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Boko unopposed for BNF presidency

BNF President, Duma Boko

Botswana National Front (BNF) President, Duma Boko is set to be unopposed for presidency at the party’s July congress to be held in Francistown.

The latest circulating lobby lists indicate that Boko has the support of both camps, and will be unchallenged for the second time since being elected in 2010. But his deputy Same Bathobakae does not command the same gravitas; she must fight off a determined hopeful in Dr Rev Prince Dibeela, the former Parliamentary candidate for Molabowabojang/Mmathethe.

The two lobby groups are said to be headed by the long serving BNF Publicity Secretary, Moeti Mohwasa and Shaun Nthaile who is an incumbent Member of Parliament.

Mohwasa’s lobby list is predominately made up of serving members of the central committee while Nthaile’s team is predominantly made of those who are hoping to make it for the first time into the central committee.

Mohwasa’s lobby list supports Bathobakae for Vice President while Nthaile’s lobbyist is rooting for Dr Rev Dibeela as the party’s number two.

Bathobakae first became BNF Vice President in 2012 following the resignation of Isaac Mabiletsa from the same position. Mabiletsa joined another opposition party, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

In 2013 Bathobake defeated Dr Elmon Tafa to defend her position. She became the first female from opposition ranks to win a Parliamentary seat in a general election, and the second female to win Parliamentary seat after Habaudi Hubona won a 2013 by-election in Francistown.

Meanwhile, Dr Dibeela is credited for playing an instrumental role in the opposition cooperation talks which led to the formation of the UDC. He is a long time BNF member. Dr Dibeela has been one of the civic leaders involved in facilitating the cooperation of opposition parties since 2001.  He was a member of the Committee for the Strengthening of Democracy which sought to bring unity to opposition parties.

In this role he acted as one of the facilitators of the PACT, he also worked closely with Cde Moupo, Cde Mpho and Cde Lepetu Setshwaelo, Cde Bernard Balikani as Mediator in cases where the PACT arrangement was faltering.  As a recognized political player he was regularly invited as speaker to different political events.  Dr Dibeela and Mr Mpotokwane were also co-conveners of the talks of Presidents in 2006, which collapsed after a short spell.

Dr Dibeela became Synod Secretary of the UCCSA at a very young age.  He rose in the leadership of the Church and worked as a Mission Consultant in Leicester, England, served as UCCSA General Secretary for 8 years based in Johannesburg until 2013 overseeing mission work in 5 countries.

During that time he also served as a Moderator (President) of the Council for World Mission, a global organization of 15 million Congregational Christians across the world.  In this role he was overseeing mission work of Congregational Churches in Africa, the Caribbean, East and South Asia, Europe and the Pacific.  He is well respected in religious circles internationally including in the World Council of Churches.

KESUPILE WILL NOT DEFEND BNF CHAIRMANSHIP

Several candidates are lining up to take up the chairmanship position, currently held by Abram Kesupile. The Kanye South MP has indicated intention not to defend his seat.

BNF Secretary General, Tapiso Kgosikoma, who was elected at the 2013 congress will not be seeking re-election for the position but has shown interest in contesting for the vacant chairmanship position.

Former Gaborone City Council Mayor, Harry Mothei has also launched his bid for the position of party chairman. Other candidates for the position of chairman include; former BNF 2009 Parliamentary candidate for Gaborone West South (now Gaborone Bonnington South) Moses Bantsi, Kgagamatso Kebiditswe, and Abigail Mogalakwe.

Long serving member of the central committee and party spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa intends to challenge for the position of the Secretary General where he is expected to lock horns with Jwaneng/Mabutsane MP Shaun Ntlhaile.

The position of the Treasurer has not attracted many contestants with MP for Ghanzi North, Noah Salakae being the only candidate so far. Incumbent Treasurer Aubrey Lesaso has indicated his decision not to contest for the position again.

The position of the Deputy Secretary General will see a contest between Tona Mooketsi and incumbent, Shadikoo Shampoo.

Two candidates, Benjamin Kelepang and former unionist Justin Hunyepa have expressed interest to replace Mohwasa as party spokesperson.  Hunyepa is currently UDC’s Labour Secretary.

Party ideologist Dr Elmon Tafa, who challenged for the position of Vice President at the last congress will now contest for Secretary for Political Education. Tafa has previously held the position of Secretary for Political Education.   

The BNF Youth League which also goes for an elective congress in March is polarised along the two main lobby groups. This publication has established that the Richard Khumoekae team supports the lobby list lead by Nthaile while Kago Mokotedi’s team supports a team led by Mohwasa.

However both teams support Boko for Presidency. Boko who assumed the reins in 2010 has been credited with reviving the BNF.

Boko ascended to the party presidency after beating former party youth league President Gabriel Kanjabanga. Before the congress, the duo fought a protracted court battle, with Kanjabanga challenging Boko’s membership and his eligibility to contest the elections. The High Court however ruled in Boko’s favour.

Boko was again elected unopposed at the Gantsi 2013 Congress, despite efforts by a youthful Poloko Monang to put his name forward albeit failing to garner support for nomination from the regions.

The Gaborone Bonnington North legislator has also been helped by what is widely perceived as much improved electoral success, after he helped to co-found Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) which garnered a historic 17 seats in Parliament in the last general elections.

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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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