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5 changes Mokaila envisages at MTC

The recently appointed Minister of Transport and Communications, Kitso Mokaila, is already making his presence felt in the ministry. Just hardly under a month in office, the former Minerals Minister wants a string of changes in his new ministry, previously handled by Tshenolo Mabeo.


According to information gathered by WeekendPost, Mokaila was quoted proposing reduction in aviation prices to make air transport an affordable mode of mobility. In an interview with this publication, Mokaila who is one of the six Specially Elected Members of Parliament said that aviation plays a critical role in economic diversification undertakings.


“We should have flying fares very affordable to even ordinary middle income upcoming business people,’’ Mokaila noted. Such, according to him, will harness domestic investments and small medium enterprises and go a long way in promoting tourism and much needed foreign direct investment.


“By 2036 we want to have achieved a high income status as a country thus we have to encourage and enhance business in all possible ways and the aviation sector is no exception,’’ he said. The minister also asserted that the move would also see train fares reduced to promote more BR Express utilization which he noted will reduce congestion in road transport hence reducing road accidents.


At the Aviation Pitso, a fortnight ago, the unstoppable transformer went on to reveal his intensions to ban importation of Japanese, Indian and Singapore cars in Botswana. Speaking at the Transport Pitso in Selebi Phikwe last week, Mokaila told attendants that cheap imported Asian cars are to blame for the alarming rate of road accidents, car theft, and pollution to the environment.


“When I made these suggestions while I was still Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism I was accused of having been bought by motor businessman, Satar Dada, but this time around I’m positive I will be successful,’’ Mokaila told WeekendPost on Friday. He added that “these imports have more environmental effects than mines and pollute factory industries.” “These cars have bad effects on the environment; their emissions contribute to global warming.”


However, Mokaila’s proposition has since its national publication attracted scrutiny and realized a different reception. Renowned Human Rights lawyer and social justice activist, Kabo Motswagole observed the move as a knockout punch for low income earners.
“A ban on such as the one proposed can only mean that those within a certain income bracket would be able to afford cars, particularly South African imports,” he said.


“It is very sad that this kind of law would be introduced in one of the most unequal societies in the world,’’ lamented the Gaborone based lawyer. Former Miss Botswana Judge who is a Policy specialist at Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Cultural Development, Lawrence Ookeditse was not in support of the proposal.


“I think the Minister would not be addressing the real issue. We have to craft our transport and communications policies in such a way that they promote ease of doing business and consequently job creation,’’ Ookeditse said.
He said that Botswana currently has no Motor industry to protect by abolishing foreign imports.


“It would be a very wrong amendment to adopt. There is no tangible motor manufacturing sector to protect. Such protectionism then will be misguided and indeed influenced by the other car dealers,’’ said Ookeditse.
The outspoken job creation activists further advanced his argument by lashing out on government car supply tender beneficiaries as the influencers behind this move.


”Those who have won tenders to supply government with vehicles are resting on their laurels waiting for the next tender – they are not now using their money to build up car assembly plants – or at least manufacture just wipers, starring covers, something which would create employment for our youth, ’’ he explained.


Meanwhile in Phikwe, the National Truck Association called on decision makers to regulate entering of foreigners in the logistics and freight business. Speaking at the Transport Pitso, a representative from the Botswana Trucks Association revealed that currently foreigners who come to Botswana on totally different work permits get established here and enter into freight business, coming in with huge financial muscle and connections from their home countries hence posing unfair competition.


“We have foreigners who come here as doctors, economists and with other expertise, but after establishing themselves they start crossing over into our business and the government licenses them, which is wrong! We want government to regulate this business and it should fully benefit Batswana,’’ an attendant decried.  

The two day Transport Pitso which was held under the theme ‘Safe Transportation-Key To Unity and Prosperity’ created a platform for transport stakeholder to dialogue with the decision makers. Various transport associations pleaded with government to support them with financial assistance for them to carry out their mandate in promoting safe roads and business friendly transport services. Minister Mokaila stressed the need for united efforts in doing away with road accidents that claim lives.

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

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.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

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.

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