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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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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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