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‘ZCC constitution is a fraud’

Following an application by some Zion Christian Church (ZCC) members in Botswana challenging the church’s disregard and violation of its own constitution, another member who sits on the church’s lawyers’ panel launched a fresh application this week challenging that the 2009 Botswana constitution is fraudulent.

“The applicants have instituted legal proceedings against ZCC relying on the 2009 constitution that is not operational or not in use and as such the said constitution does not govern the affairs of ZCC in Botswana. I will further pray for the Honourable court to declare the said constitution null and void and of no force and effect,” Jost Sinvula Isaac who is a member and lawyer of ZCC declared in court papers the Weekend Post is in possession of.

Prior, 11 members of the church being Tshiamo Tladi, Khumo Gaorengwe, Mogomotsi Bogosi, Stanley Lejone, Daniel Mathibe, Lesetse Othamo, Mmusi Moeng, Mmatli Lopale, Lebogang Bose, Faneck Bareki and Tony Joseph last week dragged the church together with its Bishop Dr. Barnabas Edward Lekganyane to court saying the ZCC local branch is flouting on its constitution of 2009 – which is currently the subject of the “storm”.

Isaac, who sits in the ZCC attorneys’ panel instituted a fresh application this week as a member of the church and argued that the submission of the 2009 constitution by ZCC to the Registrar of Societies was not necessary as the church had a South African church constitution that was in use since 1994.

He said: “it is my humble submission that the 1994 constitution is the lawful and operational constitution of the ZCC church in Botswana as it has never been repealed or invalidated by any lawful process.”

Accordingly, he emphasized that the “2009 Botswana constitution is illegal, unlawful and a nullity in law and of no force and effect”.

When supporting his arguments the lawyer said there are new facts which he intends to bring before court, which have not been brought forth by any of the parties in the 11 members versus ZCC, Bishop Lekganyane, pending before the court. He added that he discovered the facts after thorough research, making inquiries and perusing the church file at the Registrar of Societies.  

Sometimes in the early 1990’s, he explained, the church applied for registration of its constitution and “exemption” from registration under the Societies Act. The exemption was then approved and they were issued with an exemption certificate. In applying for exemption, he said the church filed its constitution from South Africa, which was received by the Registrar of Societies on the 5th July 1994.

“The church was thus confirmed as a society exempted from registration in terms of the Act and that it was headquartered and controlled outside the country (South Africa), with a universal constitution that applied to all its members and was registered accordingly.”

A perusal of the church file at the Registrar of Societies’ office reveals that sometimes there was a misconception on the part of officials of the church as to its registration status in Botswana.

Indications are that at some stage the church engaged the Office of the President (OP) to have the church exempted from registration, when in fact the church was ‘already’ exempted from registration.

Therefore, the ZCC member stated further that it seems that the confusion that resulted in the registration of the 2009 constitution began with a public announcement that was made by the Registrar of Societies in 2008.

In terms of that notice, all churches which were registered using the constitutions of their ‘mother churches based outside the country’ were now required to file ‘local’ constitutions and a deadline was set for that purpose.

“This request was not made in terms of any provisions of the Societies Act. I must add that this public announcement was not addressed to the ZCC. While the legal propriety of this notice was itself questionable, it was nonetheless not necessary for the church to concern itself with the notice as it was an exempted society which had a constitution in place.”

Other churches that are exempted such as the Roman Catholic Church did not concern themselves with the notice and they did not file local constitutions.

In the end, the ZCC lawyer said a local constitution was developed and on June 2009, the 2009 constitution was submitted to the Registrar of Societies.

He pointed out that the registration status of the church is a matter that has not been ventilated at all by all the parties to the main application (11 ZCC members) “yet it is at the centre of the controversy in these proceedings”.   

According to Isaac, “when this 2009 constitution was submitted, what was overlooked is the fact that the church had a constitution that was in use and further that it was exempted from registration, and that under no circumstances could the church be required to submit local constitution.”

He added that the filing of the 2009 constitution therefore would have resulted in the Exemption of the church being rescinded or cancelled since the preamble of the said constitution states that the church is constituted in terms of Section 5 of the Societies Act.

“When the 2009 constitution was filed with the Registrar of Societies, the church awaited response from the Registrar’s office in relation to the registration of such constitution but to date there is no such response and my understanding is that in the absence of any meaningful response the said constitution was never formally registered for it to be effective.”

The ZCC member also expressed that he is greatly aggrieved by the 2009 constitution because it creates a different ZCC than the church itself. “The church will effectively have two parallel seemingly distinct constitutions since the 2009 constitution did not repeal the 1994 constitution nor was it registered.”

The constitution does not make any reference to the status of the church as an exempted society, suggesting that it was submitted under a misapprehension of facts as to the registration status of the church, he highlighted.

In the 2009 constitution, it is stated that: “the headquarters of the church is said to be Lot 20462, Gaborone. This has never been the headquarters of the church. To the best of my knowledge, the headquarters of the church is Zion city Moria in Limpopo Province of South Africa,” the lawyer clarified.

The Executive Council is entrusted with powers that have hitherto been the preserve of the Church Council, and the 2009 constitution as it is if adopted will hinder the smooth running of the church in Botswana, he highlighted.  

“I therefore intend to raise arguments questioning the validity of this 2009 constitution. The proceedings will have to involve the Registrar of Societies, through the Attorney General.”

“I have raised these issues with the church. In particular I have raised the issue of invalidity of the 2009 constitution with the General Secretary of the church as well as lawyers panel of the church,” he added.

However, Isaac said his pleas for the church to raise these issues have not been headed to. “I understand this to be because the members of the lawyers’ panel directly responsible for this case hold views that are different from mine,” he stated. “To my understanding the church has therefore not been advised to raise these issues in the manner I seek to raise them. I respect this divergent of views, and now ask this court to give me a hearing.”

“As a member of the church, which is a very big international church, and further as an official of the church where the applicants (11 members) in the main action worship, I have an interest in ensuring that the church is governed properly and I consider the raising of these issues to be my responsibility and duty.”

Going forward, he observed that a decision on this matter will also clear any confusion to the registration status of ZCC, the constitution that is in use and the responsibilities of the church in terms of the Societies Act.   

Isaac’s new application citing the Botswana church constitution as “a fraud” will be argued still before Justice Michael Mothobi on 19th August 2016 and it will determine whether the previous matter on violation of the local church constitution falls off or not.

In the 11 members’ case, ZCC was represented by Advocates Soraya Skhassim (SC) and Lenette Pillay from South Africa and Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi Law Firm in Botswana sat in for the aggrieved 11 ZCC members while in the fresh application due in August, attorney Jost Sinvula Isaac represented himself.

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Opposition talks: Conveners ditched, experts engaged

13th October 2021

The much-anticipated opposition unity talks that will see Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) engage Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are expected to kick off any time from now.

According to informants, the talks, which were preceded by-elections negotiations, aim to be as inclusive as possible. As the talks start, the UDC, composed of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), insist on retaining its preferred model of Umbrella; on the other hand, the BPF is proposing a PACT; and AP is in favour of an alliance model.

BPF is reportedly sceptical on the umbrella model and wants cooperation with the flexibility to allow other parties to join hands with UDC but without necessarily contesting elections using UDC symbols and colours.

BPF, which is currently the fastest-growing party, seems to be focused on self-actualization, self-preservation and securing institutional capacity in case of any political calamity. Although often profitable, cooperation politics can often leave individual political parties battered by political events and weakened beyond meaningful survival.

Discussions with some BPF members suggest that the party has big ambitions and harbour serious intentions of taking the BDP by its horns-all by itself-one day. “The position by some of our leaders is that the future of the UDC remains uncertain. The position and advice are that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. And the party elders think the pact model of cooperation is the safest under prevailing circumstances. Some, however, are worried that we should not overestimate our worth despite being the fastest-growing party in the country.

However, the matter is yet to be concluded once we receive the official invite,” revealed a BPF member of the NEC. Asked about the specifics of the pact idea, another high ranking party official revealed that the party Patron, Lt Gen Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama are among those who are for the election pact model.

BPF Spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse has earlier this year told this publication that: “We have not settled on a model yet.” He also added that as a party, they are ready and willing to work with UDC, “but we will have our thoughts on how the cooperation or the talks should transpire, and they too will tell us their preference, and we will sit on the table to see how best to work together”.

AP heads into these negotiations with proposals of its own. On the model part, AP has expressed flexibility but want its partners to consider other models. AP believes that beyond the umbrella model, the coalition could also have a matrix to ensure that opposition parties select the best candidates for parliamentary and council seats.

AP, a splinter party of the beleaguered Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), asks for the constituencies allocated to BMD in the previous talks before it was kicked out on the eve of the 2019 elections.

AP, which garnered a popular vote of under 40 000 in the 2019 general elections, is confident that it brings tremendous value to the UDC, and state power could be within reach in 2024.
To reconcile the various interest of political parties, the leaders have agreed to engage political experts in a bid to arrive at the best decisions.

“There will be no conveners because parties in the past believed that they (conveners) took decisions on behalf of the constituent parties, though they are not representing any. So, the idea is to rope in political experts to direct UDC and the negotiating parties as to which path of cooperation model to follow,” a highly placed informant said this week.

UDC convener Lebang Mpotokwane has also defended the umbrella model in the past, noting that it creates fewer problems for the participants. The negotiations will be the fourth opposition cooperation talks since the 2009 elections. The opposition has held talks in 2011, 2012 and 2017. The 2012 talks resulted in Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has been anchoring negotiations since then.

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‘Dingake’ name spoils Botswana’s interest in ILO top post

13th October 2021

When the Chairperson of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body invited member states to submit candidates for the vacant Director-General post for consideration, Botswana developed a keen interest.

It swiftly mobilized to beat the deadline, but the unions, upon consultation, nominated Justice Key Dingake as their preferred candidate, much to the government’s disappointment, who then decided to dump the whole issue altogether.

In accordance with the Rules governing the appointment of the Director-General and the decisions made by the Governing Body at its 341st and 342nd Sessions, the Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidates for appointment to the office of Director-General of the ILO through communication to all Governing Body members and all ILO Member States and candidatures must be submitted by a Member State of the ILO or by a regular or deputy member of the Governing Body.

The deadline for submission was on Friday, 1 October 2021, and candidatures were to be sent by postal or electronic mail to the following address to the Chairperson of the Governing Body.
This publication had established that when Cabinet sat to discuss the issue, it was resolved that the unions as key stakeholders should be consulted and requested to submit a name for consideration. They did and offered Justice Oagile Key Dingake-a distinguished scholar and labour law expert whose contribution to the country’s labour fraternity is unparalleled.

When asked this week to share their side of the story, the unions said they were first invited to partake in the process by the government but never got a response after they nominated judge Dingake as an ideal candidate.

“We sent our correspondence to the Minister of Employment, Labour and productivity, Mpho Balopi, with our suggested name being Justice Oagile Key Dingake, but since then we never got a response,” said unionist, Tobokani Rari who further expressed disappointment at how the government has handled the matter.

Rari said that while he would not want to impute any improper motives to anyone, the developments rekindled memories of the government’s hostility towards Judge Dingake, who has been forced by circumstances to take his skills and wealth of experience to the benefit of other countries. Balopi did not respond to questions sent to him and did not pick this publication’s calls at the time of going to press.

Cabinet insiders say Dingake’s name spoilt the party and dampened the spirits. “In the list of nominated names, he was the leading candidate, but I guess the powers that be could not imagine themselves campaigning for him and doing all they did for the Executive Secretary of SADC Secretariat, Elias Magosi.”

Dingake’s sin, observers say, has always been his progressive, independent mind and family’s political background, all of which have always stood in his way to progress to the country’s judicial ladder’s ends.

It is understood that also in the mix and preferred by the state was former Attorney General, judge, and now Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations and other international organizations, Dr Athaliah Molokomme, who also has a background in human rights advocacy.

But insiders say many believed that the country should export Dingake to represent the country given his decorated experience and background. As a lawyer, Dingake represented 90% of Trade Unions in Botswana, drafted numerous Collective Labour Agreements, later presided overall trade disputes, including Collective Labour Agreements, and made determinations as Judge of the Industrial Court of Botswana.

Dingake has also written and lectured widely on trade, labour and human rights and holds numerous citations and awards for his work regarding peace, human rights, and social development. Had he contested and won, he would have been the first African to lead the ILO.

The ILO is built on the constitutional principle that universal and lasting peace can be established only if based on social justice. The ILO has been the source of such hallmarks of industrial society as the 8-hour day, maternity protection, child labour laws and a whole range of policies promoting workplace safety and peaceful industrial relations. Unique among UN organizations, the ILO has a tripartite structure involving governments, employers and workers.

ILO Director-General elections events lineup…

At its 341st (March 2021) and 342nd (June 2021) Sessions, the ILO Governing Body approved the following timetable for the appointment of the Director-General because the current term of office of the Director-General will come to an end on 30 September 2022:

1 July 2021: The Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidatures
1 October 2021: Last date for the reception of candidatures
A week in January 2022: The Chairperson of the Governing Body conducts interviews with candidates for the position of Director-General based on the format and principles contained in document GB.342/INS/6 and the guidance provided by the Governing Body at its 342nd Session
14-15 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts candidate(s) hearings
25 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts the ballot for the election of the Director-General
1 October 2022: The term of office of the Director-General commences.

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Botswana, EU clash over human rights issues 

13th October 2021
human-rights

Botswana and the European Union (EU) appear to have been at each other’s throats behind the scenes since last year, with the EU saying it held several meetings with Botswana to convince her to address human rights issues. 

This is contained in a 2020 Human Rights Report that reveals broad divisions in contentious issues boiling behind the scenes between Gaborone and the Union. According to the report, which was released recently, the EU says it “continues to follow closely three main human rights issues in Botswana: the application of the death penalty; the rights of LGBTI persons; and gender equality.”

“Botswana remains part of a small group of countries – in Africa and globally – which continue to retain the death penalty both in law and in practice. Three executions were recorded in 2020,” the report says. According to the report, the Botswana Government indicated that a public debate on the application of the death penalty should be part of its ongoing work towards developing a Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and the related National Action Plan.

The report says further progress on the rights of LGBTI persons’ seen in 2019, when Botswana’s High Court decriminalised same-sex consensual relations, is still pending, subject to a final court decision over a government appeal.

“Finally, gender-based violence and the need to advance gender equality and women’s rights in society remain another challenge for the country. In response to the high incidence of gender-based violence – which has intensified in many countries during the current COVID-19 pandemic – the President and the First Lady launched a public campaign to fight gender-based violence and to promote equality,” the report says.

The report says the EU did not fold its arms and watch from the sidelines the human rights issues in question are concerned but confronted Botswana to have the contentious issue addressed. “The EU continued to engage with the Botswana Government, multilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations and the broader society in Botswana in three main areas: the death penalty, gender-based violence and empowerment of women, and rights of LGBTI persons, as well as on the support of media and implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations,” the report says.

The report says that in addition to ad hoc consultations and human rights-oriented outreach efforts, the EU engaged with the Botswana Government on human rights formally in the context of the Article 8 Political Dialogue, which took place in February 2020.

“The dialogue offered an opportunity to exchange views on EU’s and Botswana’s experiences concerning the three EU priority areas in Botswana (capital punishment, gender-based violence and rights of LGBTI persons) as well as other human rights challenges, while also exploring opportunities for EU-Botswana cooperation on human rights issues in the context of the EU-Africa partnership and at the multilateral level,” the report says.

In parallel to engagement with the government, the EU said it continued to maintain dialogue with representatives of civil society focusing on human rights and with UN organisations and other partners of the country.

“The EU continues to be the driving force behind the Gender Dialogue (in principle co-chaired with UN Women and the Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Immigration, Nationality and Gender), which brings together various stakeholders to discuss gender issues to chart a way forward regarding partnerships. The EU has also used public diplomacy efforts to stimulate broader dialogue in the country on human rights issues,” the report says.

The EU said it continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, with activities focused primarily on helping Botswana tackle gender-based violence, strengthen the notion of gender equality in the country, and promote participation in political processes.

“With six projects already underway, the EU signed two new programmes, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to support victims of gender-based and domestic violence and defend the rights of marginalised people, with a combined budget of EUR 430,000,” the report says. It says one of the projects is designed to offer care services to victims of gender-based violence and provide clinical services, counselling, shelter, and a referral system for legal and social assistance. Another project provides legal, medical and psychosocial support to refugees, undocumented migrants and indigenous people.

It says Botswana remains an important like-minded partner for the EU on the human rights agenda at a multilateral level. “The country’s positive role on human rights in the multilateral context would be further strengthened by initiating a domestic process of reflection about the signature and ratification of several pending core human rights conventions and/or optional protocols (e.g. the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, etc.)” the report says.

But the report acknowledged that Botswana is a stable and well-established democracy with a legal framework and institutions designed to guarantee respect for human rights in society. It says human rights complaints are addressed by the courts, with the government accepting decisions and implementing relevant rulings.

“Although the media scene in the country is relatively undeveloped, the World Press Freedom Index has noted a further positive trend concerning the role of the media in society (as was also the case in 2019) and has improved Botswana’s ranking from 44th to 39th place (out of 180 countries),” the report says.  Meanwhile, this week, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi met with the EU delegation led by the managing director for Africa of the European External Action Services, Ms Rita Laranjinha.

 

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