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BOCRA must push for communications sector policy – BIDPA

The Botswana Communications Regulations Authority (BOCRA) has been urged to advocate for the development of a policy document for the communications sector. The policy will help improve the capacity of the regulator to further develop the sector.

A policy document will set the performance targets of the sector as well as the governance arrangements and implementation setup, and how performance measurement is to be carried out.

The study has revealed that the majority of the broadcasting sector remains unregulated, or at least remains outside of the ambit of BOCRA’s regulatory authority. The unregulated sector thus includes RB 1 and 2, BTv, all the SABC channels (1, 2, and 3), DSTv Botswana and Multi Choice South Africa. However, in the case of the SABC channels, geographical reach is largely restricted to villages and towns close to South Africa.

“The most influential radio media, RB1 and RB2 and BTv are unregulated by BOCRA. Being thus unregulated implies a lack of capacity by BOCRA to exert regulatory discipline on the most influential media, possibly leading to lack of uniformity of standards.”

According to a Customer Satisfaction Survey commissioned by BOCRA and carried out by the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), the general view is that overall; respondents are satisfied with communications sector services in Botswana.

But the fact that there is no policy statement/document for the communications sector, which, in turn means no performance targets, implementation arrangements and other implementation measures are set for the sector, remains a cause for concern for BIDPA researchers.

“In order to improve customer understanding of the relationship between technical matters and service quality and pricing, BOCRA must increase targeted educational efforts in those particular matters. For example, the relationship of bandwidth, Internet speed and Internet type to their satisfaction with services are less understood by the users of BOCRA regulated service,” BIDPA researchers noted in their conclusions.

According to the Study, the most commonly used mode of communication in Botswana is the cellular phone. At least 93% of respondents had a mobile phone set. The least common mode of communication in the country is the fixed line telephony.

Only 15% of the respondents indicated owning a fixed line telephone either at work or in their homes a number of factors, such as the improvements in technology, particularly the entrance of mobile telephones ought to explain this development.

The Survey report further notes that the growth in use of the mobile phone as the most common mode of communication in Botswana is in consonance with the finding of the Operator and Customer Perception Survey of 2012 (BTA 2012), carried out at the behest of the then regulator of the telecommunications sector, the Botswana

Telecommunications Authority or BTA. It is also reflected in global trends, where the ITU shows mobile telephony as the most common communications mode for the developed countries.

However, BIDPA researchers are of the view that in order to improve the capacity of the regulator to improve its evidence based decision making processes, BOCRA must pay more focus on generating customer service information.

They note that the regulator would be aided by section 8 of the Communications Regulatory Act to require information from operators that may also aid the information obtained from undertakings such as this one. Further, they say the benefit of this intervention will spread beyond just the communications sector as others, including researchers, policy makers, and service providers will also be able to better understand the sector, including its contribution to national development.

The Survey concludes by stating that exempting state broadcasters from regulatory authority is likely to lead to unbalanced development of the sector, and possibly expose some of the users to suboptimal services. In Botswana’s case, the study notes,  it has been consistently shown that state broadcasters are actually the most influential broadcasters, which implies that regulatory authority is not applied at the most influential parts of the industry

OTHER FINDINGS

The BOCRA Customer Satisfaction Survey noted that the influence of age, gender, geography and education on customer satisfaction tends to vary depending on the sector being analysed. For instance, where mobile telephony is concerned, the youth are clearly the most dominant age group in terms of usage of the technology. Similarly they use many other applications offered by, the Internet, and data usage. However, the youth do not seem particularly keen on fixed lines.

On the other hand, the Survey states that it appears that geographical location has little influence on the choice of billing method for the respondents. This could either be that optimal services are being provided by service providers, in other words, that regulation is effective.

As expected the study confirmed that most people are multiple users of communication modes. Whereas the study set out to interview a 1000 people, it has turned out that the study generated over 2600 responses.

“Such a pattern signifies the fact that any one user of communications modes uses more than just one. Another notable matter is that these modes of communication offer different solutions. The cellular phone offers voice calls, short messaging, Internet services, social media and others. Similarly the post office offers more than just posting letters-it offers philately, old age pensions, money orders and others. It can be concluded therefore that the development of any of the subsectors of the communications sector will further add to the satisfaction of customers,” the researchers write in their report.

They note that high rates of knowledge prevail in terms of the correct conduct of using mobile phones.

“Similarly respondents knew of the need to not disturb infrastructure meant for mobile, radio, television and other communications. For instance, the majority of the respondents understood the importance of NOT sending pornographic and other obscene materials. The study has revealed that generally consumers do not pay much attention to standard technical details that have a bearing on quality, pricing and efficiency. Such issues as the speed of the Internet, the type of the Internet directly impact the quality of service, but generally customers tend to pay little attention to either.”

The Survey notes that the capacity of each sector to perform optimally depends, to varying degrees on that of other sectors:  

“For example, the fact that the majority of Internet services are accessed through mobile phone sets means that satisfaction levels in the Internet service provision are, to some extent reliant on the optimality of mobile phone network capacity. Similarly the Kitsong Centres, provided through post offices provide access to Internet, and similarly some radio services are provided online. On the other hand, the post offices, with their wide network of bureaus and agencies improve mobile phone access by selling air time vouchers; whereas part of access to the public broadcaster, BTv is carried by the DSTv signal. There are probably many other interdependencies in the communications sector which can be improved through targeted developmental and regulatory activities.”

IMPLICATIONS

The above finding has one implication for any evaluation; it means that assessments of customer satisfaction matters are not without complexity. As stated, for instance, that part of the BTv signal is carried through DSTv, it implies that the capacity of DSTv to deliver, instance clear signal could impact on the customer satisfaction of BTv watchers.

Similarly, the satisfaction of Internet users who use mobile phone handsets to access the web may be influenced directly by the capacity of the carriers such as Mascom, Orange and be Mobile to provide a quality service. These are actually the majority of Internet surfers in Botswana.

The BIDPA researchers observe that from an interventionist policy perspective however, it suggests that lags in developments by any of the sector may lead to underperformance by other subsectors.

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State forged Kgosi’s arrest warrant

22nd July 2021
FORMER DIS BOSS: ISAAC KGOSI

In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).

The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.

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UDC parties discuss by-elections

22nd July 2021
UDC

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.

Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.

The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.

This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).

The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.

The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.

In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.

Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.

Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.

“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.

Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.

“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.

The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.

UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.

Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.

Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.

Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”

Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.

FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS  

With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.

BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.

BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.

It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.

Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”

It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.

At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.

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DIS infiltrates Police fingerprint system

22nd July 2021
Makgope

Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.

Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.

BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.

The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.

By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.

In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.

“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.

“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.

The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.

All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.

“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.

Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.

Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.

COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE

As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.

“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.

The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.

“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.

The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.

“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.

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