Four suspended judges of the High Court, being Justices Key Dingake; Modiri Letsidi; Mercy Garekwe; and Ranier Busang have this week moved an application at High Court calling for the recusal of panel of judges scheduled to hear their case on the matter in which they are challenging their suspension.
The panel which the four Judges does not want chairing on their case comprises of Justices Singh Lackvinda Walia, Zibani Makhwade and Leatile Dambe.
They detest them sitting together in a panel as presiding Judges, in the main application for the review of the decisions taken by the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
President Khama suspended the quartet for challenging Chief Justice Dibotelo's move of threatening to report them to the Police for criminal investigation as they were receiving housing allowances while staying in official residences. It was said that they were not entitled to the housing allowance.
The suspended Judges then hauled Khama to court questioning their suspension and highlighting to court that it was unconstitutional and that Khama in earnest does not have powers to suspend Judges.
In the fresh notice of motion filed on Thursday the suspended judges stated in their renewed application that they want court to make an order “that the Honourable Justice(s) Walia, Makhwade and Dambe recuse as presiding Judges in respect of this matter and in its entirety.”
According to the suspended foursome: “Justices (Walia, Dambe and Makhwande) have on various occasions shown us to be partial and displayed unwarranted impatience with our attorneys.”
The Judges, who have been put ‘on the back banner’ serving suspension explained in the court papers that “to date, our attorney has not delayed filing papers and has been forthcoming on all the facts, in an attempt to assist the court to expedite the hearing of this matter.”
They stressed that under circumstances their apprehension and perception that the Justices are biased against them is as palpable as it is reasonable. “Further it is reasonable to believe that they have prejudged the merits or otherwise, prior to argument of the review,” the judges on hold pointed out.
They insist that in the interest of a fair hearing and protection of their constitutional rights a recusal of the Honourable Justices is the only option.
Having served the country on the bench for a number of years, the suspended Judges put on ice said they are alive to the sensitivities attending an application of this nature. “However, the fact that such sensitivities subsist, ought not to bar a litigant from securing a fair hearing.”
According to the quartet up in the air the recusal application is not an indictment on the judicial profession at large; but an attempt to bring to light some concerns which any litigant is entitled to highlight.
“We were of the further view that anyone or more of our colleagues faced with hearing the matter and adjudicating upon it would invariably find themselves in a difficult and invidious position and we therefore were of the view that the appointment of a foreign bench comprising three judges (alternatively the appointment of a three judge panel of the most senior High Court judges) would be most appropriate.”
They wanted foreign judges with no known links to Botswana. Since the appointment of Justices Walia, Dambe and Makhwade, matters have proceeded in a manner which calls into question the independence of the court, they said.
Furthermore, the suspended Judges said their constitutional right for recourse through the courts has been compromised and there is a real apprehension that save for a recusal of the three Justices, there is scant opportunity that they will receive a fair hearing in the current interlocutory matters before the court and in the main substantive application for review.
In justifying why the judges need to further recuse themselves, they gave an example that previously, the court and in particular Justices Walia and Dambe took the view that the group of four suspended were unnecessary delaying the matter. These incidents at the hands of Justices Walia and Dambe was a foreshadowing of unwarranted hostility and ultimately bias from the court as against the applicants, they put to the fore.
They also categorically stated that: “the question of recusal of a judge(s) is a constitutional matter which goes to the right of a litigant to a fair hearing before an impartial court, in terms of section 10 (9) of the constitution.” It was said that it is therefore vital for the court to bear in mind that the suspended judges’ rights which stand to be violated should the Justices persist are constitutional rights.
Chibanda Makgalemele & Company represented the four suspended Judges while Attorney General stood in for the Registrar of the High Court, President Khama, JSC and Dibotelo.
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.”
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.