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Unmoved Saleshando speaks

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) President, Dumelang Saleshando

The leader of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), Dumelang Saleshando has blasted the ruling party for coming up ‘last ditch efforts’ aimed at keeping it in power. He however warned that potential joint effort between his party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change remains the only hope for this country.

Opposition Unity

The BCP leader said his party has always committed itself to cooperation with other opposition parties.  He said they have in the past cooperated with formations such as the New Democratic Front, Botswana Alliance Movement and MELS, and some of the efforts culminated in a total merger.  

He stated that when the Umbrella 1 talks collapsed, they restated their commitment to engage the other parties post 2014 elections.  “Our membership recently mandated the leadership to engage the UDC.  

“It must be understood that the mandate is for the BCP to negotiate a mutually acceptable cooperation arrangement between the two formations.  Such cooperation may be of any form.  It is wrong to conclude that the BCP is just on a mission to secure UDC membership.  We need to allow those who will be mandated to lead the talks the space they need to broadly reflect on the possible options and persuade each other on the best steps to take in order for us to deliver a new viable and stable government in 2019.”

Saleshando said what is clear, is that only a joint effort between BCP and UDC will deliver a new government.  He said once an agreement that is acceptable to the two parties is reached, the BDP would not be able to face the might of our combined efforts.

“I am however alive to the fact that there will be doubting Thomases within our ranks on the viability of opposition cooperation.  It is in the nature of lively human beings that differences of opinion will always accompany new ideas.  Only an organization domiciled in a graveyard can hope for total convergence of views on topical issues.  We are an organization composed of divergent skills and viewpoints.  It is this diversity that if well managed, will propel the BCP to greater heights,” said Saleshando.
Parliament

Saleshando said losing his seat in the 2014 general elections was a setback for the BCP.  He said it is always desirable that the party leader should be in Parliament to lead in articulating the views of the party.  

“As they say, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud.  My period outside Parliament accords me more time to focus on party specific issues.  For the four years (2010 – 2014) that I served as both MP and party leader, the BCP was not as active as it used to be on extra parliamentary activities.  Such activities are essential in a democracy as they reach out to the larger populace.  The Democracy Alerts that used to be regular were informative and also brought international attention to issues that matter.”

Saleshando said he chooses not to comment on suggestions that his performance in Parliament was superior to the current crop of opposition MPs.  He said there is need to allow more time for the new opposition MPs to prove themselves.  

“They have been given a 5-year term and it is unfair that some people wrote them off in their first year.  We all adapt differently to new assignments.  There is no training school for one to pass as a good MP.  A majority of the opposition MPs are in their first term and there are clear indications that some of them are already performing exceptionally well,” he observed.
Emerging Issues

Saleshando observed that of late, the BDP structures have been haphazardly making a number of proposals that they have vehemently opposed in the past.  He said they refused suggestions that Parliament seats be increased in the run up to the 2014 elections but they now want 40 additional seats.  

“They argued in the past that the Proportional Representation gives rise to unstable governments but they now want the system introduced.  They opposed public funding of political parties on the grounds that there were other national priorities but now support it when the economy has slowed down.  They branded opposition party members lunatics for proposing that part of the reserves be invested in the economy but today they call the same idea a game changer,” he indicated.

According to the BCP leader, “What is clear is that the BDP is dead worried by 2019.  For the first time since formation they represent the minority and have been rejected by the majority of the voters.  They know that their days are numbered and their actions should be seen as desperate actions of a party that knows that it will have to face the political hang man in 2019.”

He said the ESP is the most dramatic of the BDP panic mode performances.  Up to today, they have failed to deliver a clear detailed plan of how they will stimulate the economy, he stated.  

“People are just being told to incorporate businesses as there will be mega bucks floating around for all to deposit to their business accounts. ESP may in the end prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the BDP as it is in essence being used to heighten expectations when there is no capacity to meet the expectations.  I have no doubt in my mind that once the BDP has blown up the reserves that have been built over decades, unemployment will still be over the twenty percent mark, inequality will have worsened, poverty will not have been eradicated and the economy will still be dominated by foreigners.  Batswana will then be told that their opportunity will come in 2036 when the new vision matures.  Hopefully, a new government in 2019 will be ready to unveil a new beginning.”      
 

Year 2015 for BCP

As far as his party is concerned, Saleshando said this was a year that followed a general election whose outcome was way below the standards they had set for themselves.  
He said the party was able to come out of the dark period and convene the biggest elective conference in recent history.  He observed that the high turnout at the conference demonstrated that their members are optimistic about the future of the party.

He further stated it was during 2015 that they came back to capture a ward that they had never won in Mochudi (Bokone Ward) to demonstrate that they have what it takes to bounce back to winning ways.

“It was also in 2015 that we conducted regional meetings that allowed the leadership to touch base with all the administrative structures of the party country wide.  Though some people who are not accustomed to the culture of the BCP label us as an overly consultative organization, we will continue to cherish the practice of internal debates and shun proposals for a more top down leadership style.  Once the party membership has decided on the path that the party is to follow, the leadership is compelled to administer the organization in line with the wishes and aspirations of the majority,” explained Saleshando.

Commenting on the BCP new leadership that was elected in Kanye, Saleshando said it is a well-balanced team that comprises experience and youthful hands that have never served at the highest structure.  

“Having been returned as the party leader unopposed is a source of great inspiration for me to do more for the BCP.  In the coming year, the leadership will be busy galvanising the structures of the BCP countrywide.  As in the past, we will once more invest more in training our cadres to make sure that we can boast a membership that is enlightened and able to articulate the alternative vision of the BCP,” he said.

Saleshando said more than any political party in Botswana, they have entrusted a high number of young people with leadership positions in the party.  He observed that in the 2014 general elections the BCP fielded the highest number of young people as Parliamentary and Local Government candidates.  

“Our constitution provides for affirmative action for youth and women.  This bold decision comes with its own risks.  Owing to the high unemployment rate in the country and the desperate economic situation that the youth are confronted with, our young leaders have become the target of the BDP recruitment machinery.  They are promised a better life if they take up the BDP membership card.  I remain convinced that the small number of our youthful members who are attracted by the BDP resources should not discourage us from investing further in the youth who make up a significant section of our membership.”

Saleshando indicated that they recently had some former BDP high profile members including a sitting councillor defecting to the BCP.  He said as they approach 2019, they should expect more BDP members to see the light and ditch the party regardless of the prospects for personal enrichment that the party accords those who associate with it.  

“The BCP will have to continue to demonstrate that it is a welcoming party and allow the new members to serve in the structures of the party.  The party will have to once more invest in training the new and old members on the core values of the BCP,” he said.

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

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.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

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.

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Botswana ranked 129 in female MPs representation

26th July 2022
Minister of Finance & Economic Development Peggy Serame

The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.

The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.

This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.

Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.

The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.

The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).

Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).

The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.

Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors.
Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.

Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.

In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.

The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.

The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.

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