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Technology that targets thieves, killers

An online database company, Adams Database is piling up pressure on the Botswana Police Service, Pawn shops, retail outlets and other stakeholders to enter into loose compact agreements that would see technology being efficiently employed to help reduce crimes of all kinds.

Despite writing a proposal to the Botswana Police Service two years ago expressing interest in working with the law enforcement entity at no cost to fight crime, Adams Database is yet to receive a response.

“But this has not stopped us from forging ahead with our intention. Although this is a business, we believe this will cover as a big relief to the wider public because crime is giving many of our people sleepless nights,” said Victor Setlhare, a founder and senior partner at Adams Database.

Setlhare said the Crime and Investigations Department (CID) of the Botswana Police has expressed interest in working with them to recover stolen goods.

“This is not just about recovering stolen  goods such as cellphones, television screens, fridges and others, our application has the ability to solve other crimes that may be occasioned in the process of stealing these goods,” observed Setlhare.

On the other hand, the police are pretty busy and may not have time or resources readily available to investigate theft cases immediately hence an online database could complement police work, he stressed.

Other crimes that the Adams Database proprietor is confident they will help solve include murder, common theft, assaults, fraud, cross border theft, and obtaining by false pretence among others.

He said they already have agreements with some furniture shops and pawn shops that have lost millions of Pula as a result of goods being stolen and not being recovered by the police. He said their technology will also help the Botswana Police to be in a position to locate owners of goods as soon as they are recovered.

Setlhare said key to their technology is that before goods go missing or are stolen, they are captured into the database by recording their model, serial numbers, and where they were bought.

“The key to recovering lost or stolen electronics is to know their pertinent digits and in this case, their model and serial numbers. If you file a police report for stolen equipment, the form will ask for this information, and having the serial number makes it much easier to reclaim your property,” observed Setlhare.

He said most of the stolen goods are usually sold to pawn shops and having them on board is critical.

“We want them to register all the goods they buy from people into our database so that if whatever they buy could be potentially stolen property the system reports immediately,” he added.

Setlhare said their mission is to reduce the trade of stolen property in Botswana and to provide the community with increased visibility of stolen property and pets nationwide, to assist individuals, businesses and police in the recovery of stolen goods and to aid the prevention of the trade of stolen property while achieving the bigger picture of reducing crime.

The Adams Database team encouraged individuals and companies to open accounts with them where they will register their goods. They explained that a Household Account can be opened at P50 and one will be able to register all their electronics, and other goods. They say it is important to bring receipts along if they are still available. The model or make will determine the price one has to pay to register individual goods, but it rangers from P30 to P120, explained Setlhare.

“The reason why we want pawn shops, furniture shops and other retailers to enter into a working relationship with Adams Database is for us to become an open-source alternative for tracking stolen laptops, phones, televisions, fridges, radios and tablets among other goods,” said a partner at Adams Database, Shima Petrus Keakopa. He emphasised that database of stolen items will help to prevent their resale and help police find the goods and their rightful owners.  

As an advice to property owners, Keakopa said, “If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy, you should probably photograph your valuable personal property. When snapping shots of your electronics equipment, you're better off capturing the bottom or back of the device wherever the model and serial numbers are located because the information may come in handy when goods are stolen,” he said.

Keakopa indicated that they intend to approach the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding so that they can help reduce cross border crime. He said they are busy developing a system that could assist their customers beyond borders. Keakopa observed that equipment is stolen in Botswana is taken to other neighbouring countries. He said the application will require that people bringing gadgets from outside Botswana quickly enter them into the database at the border.

He further pointed out that other crimes are committed during the process of stealing or robbery. He gave examples of murder and assault, further stressing that stolen goods if recovered can help reveal perpetrators of crimes.

“You know police investigations are sophisticated, with the help of technology it can be easy to identify a needle in a haystack,” he said.

Keakopa also observed that the Insurance industry and furniture shops could save millions of Pula which they spend as pay-outs to cover for stolen goods. He said fraud cases where people make false claims of theft could be arrested if their technology is given support. 


He said Adams Database, a leading asset data management system company providing peace of mind to businesses and home owners with monitored asset management systems and support, is mentored and housed by the Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH).  Setlhare and Keakopa are confident that with the support of BIH and the Botswana Police Service, their technology approach can help reduce crime significantly.

“I read somewhere that since the introduction of bolus insertion in cattle, theft of livestock has gone down almost 60 percent,” said Setlhare.

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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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