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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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Mowana Mine to open, pay employees millions

18th January 2022
Mowana Mine

Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.

“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).

Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.

A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.

The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”

Negotiated estate is P35, 563,000

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Councilors’ benefits debacle-savingram reveals detail

18th January 2022

A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.

The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.

This has since been denied by the Ministry.  In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.”  Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”

The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term.  “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja.  He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”

Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation.  Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.

It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.

Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.

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Households spending to drive economic recovery

17th January 2022

A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.

The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.”  According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.

“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.

Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions.  It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.

“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.

Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.

Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.

According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.”  Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.

It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from.  “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.

Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems.  It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation.  Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.

It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.

“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions.
Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.

“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions.  Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”

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