Gov’t in the dark over dual citizenships
Minister for Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu has stated that since President Khama ascended to the presidium in April 2008, 2219 citizens of Botswana were compelled to renounce their multiple citizenships in order to be recognized citizens of this country.
Multiple or dual citizenship was scraped at independence to eliminate its attendant danger of split loyalty and the disruption of the family unit. Batshu was responding to a parliamentary question posed by Member of Parliament (MP) for Selebi Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse.
However, perhaps as an indication of the irrelevance of the policy in modern times, Batshu said that government does not have statistics of the number of Batswana who continue to hold multiple citizenship, notwithstanding the prohibition. Batshu, who is also the country’s former top cop, stated, “We do not have the statistics since the perpetrators of this illegal act would not present themselves to government.”
Batshu also added that the policy is reasonable, describing it as “tenable because it currently serves the intended purpose”. He however in the same breadth also stated that the government is currently reviewing the Citizenship Act with a view to consider emerging issues such as dual citizenship.
“The review is at an advanced stage and the Bill will be brought to this parliament when the process is completed,” he noted and added that cabinet had considered and endorsed his request to amend the Citizenship Act some five months ago; in July 2016.
The Citizenship Act of Botswana was created by the Botswana Independence Order of 1966 whose Schedule was the Constitution of Botswana. Batshu conceded that it was initially largely a colonial legacy of the British Empire.
Batshu in his answer, indicated that the Citizenship Chapter (Chapter 3 of the constitution) largely translated the requirements of the previous Order in Council for British Protected Persons, into qualifications for citizenship of Botswana.
He further conceded that the Citizenship Act of 1982 that came into force after it repealed Chapter 3 of the constitution “took the campaign against dual citizenship a step further by providing that a person born in Botswana would not become a citizen of Botswana if at the time of his birth he acquired the citizenship of another country by descent through his father (but not through his mother).”
The Citizenship Act was reviewed in 1995 and 1998.In 1995 it gave impetus to the mother to pass her citizenship to her offspring while the 1998 review maintained prohibition of holding dual citizenship for persons of 21 years and above.
Meanwhile, three MPs in the 11th Parliament have thus far tabled motions calling on government to scrape prohibition against multiple or dual citizenship.
Keorapetse has tabled the same motion for debate in parliament. Another Botswana Congress Party (BCP) MP, Samuel Rantuana, has also tabled a motion that calls on “government to review the law on dual citizenship for children who were born by parents of two different nationalities.” Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Vice president and MP for Francistown South, Wynter Mmolotsi, has as well tabled a motion requesting government to allow dual citizenship in Botswana.
In his parliamentary question, Keorapetse had asked minister Batshu to explain the government’s position on multiple citizenship and in particular to state reasons for a policy prohibiting the holding of multiple citizenship, the number of Batswana compelled to denounce citizenships of other countries in order to be recognised as citizens of Botswana since April 2008, the number of Batswana holding multiple citizenship albeit the prohibition and if the policy is tenable as well as whether the government would consider allowing multiple citizenship in future.
Meanwhile by April 2016 President Khama had deported and declared 2400 individuals persona non grata (prohibited immigrants). In the past two years, Khama has deported over 414 foreign nationals, 373 of whom were declared persona non grata in terms of Section 41 (1) (a) of the Immigration Act because they had been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine for the various criminal offences they committed in the country, Batshu told the previous parliamentary sitting in April.
The other 40 foreigners, according to Batshu, were declared persona non grata under Section 41 1(c) which empowers the President to declare any person a prohibited immigrant in consequence of information received from a reliable source.
One of the latest to be ejected from the country is homophobic US Pastor, Steven Anderson. Khama revealed to Reuters news agency that he had issued an instruction to Immigration officials to deport the acerbic tongued American.
During his 18 years in power, Sir Ketumile Masire had deported only 115 individuals while Festus Mogae had deported 790 foreigners during his 10 year reign.
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Batswana owe banks P79 billion
The Minister of Finance, Peggy Serame, has disclosed that the total bank credit extended by commercial banks amounted to P79 billion, out of which P53.4 billion was retail loans and advances to households.
Parliament was informed this week in response to a question by the Member of Parliament for Selibe-Phikwe West and Leader of Opposition (LOO), Dithapelo Keorapetse.
â€śAs at 31st December 2022, loans and other advances extended to households by banks constituted the largest share of bank-lending at 67.6 percent, the majority of which was unsecured personal loans at P36.2 billion (67.8%),â€ť said Serame.
She added that the total household Debt to GDP ratio was 21.9%, while the total private business credit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was 10.8%.
On the other hand, it was noted that outstanding mortgage loans extended to households were P14.2 billion (26.6% of household debt) or 5.9% of GDP. Overall, total bank credit as a ratio of GDP stood at 32.7 percent.
It was acknowledged that there are 10 deposit-taking banks in the country, that is, nine commercial banks and one statutory bank (Botswana Savings Bank). This statistics excludes the National Development Bank (NDB), which is a development finance institution. The nine commercial banks include an indigenous bank, Botswana Building Society Bank Limited (BBSBL), which was issued with a commercial banking license by the Bank of Botswana in October 2022.
Still in December 2022, it was recorded that there were 376 non-bank lenders in Botswana consisting of 246 micro lenders, 66 finance companies, three leasing companies and 61 registered pawnshops.
According to Minister Serame, the loan book value representing the principal amount lent by these entities to individuals and to small, medium and micro Enterprises (SMMEs) is collated by the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which at 31stÂ of December 2021, the loan book values were P5.6 billion for micro lenders, P1.6 billion for finance companies, P225 million for leasing companies and P14 million for pawnshops.
Government policy is that price control is not effective or desirable, and, as such, interest rates are not regulated. Non-regulation may, among other things, result in an increase in non-interest rate fees and commissions, reduced price transparency, lower credit supply and loan approval rates.
â€śIt is important to note that, from a macroeconomic perspective, household debt in Botswana is neither a pandemic nor considered to be excessive. Indeed, the Bank of Botswanaâ€™s periodic and continuous assessments of household debt, including through the annual Household Indebtedness Surveys, suggest moderate household indebtedness and therefore, is of no apparent risk to the safety and soundness of the domestic financial system,â€ť said Serame.
She also alluded this assessment is validated by the recently concluded Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) on Botswana undertaken by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.
Keorapetse however rebuked the issue of debt not being excessive and noted the Minister thinks itâ€™s fine for Batswana to be debt burdened in a way that their debts diminishes their quality of life.
â€śA significant portion of Batswanaâ€™s salaries go to servicing debts and because she doesnâ€™t see this as a challenge, there can never be any intervention from her side.Â There is no price regulation on interest, which can go up to 30%+ a month.Â Â Since President Masisi ascended to the high office in 2018, 2 384 Batswana were put in prison for failure to pay debts, that is 467 Batswana every year. So, for us, debt problems are big and concerning,â€ť said Keorapetse.
He said they are worried because Batswana are drowning in debts because of relative poverty, slave wages and unemployment/underemployment, they buy basic needs and services with borrowed money and noted predatory and unethical lending has become a major problem in Botswanaâ€™s financial sector.
How to fleece P14 million from Chinese investor
The modus operandi of how five men allegedly swindled a Chinese national P14 million last week continue to unravel. Highly placed sources from the intelligence, the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) revealed to this publication how the whole scam was concocted.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswanaâ€™s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, â€śMerging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.â€ť
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
â€śIt is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,â€ť said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that â€śwe require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,â€ť Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. â€śIt is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.â€ť
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
â€śWe believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.â€ť
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
â€śWater pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanityâ€™s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.â€ť
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
â€śIn Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying â€śWe need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.â€ť