President Lt. Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi
President Lt. Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama may release Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) Dr. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi for the Chairmanship of African Union Commission.
WeekendPost has established that Khama has given the move thumbs up as, given her credentials, Venson-Moitoi will represent the country well and in particular the AU as the highest decision making organ of the continent.
The Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) has unanimously endorsed the Botswana candidate – Moitoi – for the position, and stakes are high for other regions, as it is widely believed that the continent may opt for another Southerner in the coming election following Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini -Zuma’s remarkable performance at the African body.
After having served in the AU for four years now, Dlamini-Zuma’s chairmanship ends in June this year. She is said to be a leading candidate earmarked to succeed embattled President Jacob Zuma whose term maybe cut short following the constitutional court ruling on Thursday that found him guilty of flouting the constitution in using public funds to upgrade his Nkandla private residence.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation released a statement yesterday confirming Moitoi’s candidature, citing that as the candidate for the Southern African region, Venson-Moitoi, will compete for the position with candidates’ from other regions of Africa.
The decision by President Khama to release Venson-Moitoi and the possible subsequent victory in the contestation will leave Serowe South constituency vacant – which will naturally warrant a bye election and a ministerial vacancy.
Serowe South is a well-known stronghold of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) with Venson-Moitoi having safely won the seat with a margin of more than 7 000 votes against Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s Brigadier Iphemele Kgokgothwane in 2014.
The Minister of MoFAIC is expected to consult with a possibility of bidding farewell to the constituents next week after she returns from a long leave. She was first elected to Parliament in 1999 and ever since then she has been enjoying landslide victories.
Former Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC) Chairperson Louis Sibanda, a close ally of Venson-Moitoi, is seen as a strong contender to succeed her – should she win the AU chairperson bid. Another hopeful, Sefane Phuthego may have dented his chances by contesting against her in the previous 2014 BDP primary election.
Indications suggest that the incumbent Serowe South legislator will further consult with President Khama on the contestation as they might differ somewhere while at AU – hence the dialogue is necessary. While at AU, the duo may differ in ratifying some treaties notwithstanding that they have worked under the same government.
It is expected that the elections for the position will be held during the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU, which will take place from 17 to 18 June in Kigali, Rwanda.
It is understood that the decision to endorse Minister Venson-Moitoi as candidate for the AU Chairperson-ship “was taken at the meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Southern Africa Region held in Gaborone on the 23rd March 2016”.
This publication has established that 10 SADC countries have endorsed Venson-Moitoi including their rival Zimbabwe with whom they have had differences in the past over Robert Mugabe’s legitimacy as a President following disputed elections.
Botswana has ruffled a few feathers through her roof-top diplomacy pinned on its constitutional obligations and shrewd principles based on human rights, rule of law and effective democracy. They have almost not spared any country in denouncing against flouting and inconsistency in the said principles.
In the past, Botswana has broken ranks with fellow African countries with regards to affiliation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). When others in the continent denounced the Court for its double standards saying it targeted African leaders and turned a blind eye to western countries, Botswana rooted for it.
The country still uses the death penalty which is entrenched in its constitution and this has rubbed other countries the wrong way including neighbouring South Africa. Botswana is also known for her abhorrence to gay rights, which is against most western countries agenda however, recently the CoA ruled in favour of a homosexual organization, LEGABIBO and ordered it was free to register.
It remains to be seen whether this rooftop diplomacy will affect Botswana (represented by Venson-Moitoi)’s performance for the AU top post in the next 3 months when African countries look for a replacement for exiting Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who made history as the first woman AU chair in 50 years. Moitoi will be the second, should she win.
WeekendPost has also gathered that AU Chairmanship rotates amongst the African regions, but a lot of people felt that the SADC region may continue, and it is still unclear if they (other regions) will field candidates in the contestation.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission is the Chief Executive Officer, legal representative of the AU and the Commission’s Accounting Officer. The Chairperson also exercises executive functions in the running of the AU affairs and is responsible for the delivery of the agenda of the Organisation aimed at advancing greater continental integration for a more prosperous Africa.
The AU Commission comprises of the Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and eight (8) Commissioners of peace and security; political affairs; trade and industry; infrastructure and energy; social affairs; rural economy and agriculture; human resources, science and technology; and economic affairs.
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.
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.