “There was a very pressing need for this matter to be appealed to the Court of Appeal for purposes of crystalising the law and for purposes of ensuring that if there is any aspect of the law that the High Court had overlooked in arriving at this particular decision, then such an aspect can be taken into consideration by the Court of Appeal.” “So we are waiting for that judgement, and once it comes, it will be implemented. I take it that the committee would like the Court of Appeal to uphold the decision below and strike out this particular section.”
He assured the UN experts that when the High Court struck out section 164 in 2019, the country did not erupt into violence, adding that this was an “indication that we don’t have anything against people of LGBT. They are our brothers and sisters, and we co-exist with them.” Regarding the Sebina saga, Segwagwa said the painful case “where this councillor was said to have had sexual intercourse with a child is the police dealt with a matter as it is the law and we all know that the police are bound by their Act to do so without fear and prejudice.”
He said Upon completion of their investigation, “the matter was handed over to the prosecuting authority, as Mr Muhumuza had indicated, it has been four years and we concede that four years is a long time and that it is unreasonably a long time and that it defeats the whole adage that justice should be sweetest and freshest so much so that the case needed to be speeded along.”
He added that “But the problem we have which is not a problem in the sense of it being a problem, but the impediment we have in the sense that the Constitution created the Office of the Director of Prosecutions under section 51 subsection A and if you go to that particular section and you read subsection six, the director shall not be subjected to the control of another authority.”
Segwagwa said, “this is the section that was inserted in this constitution to safeguard the independence of the Director of DPP to ensure that he or she prosecutes matters without fear, favour and prejudice and it presents impediment where we can’t try and say to the DPP, go and register or indicate your position now, tomorrow or next year and that is why it has taken all this time, but we believe attempts are being made that it finds its way to the court.”