Chairperson of the Botswana Congress Party’s youth league, Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare
The Chairperson of the Botswana Congress Party’s youth league, Tumiso Chillyboy Rakgare has broken ranks with the rest of opposition politicians and spoken highly about the country’s Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
In a candid interview this week with FRANCINAH BAAITSE at his residence in Gaborone, Rakgare revealed that Masisi is a clean man who would give opposition a serious contest ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Rakgare further revealed that as BCP engages the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) over unity talks, the Presidents of the Coalition parties must contests for the leadership positions and be directly elected by the masses.
Rakgare wants BNF to come out clean and account for the saga surrounding the forensic report of Gomolemo Motswaledi, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) leader who died in a car crush a few months before the last general elections. Below is how the interview was captured.
The BCP is readying to join opposition unity ahead of 2019 general elections. Tell us about it. Are you prepared for it?
I have not been mandated by the youth league to share my views on this matter. I have my personal views. However there is always a thin line between views of leaders on personal capacity and that of the position they hold.
There has to be some form of criterion between the coalition parties. Most of the time coalitions do not work out because parties do not understand each other in terms of culture and structures. You talk of behaviour of the general membership of the BCP; how we relate among ourselves, how does the leadership operate; how are decisions taken! For instance BCP uses the “bottom up” policy whereby the leadership implements decisions made by the general membership. That has been a culture in our party. I would not want that to die. I would not want Dumelang to take decisions on behalf of the general BCP membership without prior consultation. I do not want him to act like the former BNF leader, Dr Kenneth Koma who would say, “I am BNF and BNF is me,”
So you do not support the coalition?
I want the cooperation and almost everybody in the BCP wants it, but there are certain outstanding issues that still need to be ironed out. You will recall that when we went for the BCP youth congress last year I was clear that the UDC must come out and tell us the truth.
Remember the Motswaledi report? We need accountability. We submitted a proposal on the Memorandum of Understanding in regards to by-elections to the UDC. We have written to the UDC and it has not responded. Like I was saying to you these issues stands unresolved. We need accountability because we are a government in waiting. Another issue is about what happened in 2011. When the cooperation talks collapsed, Gomolemo Motswaledi, may his soul rest in peace, then representing BMD (Botswana Movement for Democracy) signed, Dumelang Saleshando representing BCP signed and Duma Boko representing BNF (Botswana National Front) also signed. They all agreed that the talks have collapsed and so it was not good when the BNF membership went around accusing Saleshando of betrayal and that he pulled out from the talks.
Saleshando is going back to the negotiation table with UDC over unity talks, what should we expect?
We are going into fresh negotiations and we are going to thoroughly debate the issue and the youth league has already started. Their thinking as well as mine is that in a progressive democracy there has to be a contest. There has to be primary elections in every constituency. The people should be allowed to select their favoured candidate.
So you are not in favour of constituency allocation as per the old umbrella model?
Personally I think constituency allocation is fine but I disagree where primary elections are prohibited. Remember general membership would not participate or have a direct say on the kind of cooperation model to be adopted, but they can take part in voting for their preferred representatives. People should be allowed to directly elect the President, a person who would lead the coalition government. The BDP is going to fight hard to retain power and we need somebody who is very strong to combat their efforts.
Among the four opposition leaders, Boko of BNF, Motlatsi Molapisi of Botswana People’s Party (BPP), Ndaba Gaolathe of BMD and Saleshando of BCP who would you want to lead the combined opposition to the 2019 general elections?
Personally I do not care who takes the party to the general elections. I do not think any elections would be as interesting as those of 2019. Let us put aside party affiliation and understand that this is about regime change. There are capable people who should be allowed the chance to contest and lead the coalition to victory. This project belongs to Batswana. Let us not worry much about individuals but rather about the structure. The Presidency is a very powerful position. The President controls almost all arms of government including the Judiciary, Parliament and even has powers to hang people to death.
We need to have an agreement in place that whoever takes over the Presidency in 2019 would support constitution amendment because the Presidential powers have to be reduced. We need an independent Parliament, independent Judiciary and independent oversight bodies.
What do you think of the current Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi whom the Opposition would have to contend with ahead of the 2019 polls? Is he a potentially strong Presidential Candidate?
Masisi is a nice man. He is a bit cleaner in as far as corruption is involved. He has a very strong character. We need somebody who can match him. If we do not have somebody who is grounded like him, who relates well with the people, we will kiss government goodbye. Masisi connects well with the poor, the ordinary Motswana out there. That alone is a threat to the opposition; that is why we need a character that will match him.
Surely, the opposition is not going to be happy with this statement!
I do not care. This is the truth. This man would pose a serious threat to the opposition should the BDP elect him to lead it into the 2019 general elections. If we fail to oppose him with a strong opposition leader, then we will be in serious trouble.
Do you think Saleshando stands a chance in leading the cooperation?
BCP membership has shown great support for him. They demonstrated that he remains their trusted leader when they re-elected him the party President during the last congress even though he had not achieved all he had wanted to achieve during the 2014 general elections. Dumelang will always be my best ever MP (member of Parliament). As a young person in Parliament he represented me, spoke a lot on things that affect the youth. For tax to be exempted for first home owners, it was because of him. Some of the commodities we buy are excluded from VAT because Saleshando spoke for the people. He has done his best. The party membership believes in him, they trust his leadership skills. They see him as the next President of the country and he must accede to that. If he is to relegate himself to something else, then he would have wronged them. The people should be given a chance to vote him as the leader of the coalition. If many people believe that Boko should lead the coalition, then let the people decide and vote who they believe is the best.
Now about your political future, are you still interested in taking another chance in contesting for a Parliamentary seat in the next general elections?
I am not so sure because we are now talking coalition and possible constituency allocations. Mogoditshane could end up being allocated to another party other than mine. Besides I am very broke at the moment. Campaign is expensive. Politics do not have a thank you when you lose. You struggle on your own. I used family money for campaigns and when you lose nobody gives you back that money. When I was fired from my old job at Duma FM I cared less because I thought, when I win, I would have little money to feed my family and survive. But I lost and I have been sitting home for the past 2 years without a job. I have a wife, a son and extended family to support. Back home in Thamage they look up to me for financial support. I am the bread winner and now that I am in opposition politics it is close to impossible to get my proposals looked at by even the private sector. I have sent out business proposals, but none of them have been successful. I know I had good ideas, but I am being punished because I am an opposition politician.
Is it that bad?
Yes, truth has to be told. Some officers have told me that they cannot help me because “elders” are watching. I am struggling financially. I know some would say I am shaming my family, but my wife has been supporting me through all these difficult times. She even gives me fuel money so that I can attend party meetings.
You are the youth leader, why can’t the party finance official trips?
We are broke, BCP is broke and it always have been broke!
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and the Directorate of Intelligence (DIS) came under the lens of the United Nations Human Rights Committee during the just ended dialogue between committee members and the Botswana delegation.
Scores of issues, among them the country’s reports on topics including whether Masisi abused the State of Emergency Act during the COVID-19 pandemic and alleged surveillance and harassment of members of the public by DIS, were addressed at the session.
A Committee expert asked about legislation in the Penal Code allowing the Government to investigate people who expressed opinions against public figures, particularly the President. How many cases were there of journalists who had been investigated, prosecuted and tried? Concerning the COVID-19 Emergency Powers Act, there was a provision for a fine or a five-year jail term for journalists using “source(s) other than the Director of Health Services or the World Health Organization” when reporting on COVID-19. The Committee Expert asked for the number of cases and other measures taken under this Act.
Another committee expert wanted to know that the scale and scope of electronic surveillance, which had sharply increased in recent years, was concerning. Furthermore, the Committee was troubled at the lack of a sufficient independent oversight mechanism over the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services that reportedly had contributed to a growing climate of fear and chilling effect on journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians. In this respect, a Committee Expert asked about the measures taken by Botswana during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the right to privacy was protected (collection and management of personal data).
The Expert also enquired about a database website, which was not functioning but was supposed to contain documents of Botswana’s international human rights commitments. In terms of the freedom of assembly, while the Constitution of the State party guaranteed it, the Committee had received information that, in practice, the Public Order Act required citizens to apply to the nearest police for a permit to hold an assembly, and police had sometimes denied requests for unclear reasons.
The Committee Expert asked if the Public Order Act of the State party had been applied in conformity with those tests. Would the State party indicate the measures it had taken and/or intended to take to make the application of the law in question strictly compatible with the requirements under article 21? Furthermore, the Committee had also received allegations that police officers sometimes used force to compel gathering people to disperse. In this regard, the Expert asked for information on legal provisions and practical guidelines under which police officers may resort to force and any training programme if any, for police and other law enforcement officers to respect and ensure the right of peaceful assembly.
A Committee Expert asked about cases of holding people for longer periods under pre-trial detention than the maximum period provided for in legislation, 36 months, instead of six. Were there any plans to shorten the duration of pre-trial detention in legislation? The Committee noted that there was no provision for local community broadcasting. What measures were the State party taking to ensure that the local communities could also communicate in their language in the media?
What measures had been undertaken by Botswana to increase sustainable development in the country regarding climate change in particular. What efforts had been undertaken to ensure that customary courts worked up to speed? A Committee Expert asked about children in rural areas who travelled a long way to their schools. The delegation was asked about the independence of the Ombudsman Office, including provisions for appointing the Ombudsman. What budget was envisaged for this Office?
The Expert acknowledged the established procedures and institutions for anti-human trafficking but expressed concerns about the lack of reported cases. The Expert asked about the accountability of the public prosecution, as well as the intelligence services. Replying, the Botswana delegation, led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng, said there was an ongoing consultation for revising provisions that would ensure better protection for journalists and media freedom in Botswana.
Still, the delegation said, freedom of expression was assured in the State party without any restrictions, including in Parliament. There was an education programme providing the opportunity for children in primary school to be taught in their mother tongue. It also explained that the Ombudsman would be dealing with issues of human rights promotion and protection.
“National policies and procedures were envisaged to control the distribution of natural resources. Botswana was also taking measures to increase the access of minority groups to education. Regarding pre-trial detention, the delegation explained that the criminal procedure assured justice was preserved in the country,” said the delegation.
On the issue of torturer and alleged use of unreasonable force on suspects, the Botswana delegation explained that police officers were trained to use minimal force, ensuring that human rights were preserved, including in the cases of assemblies. On the use of surveillance, no legal provisions were breached, and such measures were used in accordance with national legislation. Legal aid was very costly, and it was not possible to keep the record in detail as asked by the Committee.
Morwaeng told the Committee that the Government maintained a robust consultative approach to policy development and legislative process. He said this was a system of governance that ensured that the voices of ordinary citizens were respected and taken into account in the social, economic and political process that affected them the most, giving full effect to the full enjoyment of human rights across the board. The delegation took due note of the views of the Committee, including the importance of harnessing information technology to give a broader appreciation of the provisions of the Covenant.
The P1 billion water project launched by President Dr vMokgweetsi Masisi this week is said to be critical to the success of key projects planned in Lobatse – the Lobatse Milk Afric and Leather Park. After commissioning the multi-million Pula Masama-Mmamashia water project last week following its completion, on Thursday, Masisi performed ground-breaking ceremony of yet another major water project, the Lobatse Water Supply Master Plan (LWSMP1).
The water project was conceptualized in 2009 to address water shortage in areas along the Greater Gaborone zone. These areas include Ramotswa, Otse, Mogobane, Mankgodi, Manyana, Goodhope, Lekgolobotlo, Mmathethe, Molapowabojang and villages surrounding. It was said that some major upcoming projects in Lobatse such as Lobatse Leather Park, Milk Afric and the Pioneer Border Gate are dependent on the success of this project, in order for them to take off and operate effectively. The two projects have been struggling to take-off despite government having put the necessary resources.
The Lobatse Leather Park is anticipated to create about 4700 jobs at the initial stage and 7000 jobs at full capacity. The project entails the development of a complex for different tanneries with the support of state-owned beef company, Botswana Meat Commission. It will comprise primary infrastructure such as a common effluent treatment plant, sewage treatment plant, and others.
When operational, the park is expected to supply the private sector with hides and skins, raw to finished leather tanneries, and the manufacturing of different leather products. These products include shoes, belts, jackets, and others, thereby playing an instrumental role in stimulating economic activity. Leather Beneficiation Park is seen as important for the leather industry as it would ensure that Botswana moves from exporting raw leather to finished leather goods. It is said research has established that there are plenty of hides and skins in the country from the three million cattle and 1.8 million goats.
Meanwhile, Milk Afric dairy farm project which was expected to be complete by the second half of 2018, is in the wilderness after the initial partnership between Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) and Milk Afric failed to bear fruits. BDC has been searching for a new partner for the project. Once fully operational, the farm will produce a total of 21.9 million litres or one third of the national milk demand, which is 65 million litres a year. At present, Botswana imports over 58.8 million litres from South Africa at a cost of P345 million annually.
The P120 million project is a Public Private Partnership deal between Lobatse Town Council (LTC), with 10 percent shareholding through leasing its 1375.4 ha farm for 25 years; and 26 percent (P40 million) by Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). When speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony held in Ramotswa, Masisi said, in addition to improving the water supply for domestic needs and livelihoods, this infrastructural development will facilitate major projects in the Lobatse region, which are critical to the ailing, old town.
“Our objective as a country is to align developments with the National Vision 2036 Pillar 3 on Sustainable Development, which recognizes water as a very scarce resource which requires strategic management by key players.” Botswana is a developing country with an increasing population, Masisi said, adding that an increase in population naturally causes exponential growth in the demand for water. This is a reality that Botswana is faced with and challenged to address for sustainable water supply, the President said.
He indicated that this is why they are continuously witnessing major water projects undertaken by government, in collaboration with key partners. “Gaborone and surrounding areas have been experiencing an acute water supply deficit due to infrastructure that has outlived its potential to meet the growing demand for water by citizens. This particular project entails the construction of a Pump Station at Forest Hill in Gaborone, a 57 kilometre pipeline from Gaborone to Lobatse and a new Northern reservoir.”
The project, awarded China State Construction and Engineering Corporation/Van and Truck Hire Joint Venture at over P1 billion, is currently at 49% of its completion stage. There are 637 jobs created by this water project. “The transmission pipeline will convey 63 million litres of water a day from Gaborone to Lobatse. This is a great improvement compared to an average supply of 14 million litres of water that has been supplied to Lobatse, Borolong and surrounding areas,” Masisi said.
The United Nations Committee on Human Rights has taken Botswana to task over what it considers to be discrimination laws against lesbians and gays and delay in prosecuting suspects in the infamous Sebina defilement case. The Botswana delegation led by Presidential Minister Kabo Morwaeng found itself against the wall before the United Nations Human Rights Committee of experts in Geneva, Switzerland.
First to take Botswana head-on was the UN Committee member, C SOH, who noted that the recent ruling of the High Court pays particular attention to the penal code penalising same-sex sexual conduct as it found that it infringed on the constitutional rights, dignity, liberty and privacy of the LGBTI persons (lesbians and gays). “Nonetheless, I note with deep concern that those discriminatory provisions of the of the penal code remain in effect and regrettably the government stated in its periodic review before deciding whether or not to repeal section 164 it would still await the final determination of the court of appeal in the case of Motshidiemang vs State,” said Soh.
According to Soh, “This statement makes us cast doubt on the will of the government to vigorously” strike out section 164, which criminalises sex between people of the same sex. “In this respect, I would like to ask the delegation to explain what the intended goal by the government was when it filed an appeal against the unconstitutionality ruling of the High Court,” he said. Soh said the Botswana Government had also explained that no persons had been convicted under this provision, section 164, ever since the penal code was enacted.
“However, media reports indicate that in August 2016, the government of a Gaborone Magistrate Court sentenced a man three years in prison who had been charged and convicted under section 164 for engaging in unnatural acts. Can the delegation explain these discrepancies relating to persons who have been convicted and sentenced under section 164 of the penal code,” he said. He also wanted the Botswana delegation to explain how the government addresses how customary courts have been discriminating against LGBTI persons.
Another member of the UN Committee, Duncan Muhumuza, expressed concern that the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) has taken more than four years to prosecute suspects in the Sebina saga in which a councillor was alleged to have slept with a student who was also a minor. Replying to concerns raised by the UN experts, Mogakolodi Segwagwa, chief state counsel at the Attorney General Chambers, noted that one of the UN committee members has “become fearful that the fact that government appealed the case could be a sign that there is lack of will or doubt on the part of the government as to abolishing or outlawing of same-sex relations.”
“But I would like to assure the panel that Botswana has over the years proved itself at all times to be compliant with court orders. There are many examples I could put forward where the government had to make sure that court orders were executed. That is the assurance I can give out to the committee,” said Segwagwa. He said there was a good reason for appealing the decision of the High Court in which it outlawed section 164.
“This was a High Court decision, and as you know in our jurisdiction when a judge is at the same court with his brothers and his sisters and fellow judges, whatever decision he puts out so far as that particular court is concerned, it is not law because it is not binding on his fellow brothers and sisters and it is not binding on fellow judges,” explained Segwagwa. He added that “It is merely persuasive so much so that some other judges may choose to when a similar case comes before him or her, depart and ignore the position that that particular judge espoused, and he or she can do so with ease.”
Segwagwa further explained that “There was a very pressing need for this matter to be appealed to the Court of Appeal for purposes of crystalising the law and for purposes of ensuring that if there is any aspect of the law that the High Court had overlooked in arriving at this particular decision, then such an aspect can be taken into consideration by the Court of Appeal.” “So we are waiting for that judgement, and once it comes, it will be implemented. I take it that the committee would like the Court of Appeal to uphold the decision below and strike out this particular section.”
He assured the UN experts that when the High Court struck out section 164 in 2019, the country did not erupt into violence, adding that this was an “indication that we don’t have anything against people of LGBT. They are our brothers and sisters, and we co-exist with them.” Regarding the Sebina saga, Segwagwa said the painful case “where this councillor was said to have had sexual intercourse with a child is the police dealt with a matter as it is the law and we all know that the police are bound by their Act to do so without fear and prejudice.”
He said Upon completion of their investigation, “the matter was handed over to the prosecuting authority, as Mr Muhumuza had indicated, it has been four years and we concede that four years is a long time and that it is unreasonably a long time and that it defeats the whole adage that justice should be sweetest and freshest so much so that the case needed to be speeded along.”
He added that “But the problem we have which is not a problem in the sense of it being a problem, but the impediment we have in the sense that the Constitution created the Office of the Director of Prosecutions under section 51 subsection A and if you go to that particular section and you read subsection six, the director shall not be subjected to the control of another authority.”
Segwagwa said, “this is the section that was inserted in this constitution to safeguard the independence of the Director of DPP to ensure that he or she prosecutes matters without fear, favour and prejudice and it presents impediment where we can’t try and say to the DPP, go and register or indicate your position now, tomorrow or next year and that is why it has taken all this time, but we believe attempts are being made that it finds its way to the court.”