A Vision 2016 commissioned study sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) is doing ‘very little or nothing to correct its battered image’.
The study however praises transparency, accountability and information sharing by the DISS hierarchy.
The Vision 2016’s new report on household opinion survey was conducted by LOGICA consultancy during the months of July and September 2015 and was published at the end of last month.
It notes that since its formation in 2008, DISS has unearthed and exposed organised crime syndicates threatening national interests. These organised groups are involved in an array of illegal activities such as terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud, human smuggling and trafficking, and official corruption, the study acknowledges.
However, the study continues that “Although the DISS was established for a good reason, the agency’s work is not appreciated by some citizens as they believe that it is not doing what they expect it to do. There is a problem of credibility as some people believe that it was created to spy on them while others believe that its leaders are accountable unto themselves,” reads the study in part.
In addition the study points out that there is a perception that there is no transparency in the way national resources are handled by the agency.
“The role played by the DISS must be clearly defined so that citizens can appreciate its relevance to the modern society. Lessons can be drawn from countries such as the USA where intelligence agencies have been in existence for many years and still have the trust and confidence of the citizens,” reads an extract from the study.
The authors of the Vision 2016 count down study conclude by indicating that a concerted effort must be made to improve the image of the DISS.
“Its achievements must be shared with members of the public. Furthermore the leaders of the urgency must be transparent in terms of how national resources allocated to them are utilised,” says the study.
VISION 2016 SURVEY BLOWS HOT AND COLD
Meanwhile, the same Vision 2016’s report on household opinion survey conducted by LOGICA consultancy has been characterized as not being representative of the citizens’ response to the Vision as a whole.
Stakeholders lambasted the Vision 2016 household survey that had applied among other things a statistical survey method which had 1 777 respondents. The stakeholders lampooned the 1 777 figure of respondents as not being representative of the opinion of the entire populace.
They also shot down the ‘trivial survey’ as it failed to mention the baseline of improvements from the previous period to the current times.
The Vision 2016 household survey has revealed that the majority of respondents across all the administrative districts as well as five cities and towns have heard of the vision. It has also revealed that the vision 2016 meaning has still not effectively trickled down to the far flung countryside areas as only 70.7 percent of Batswana dwelling in the cattle posts and lands have heard of the vision.
The report also states that in the rural villages 80.6% have said they have not heard of the vision, also showing that there are still Batswana in metropolitan areas who still have not heard of vision 2016 despite it being in its last months as a national vision. In terms of Vision 2016’s first pillar on education the survey states that Batswana believe that progress has been made in improving quality as reflected by the number of qualified teachers employed, introduction to technology in schools and a reduction in the teacher pupil ratio has substantially been reduced in public schools.
The report also says that 60 percent of Batswana felt that living conditions such as housing, health, clothing conditions and food consumption have improved. It also says that unemployment is on the decline, still unacceptably high at 19 percent for a country of Botswana’s economic standing while living standards in the lands and cattle post areas have improved marginally with 39.2 percent of respondents reporting improvement in their living standards compared to the last 5 years while Botswana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita has been increasing steadily.
Concerning the pillar of ‘A safe and secure nation’ the report states that in the past female soldiers were not allowed in to the army while in current times they have since been allowed and there has been a 16% reduction rate in serious, violent and intrusive crime while there has also been as an increase in road safety. However it also says that Batswana are dissatisfied with the country’s shoot to kill policy that concerns poaching as it might harm the country’s diplomatic relations with neighbouring states and eventually the safety of its citizens.
It also goes on to mention that 55.7% of the respondents were satisfied with the services provided by health care facilities and that 16.3% of Batswana live below the poverty datum line.
On the pillar of ‘An Open, Democratic and Accountable Nation’ the survey states that about 60 percent of respondents confirmed various international agencies reports that Botswana is one of the best governed and least corrupt countries in Africa.
The report also lists broadcast as the most medium that has the farthest reach in disseminating the Vision 2016 message at 60 percent followed by Broadcast television at 35 percent while private newspapers hover at 10 percent.
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.