President Lt Gen Dr Ian Khama Seretse Khama and his central committee have reined on party chairman and Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, together with the party Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane to normalise their relations for the interest of the party.
The BDP central committee at its meeting a fortnight ago addressed the concern that the Chairman and the Secretary General were not working together. The perception as expressed by some members of the central committee came as a result of Ntuane’s continued and suspicious absence from press conferences addressed by Masisi and his team of handlers, among them, Fish Pabalinga, who chairs the Communication subcommittee.
Central committee members are said to have expressed the concern that the continued absence of the Secretary General from these press conferences seem to suggest bad blood between the two leaders and they opined that it has the potential to give the party a bad name.
At the last BDP Congress in Mmadinare, Ntuane collected the highest number of votes making him the most popular candidate of all those that were elected. He got 724 votes, against Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri’s 124. These numbers suggest to some in the central committee that Ntuane is a very popular figure in the BDP hence influential. Masisi who was elected Chairman got the second highest votes cast among all candidates.
However, it is said that, the BDP “big fish press conferences” that have been addressed by Chairman Masisi to welcome activists defecting to the BDP from opposition have often happened without Ntuane’s knowledge. In some instances there were explanations that Ntuane was outside the country. At the central committee some asked why those press conferences could not be postponed to a date when Ntuane would be present since they bordered only on the agenda of announcing new members.
Some in the BDP central committee were concerned that the press conferences appeared to be a tool engineered to side-line Ntuane and make him look irrelevant. The central committee is said to have made it clear that Masisi and Ntuane should hold press conferences jointly. Observers are convinced that the message has reached home because the latest month end press conference featured both Vice President Masisi and Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane.
One of the press conferences was held during a time when Ntuane was in South Africa attending the African National Congress annual January conference. The press conference was meant to welcome some youthful politicians from the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). Some within the BDP are adamant that these press conferences are the responsibility of the Secretary General, aside from his portfolio, Ntuane is renowned for his good relations with the media.
Contacted for comment Ntuane could not be drawn into discussing the matter. However some within the party feel that there is a bigger picture to the perceived power struggle.
They are of the view that Masisi and his handlers see Ntuane as a threat and that he has the credentials to be a king maker as the campaign for Presidency heats up.
Both the BDP Women’s Wing and Youth Wing are divided on the way Ntuane was being treated by the chairman and the Communication Subcommittee.
Following their loss to the Duma Boko-led lobby in the Botswana National Front (BNF)’s national congress last month, some members of the party are reportedly considering forming a new political party.
According to members, the new party will be formed after they receive a tip-off that the BNF will do all it can to ensure that the aggrieved members do not participate in the 2024 national elections. This will reportedly done through a carefully orchestrated primary elections elimination campaign.
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.