Member of Parliament (MP) for Gabane-Mankgodi, Major General Pius Mokgware has told government that the escalating number of unemployed youth and angry soldiers at the barracks pose a great threat to the security and economy of the country.
Debating the budget for Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture presented by Thapelo Olopeng in Parliament this week, Mokgware said that the youth are slowly becoming frustrated and disgruntled as the government is failing to create decent jobs for them.
“Madam Speaker, I am really concerned about our young people who continue to loiter around the streets with nothing to do. This is a testimony that the interventions by the government to tackle unemployment have proved futile,” he said.
General Mokgware told Parliament that educated and jobless youth can be an easy target for terrorists. “We have IT graduates who lead the pack of unemployed graduates.
These people can be recruited by terrorists to develop software and viruses in order to hack our computers, destabilise water and electricity systems and destroy this country in the blink of an eye,” he cautioned. Mokgware reiterated that if the mounting problem of youth unemployment is not taken care of, young people may divert their energies to cyber warfare and use their expertise to the advantage of terrorist organisations like Boko Haram, al Queda and al Shabaab.
“We invest a lot in our education sector but I am disappointed that we cannot create decent jobs for these graduates. Majority of them are underemployed and exploited through programmes like internship and graduate volunteer scheme. Our country is in danger because these people can use their vast knowledge and skills to shut down the traffic lights and railway system as it once happened in London about eleven years ago,” he added.
Mokgware, the retired commander of the BDF ground forces observed that many young people across the country are becoming militant and radicalised, a development he said may spell doom for the country. He said violent youth who continue to terrorise people in Palapye, Thamaga, Molepolole and Kanye were just a tip of the iceberg.
He further told Parliament that Botswana should be warry of cyber spying and espionage saying that in many countries it was the idle youth who were at the helm of such activities. In addition, he said, drug lords and mafias can end up using the youth to distribute their harmful products in schools and in the end this could impact on the country’s health system as the country will have to build many rehabilitation centres.
“Rural-urban migration is on the rise and the skyrocketing unemployment could trigger riots and increase crime statistics,” he further remarked.
Mokgware suggested that the government should engage the private sector in creating employment for the youth instead of “starving the private sector as it even decided not to engage it in the Economic Stimulus Program.”
He called on the government to provide full time employment for special constables and temporary teachers.
He also blasted Botswana Qualification Authority (BQA) doubting the accreditation capacity of the institution as it was not affiliated to any international body. He said the country has the capability to export its graduates to other developing countries like South Sudan but that was impossible as the local universities were producing half-baked graduates.
Contributing to the budget of Ministry of Security, Defence and Security, Mokgware alleged that members of disciplined forces were not happy with their welfare.
“An angry soldier is a threat to the country as he is capable of doing anything,” he debated in Parliament.
Mokgware implored the government to improve the welfare of soldiers, police officers and prison warders including providing them with decent housing and regular reviews of their salaries.
Meanwhile, the second meeting of the second session of the 11th Parliament ended this week with members debating and approving the national budget which was presented by Minister of Finance and Development planning, Kenneth Mathambo last month.
Former High Court Judge Professor Key Dingake has made his opinion known about gay rights in a glowing tribute to his retired former colleague Justice Ian Kirby.
Late last month a panel of Court of Appeal (CoA) led by Judge Kirby upheld a 2019 High Court ruling that decriminalised same-sex relations and stroke down two sections in the penal code. In his seminal judgment, Justice Kirby said these sections served only to incentivize law enforcement agents to become keyhole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens.
In this case one Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a homosexual had instituted an application in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of Sections 164 (a) and 164 (c).
Paying tribute to Justice Kirby, Justice Dingake said overall the Kirby court was restrained and brilliant in its genre of conservatism. Judge Dingake said the case of Motshidiemang is evidence of the latter. “In a stroke of a pen, he ended the long and tortuous road to equality of gay people.
I was reminded of this long and tortuous road by a piece written by, Zackie Achmat, that indefatigable human right defender, recently, when he reflected on a union of gay men, one Khoi and the other a Dutch sailor, way back in 1735, who for their love for each other were brutally murdered,” Justice Dingake said.
He said in truth Botswana’s Constitution never denied the right to equality for gay men. It was society and the judges who did – some arguing that the time is not right to extend equality rights to gay persons – forgetting the self-evident truth that we are all born equal and that rights are not negotiable – not even with Judges.
“It ought to be remembered that the Motshidiemang case was similar to the case of Kanani that preceded it. Justice Kirby was part of the panel that sat in Kanani. In Kanani he agreed with the other Justices and refused to strike down the offensive legislation. The same legislation he struck down in Motshidiemang.
There is no doubt in my mind that Kanani was wrongly decided at the time, as several of my writings thereafter contended, having regard to the legal injunction to always interpret constitutional rights liberally and to treat the constitution as a living organism,” Justice Dingake wrote.
He added that in Kanani the Court of Appeal held back “our march to freedom for more than a decade – and perpetuated the suffering of gay persons as their being was criminalized based on an inaccurate and narrow reading of the Constitution”.
The truth of the matter is that, he said, our Constitution never denied gay persons the rights to equality and the right not to be discriminated against. “Some sections of society (may be the majority) and the bench did so. The bench did so because of the choices they exercised.
They chose to interpret the constitution restrictively, which is not permissible; they chose to be blown away by ‘public opinion’, which was not right, and they chose not read: ‘sexual orientation’, into section 15 of the constitution, which they could have done.”
Botswana’s Constitution he said commands that it be interpreted in a manner that saves humanity from the scourge of indignity – and with a sense of the future – and to secure the rights of generations yet to be born. It is always the duty of Judges to breathe life into the Constitution – and to effect the promise of the Constitution – by among other things rejecting the tyranny of the majority.
“Section 3, the principal section conferring fundamental human rights in Botswana has always been there. It was ignored in Kanani, and thankfully given effect to in Motshidiemang. A big lesson here is the often overlooked fact: Judges matter! Who the Judge is may be life changing in any given matter.
When one considers the decision in Kanani and Motshidiemang, based on similar facts and the diametrically opposed conclusions, one may be given to think that may be: ‘the constitution is what the Judges say it is’, at any given time, as that brilliant luminary judge and scholar, Charles Evans Hughes (1862 -1948) LLD, once ruminated.”
Interestingly, Judge Dingake wrote about homosexuality more than 12 years ago in his book ‘Key Aspects of the Constitutional Law of Botswana’. Justice Dingake expressed his views on what was said then to what was said in the recent judgment.
In that book, he began the debate by stating that homosexual issues are not frequently debate in Botswana. “Empirically, the extent of homosexual tendencies is not known. In any event the phenomenon does not appear to be widespread,” the Judge wrote.
He said serious debate however cropped up sometime around August 1995, after president Robert Mugabe’s much publicized anti homosexuals speech at the Harare International Book Show. Even then, he said, the debate was only confined to a small circle of intellectuals, with the broader community generally contemptuous and not willing to engage in serious debate about the issue.
“Although the intellectual community is by no means unanimous, there are some voices, particularly emanating from the University of Botswana, that are calling for equal treatment for homosexuals. Despite the enormous capacity of such arguments to court controversy general response of the public was one of cynicism. This general lack of interest among the general populace contrasts sharply with the enthusiasm and interest on the issue, just across the border, in South Africa, where there are numerous homosexual associations,” he said.
He explained that the South African Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which has paved the way for homosexuals to be employed in the army, an advance that is unparalleled in modern democracies. He also explained that Botswana’s criminal law prohibits consenting adults of the same sex from having a sexual relationship, because that is said to be unnatural.
“Within the framework of Botswana’s Constitution there can be no doubt that the prohibition of sexual relationships between consenting male adults of the same sex is unconstitutional. No free society can, in this era, afford to treat its citizens differently on the basis that is patently irrational.
Every individual, is in terms of the Constitution equal before law and has the right of equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The legal recognition of homosexuals will confirm Botswana as a democratic country that is advancing with time.”
He added that it needs to be said that it is however fruitless to bury “our heads in the sand and hope the issue will disappear for good”. He concluded: “In time we will have to confront the issue head on. In time blind prejudice that stigmatizes homosexual relationships will have to stand up to rational scrutiny. It is advisable not too turn a blind eye to the pain of discrimination suffered by few of our fellow countrymen and women. In a democracy it is unacceptable that the majority should oppress the minority”.
Consumers could pay more for electricity this year, as the government owned power producer, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) plans to increase prices for electricity by 5% with effect from the 1st of April 2022.
BPC recent statement on tariff adjustment shows that with the planned 5% increase in electricity tariffs, electricity prices per kWh could increase by 111 thebe for household users, 226 thebe for government, 148 thebe for commercial businesses and 111 thebe for the mining sector.
Botswana economy is registering growth as the country emerges from one of its worsts economic recessions since independence, following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
In late December 2021 Statistics Botswana released the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for the third quarter of 2021.
The nominal GDP for the third quarter of 2021 was P49, 260.5 million compared to P48, 684.0 million registered during the previous quarter. This represents a quarterly increase of 1.2 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.