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Botswana flouted AU Commission–documents

A 2001 case in which Botswana failed to comply with the African Union Commission’s resolutions taken to fully compensate a local citizen who was wrongfully deported has come back to haunt the country. The revelation, which surfaced this week comes at a crucial time and could potentially cost Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Pelonomi Venson Moitoi the AU Chairpersonship.

Venson-Moitoi is vying for the position for the second time, and it appears the odds are stacked against her, especially after failing to win the post with an outright majority obligation earlier this year.

Weekend Post has established that the citizen, John Kealeboga Modise was first unlawfully deported from his own country Botswana in 1978 and additionally removed on four separate occasions thereafter – under unclear explanations.

The deportation was believed to be politically motivated as the citizen was a staunch opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) activist.

Documents seen by Weekend Post suggest that Modise, who after the case dragged for long later passed on in 2013, was made to live unprotected in a foreign country (South Africa) not of his own choosing.He also stayed briefly in a no-man’s island between Botswana and the South African border.

The deportation separated him from his family and by extension affected and traumatised his four minor children Tsholofelo Modise, Elisabeth Modise, Gladys Modise and Winston Modise.

The development culminated in Modise roping in esteemed human rights attorney Duma Boko and an international legal human rights organisation based in London, Interights, which made submission to the African Commission to consider his case for violations of his rights under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the charter) and seek compensation.

The African Heads of State and government thereafter met in Lusaka, Zambia in July 2001, and, found multiple violations of Modise’s rights by the Republic of Botswana and requested that government take steps to remedy the violations and that it should implement the decision of the Commission.

These resolutions included confirmation and documentation of the nationality status of Modise’s children, Gladys and Elisabeth, and the issuance of nationality documents to them. The children were also said to be ‘stateless’ as a consequence of the ‘deportation’ of their father.

In addition the Commission resolved that the family be provided with “compensation of loss arising from or incidental to the violations suffered by Modise”. He claimed compensation of 5 billion pula plus 10% annual interest from the date of the Commission findings to date for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

According to Modise’s lawyers at Interights, the objective in asking for compensation is not to quantify the unquantifiable. “Rather we aim hereby to propose a framework by which the state may acknowledge wrongdoing and provide a material basis to enable the victims, in this case Modise and family, to heal and, in some way, reconstruct and carry on with the remainder of their lives.”

This publication has gathered that other than granting him citizenship by descent, Botswana did not fully comply with the Commission’s decision. This is despite the principle of compensation for human rights violations being very well established in the comparative law of African countries as well as in international law.

“The Commission found the Republic of Botswana in violation of articles 3(2), 5, 12(1) and (2), 13(1) and (2), 14 and 18(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the ‘charter’),” stated a lawyer at the Africa Programme at Interights, Judith Oder, in her communication to the Secretary of African commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights based at Gambia.

Weekend Post has established that the Commission specifically found that the denial of Modise’s right to citizenship while he rightfully deserved it was in violation of articles 3 (2), 5 and the deportation infringed his right to movement and his right to leave and return to his country contrary to article 12(1) and (2).

“The Commission also held that granting him citizenship by registration deprive him of the freedom to participate in the government of his country and constituted a denial of his right to equal access to the public services of his country contrary to article 13 (1) and (2),” the Order insisted.

It found out that, as a consequence of his deportation, the loss of his property and belongings resulted in heavy financial losses in violation of article 14 and the deportation deprived him of his family, and his family of his support in violation of article 18(1) of the African Charter.

It is understood that since the Commission’s finding, Modise and his representative have made attempts to engage with the government of Botswana to progress the implementation of the Commission’s decision.

“However these attempts have been futile. More recently, the attempt to follow up the implementation of the Commission’s decision.”

According to a family representative, who is also the late Modise’s daughter Winston Matshidiso Modise, after 20 years of all the sufferings, when they approached the Master of Court they were told that since they turned down their compensation of P100 000 from government, the case has since been closed.

“We are very disappointed by government’s clear flouting of AUC resolutions and we will determine the next course of action including meeting President Khama and seeing if we can reach an amicable solution,” the family representative/daughter, Winston Matshidiso Modise, told Weekend Post this week.  

Narrating the events, she emphasised that they felt insulted by government’s gesture to suggest to compensate them with a meagre P 100 000 after all they suffered the irreparable damage for the wrongful deportation.

If meeting with the president fails, she said, other options remain open including dragging the government to court if they see fit.

This publication has gathered that in response to Modise’s previous letters a Botswana government representative, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe the then Permanent Secretary to the president and now Ombudsman, stated that the allegation that Mr.Modise’s children are stateless “is without merit and that the offer to the family of P100 000 compensation made to Mr.Modise was done on a purely ex gratia basis and that offer has now lapsed”.

He then concluded by stating that “the recommendations of the African Union Commission are not binding on the government of Botswana and that the government is not obliged to accept and implement them.”

In his letter to President Lt. Gen. Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama on 28 November 2008, Mr Modise had contended that his children Elisabeth and Gladys were stateless. He felt that the state’s proposal of P100 000 was not done in good faith as his representatives who were in contact with the state were not informed of this development.

At the time Modise was summoned to the office of the then Attorney General Ian Kirby (now Judge of the Court of Appeal) where the offer was made. He then rejected the offer of P100 000 as being inadequate and not proportionate to the losses and violations he suffered.

This publication’s efforts to contact Senior Private Secretary to the President at the Office of the President Brigadier George Tlhalerwa, who was said to be handling the case, drew blanks as he was said to be outside the country on official business.

On his part, government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay confirmed knowledge of the case. He however was quick to point out that “last time I heard about the case was 10 years ago and Modise’s family was in talks with the government and I am not sure whether they reached a conclusion on the matter.”

Meanwhile, it is understood that currently six candidates have put forward their names for consideration for the commanding and influential position in which the elections are scheduled at the organization's next summit in January 2017.

Botswana, with signature rooftop diplomacy, still faces resistance from other African counterparts of her bold positions on various matters in the international sphere.

According to information from the UK based Interights “the government of Botswana’s disregard of the Commission’s decision, and its consequence failure to address the violations against Modise, conflict with Botswana’s obligations under international human rights law.”

The London based human rights NGO continues: “The government of Botswana ratified the African Charter without reservations. It is therefore obliged to adopt measures to give effect to the rights provided in the treaty and to appropriately address any violations that have occurred by providing victims of such violations with sufficient redress.”

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

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.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

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.

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SEZA’s P126 million tender heads to court

1st March 2021

Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.

SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).

In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.

In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.

“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said.
“The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”

SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements.  In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.

“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.

He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide.  He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.

“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.

He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.

A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.

The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages.  The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.

Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.

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