Four years to the next cut-throat election season the Botswana Federation of Public Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) has reaffirmed solidarity with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), guaranteeing to give it state power in the 2019 general elections.
BUFEPUSU administrative officer Samuel Molaodi said this at the Botswana National Front (BNF) 50th celebration gala dinner in Mahalapye over the weekend that BUFEPUSU desires for a united opposition and urges parties composing the opposition coalition to lead Batswana as they are worn out and dead beat of BDP misrule. The fire-breathing union leader said UDC is Batswana’s only way out: “you are their last hope and I can assure you that Batswana trust you.”
He reiterated a litigious claim that has upset rival trade union federation, Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), of BOFEPUSU being a national trade union labour centre. He said that with BOFEPUSU’s position as a trade union labour centre and representing labour interests of a substantial fraction of the populace it has thus given them the ability to see what Batswana yearn and aspire for as BOFEPUSU collectively represents labour interests of approximately 100 000 members.
He said the definitive aspiration of BOFEPUSU is to see the establishment tumble over in their lifetime and that Batswana need for the federation to continue to nurture and see through the coalition to political success as the initial conveners of opposition talks.
Molaodi continued saying nothing should split opposition coalition vowing BOFEPUSU will always be on hand for assistance. “We love you and we want to work with you to liberate Batswana because you are the only hope as an alternative government.” Molaodi rumbled, before appealing to UDC legislators to always watch the back of the labour federation and be its mouth-piece in parliament in cases where the ruling party majority toys with passing legislation that eat into the rights of the workers.
He also cautioned that those who depart from the mission will not depress their resolve and staying power and BOFEPUSU will continue with its dreaded enemies of progress ‘hit list’ that detailed names and the heads of politicians and senior administration figures that need to be taken out.
He continued warning that the 2019 elections will see big money being injected into the electoral process and being used against BUFEPUSU and the opposition coalition to thwart the drift of opposition take over. He claims that top opposition leaders are marked men and their lives have been profiled along with their faults and limitations and limitless schemes will be drawn in defer the revolution. Molaodi said that their members at the unions are dealing with such issues and inform them.
Molaodi also said BOFEPUSU will stick to the tried and tested 2011 resolution that was taken after the affliction endured resultant of its 2011 industrial action where the collective 100 000 members of the federation members were doled out the duty of politically converting families and associates into the opposition coalition fold.
He also hastened to warn that the relationship between BOFEPUSU and the opposition coalition is not a permanent one firing a warning shot saying; “after we deliver to you state power we will still be around rolling on our mandate, so don’t be stunned when we step on your feet the moment you impinge on the rights of the workers!”
BOFEPUSU Gender Affairs Officer and Manual Workers Union official Simon Kgaoganang also on the last day of marathon of celebrations restated that he has been dispatched by the federation’s president Johannes Tshukudu to deliver a message of support. The slogan chanting Kgaoganang said: “Our job is to open the door for you-you refused to seize state power in 2014 but this time around we will force it upon you.”He also said that BOFEPUSU sees potential in the UDC and on Election Day’s eve the ruling Botswana Democratic Party should not even be an opposition party but should collapse.
Cuban ambassador to Botswana Carlos Arencibia Corrales also said that the central committee of the Cuban Communist Party sends messages of solidarity and applaud the Botswana National Front as it reaches half a century of existence.
The South African Communist Party emissary and its political chairperson Mpho Motlhabane also urged opposition parties to consolidate their power and put collective interest before individuality saying the SACP will back the UDC parties’ day of night as it has always done working with it in house to house and general campaigns. He said all the 240 000 members of the SACP stand behind the UDC urging parties making up the coalition to take example of the tripartite alliance+1 involving the South African Communist Party, the African National Congress, Congress of South African Trade Unions plus SANCO’s way of doing things.
Motlhabane said the current Botswana government is usually the source of problems plaguing the SADC region as it has the tendency of leaning to western countries in times of a regional tumult.
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.
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.