Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane has defended Botswana’s silence with regard to its stand on Burundi affairs despite its renowned decisive condemnation of human rights violations.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has not issued or stated Botswana’s position on the ongoing Burundi amid reports of the country losing interest in the affairs of the African Union (AU). “I cannot speak for the ministry, but remember President Lt Gen Ian Khama after his inauguration as SADC Chairman spoke against events in Burundi,” he said. “In that sense he was representing party and government sentiment.”
Ntuane told this publication that it is impossible for Botswana to lose interest in the affairs of either Southern African Development Committee (SADC) or AU. “The day Botswana loses interest in AU, SADC or any continental body will be the day it ceases to be an African country,”
“Ordinarily as BDP we dont respond on foreign policy matters. We defer to government to make pronouncements on such matters but we are very clear on the situation in Burundi,” he said.
“BDP is opposed to any term extensions beyond the prescribed two terms. We don’t support term extensions.”
Viewed as an epitome of peace and democracy, Botswana has been known for its uncompromising hard-line stand in condemning human rights violations, a praise it earned during the reign of Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe and Phandu Skelemani as foreign affairs ministers.
Ntuane expressed that BDP believe “3 termism” is regressive and reverses the gains Africa has made over the years in its democratisation drive. “Look at what is happening to Burundi after a period of peace and stability; all because of political greed and the notion that countries cannot survive if certain leaders are not in charge,” he stated.
The BDP secretary general also explained that the party condemn the violence perpetrated against opponents of the 3rd term in that country and wish for a speedy resolution to the crisis. “But any resolution cannot happen without addressing President Nkurunziza's ill-advised 3 term,” he remarked.
Pierre Nkurunziza, a former rebel, prompted demonstrations when he announced in April 2015 that he would run for a contentious third term, a development which is against the 2005 peace deal that ceased the a decade civil war which resulted in the death of about 300,000 lives.
Nkurunziza has rejected AU’s intervention measures to bring 5000 troops to Burundi to restore peace and stability to the country. Nkurinziza threaten to respond to such development with attack for not respect his country’s borders.
Botswana had in the past maintained its foreign policy of speaking against gross human rights violations which resulted in fall-outs with governments such of Zimbabwe.
In 2008, Botswana boycotted South African Development Committee (SADC) summit owing to the fact that ‘illegitimate’ Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was invited to be part of the summit. Botswana had publicly announced that it did not recognise Mugabe as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe following his victory in an election that was widely condemned as a sham.
Botswana would later change its stance and embraced Mugabe after a compromise deal allowed both Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangarai to form government of national unity.
Botswana has also pledged to arrest Sudan president Omar Al Bashir and hand him to ICC should he come to Botswana. This often placed Botswana at loggerhead with other African countries.
In 2013, following the bloody Kenya presidential elections, Skelemani stated that newly elected president Uhuru Kenyatta would not be allowed to set foot in Botswana if did not honour the ICC and answer to crime against humanity charges laid against him.
Skelemani’s remarks would cause some stir and threaten Botswana’s diplomatic relations Botswana would again make up and apologised to Kenyatta for its earlier remarks. Kenyatta would then later visit Botswana in an effort to bolster relations.
Recently Botswana is feeling increasingly isolated after breaking ranks with a lot of African countries on the decision of AU members state to pull out from the International Criminal Court.
The 54 nation AU has urged its members to "speak with one voice" against criminal proceedings at the ICC instituted on sitting presidents AU member states.
Last year at United Nations summit Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi reaffirmed Botswana’s unwavering support and commitment to the ICC and what it stands for.
Botswana remains the sole country in SADC which is against pulling out of ICC.
The Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) is currently providing round-the-clock protection to a number of judicial judges, including a tribal leader, as a result of persistent death threats they have been receiving while performing their duties.
According to reports, these judges have been under protection for about five months now.
A tribal leader who claimed to have received death threats on his phone from unknown callers is reportedly one of those receiving security protection. He was also given 24-hour protection after a comprehensive evaluation by DIS since internal disagreements within the royal family have divided the tribe.
DIS spokesperson Edward Rebert stated that the DIS Act provides for personal protection when circumstances warrant it. To avoid jeopardizing the security of those who have received this protection, he was unable to reveal their identities. He highlighted that extensive assessments are performed prior to giving protection, as the directorate has limited resources and must prioritize those who are most vulnerable.
Rebert also stated that media speculation about those under protection is not necessary¬†and potentially dangerous, as it can attract undue attention and endanger those involved. He pointed out that the Intelligence Act expressly mentions only the President, his immediate family, the Vice President, his immediate family, and former Presidents as those entitled to personal protection.
In a separate matter, some DISS agents have filed a civil suit against their employer, claiming they are entitled to shift allowances. These agents, who chose to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals, expressed concerns about the lack of remuneration for their work in escorting individuals provided with 24-hour protection. They hinted at the possibility of a “go-slow” if their shift allowance concerns are not addressed.
They added that ensuring security for the judges under protection has been difficult since it necessitates a thorough awareness of their personal lives and routines, which some judges find unsettling. They claim that resolving the shift allowance issue is critical to ensuring that they can continue to provide effective security and fulfill their judicial responsibilities.
Renowned jurist, Justice Professor Key Dingake has punched holes into President Mokgweetsi Masisi‚Äôs appointed Commission of inquiry into the review of Botswana‚Äôs constitution.
In December 2021, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi appointed a Commission of Inquiry into the review of the country’s Constitution. The Commission was given about nine months to complete its mandate and to submit its findings to the President by the end of September 2022.
Speaking at a seminar for future leaders of the African continent, Dingake who is a Judge of the Supreme and National Courts of Papua New Guinea and the Residual Special Court of Sierra Leone branded President Masisi‚Äôs constitutional review as a dream deferred.
According to the former Botswana High Court Judge and University of Botswana academic, it is difficult to assess the extent to which civil society engaged with the process.
‚ÄúWhat seems clear is that a significant section of civil society and political opposition considered that the process was not inclusive and transparent. The political opposition rejected the process as illegitimate. It is unclear to many people what exactly remains to be done and when exactly should Batswana expect a revised Constitution,‚ÄĚ Dingake said.
He submitted that; ‚ÄúThe Botswana Constitutional Review process is, in my respectful view, ‚Äúa dream deferred‚ÄĚ.
Dingake noted that a committee that was established to consult Batswana on the review of the Constitution is called The Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the review of the Constitution of Botswana. He said the above name, in many respects, tells a substantial part of the story about the nature and character of the Commission.
‚ÄúThe review process that started in December 2021 was one of the quickest in history,‚ÄĚ said the judge. Dingake also indicated that the process was carried out over a period of about 9 months and was not preceded by any stakeholder engagement or civic education. His view is that the absence of civic education was apparent from most of the commentary that was offered in many public platforms that the commission addressed.
‚ÄúBased on the commentaries that were made, one wished that civic education preceded the process,‚ÄĚ said Dingake adding that ‚ÄúHaving taught Constitutional law at law school, I know for certain that if I were to walk into a law class and without offering the lecture, asked the students to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Botswana Constitution, many may find the question difficult, but the appreciation of the subject matter may improve substantially after the lecture. ‚Äú
The judge asserted that; ‚ÄúThe same is true with the Constitution review process, in which we want people to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Constitution.‚ÄĚ The judge noted that in December 2021, President Masisi appointed a Constitutional Review Commission headed by former Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo.
Commenting on this, Dingake said the Commission was established under the Commission of Inquiries Act, which required the Commission to report directly to the President.
He said this approach, quite self-evidently, gave the impression of a partisan approach; the process could not be said by any standard to have been ‚Äėpeople-driven.
‚ÄúThe 1966 Botswana Constitution is a colonial relic adding that ‚ÄúIt has served us well generally, but it is no longer fit for purpose,‚ÄĚ he said adding that; ‚ÄúIt is overdue for far-reaching renewal. It has many weaknesses that can be instantly fixed, such as requiring it to expressly state that it is the supreme law of the land and to expressly recognize separation of powers, key components that, in my mind, constitute the unalterable basic structure of the Constitution.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúConstitution is not gender-sensitive, and the electoral system mandated by the Constitution tends to exclude women from national political decision-making. As it is often said, no country can claim to be democratic if half or more of its population is excluded,‚ÄĚ said Dingake.
He observed that the Constitution lacks independent institutions that support democracy, a bill of rights that recognizes all human rights, and concentrates too much power in the Presidency.
He said the Constitutional architecture is such that Parliament ends up being a rubber stamp of Executive decisions. The Constitutional review process raises opportunities for devolving power to local government units, strengthening equality and non-discrimination clauses in the Constitution, and outright outlawing many other discriminatory legal provisions and practices.
Dingake also noted that a review of the Constitution would also provide opportunities for the Botswana Government to domesticate all international, regional, and sub-regional treaties or protocols it has signed, such as the Maputo Protocol.
He said it is difficult to assess the extent to which civil society engaged with the process. What seems clear is that a significant section of civil society and political opposition considered that the process was not inclusive and transparent.
‚ÄúThe political opposition rejected the process as illegitimate. It is unclear to many people what exactly remains to be done and when exactly should Batswana expect a revised Constitution,‚ÄĚ said Dingake.
KOKOTSHA ‚Äď The Kokotsha community, home to some 90 children, is one that passionately believes in investing in the youth of today as future leaders of tomorrow. In support of this, and with a desire to ensure children in the village more effectively learn through play for truly brighter futures, Learn To Play is excited to launch its 10th Botswana playgroup in Kokotsha.
The playgroup was opened in partnership with the Kokotsha Village Development Committee (VDC) and the Tsabong District Council on the 11th of September 2023, in the presence of Kgosi Kudume; Chief Social & Community Development Officer, Boitumelo Pule; Deputy Council Chairman, Honourable Councillor Baitseweng; and Kokotsha Councillor Jane.
‚ÄúThe establishment of Kokotsha Play Group is a very appropriate and relevant cause by department of Social and Community Development in collaboration with Learn to Play, as we all know that Early Childhood Education opportunities are critical and key for children’s psychosocial development. The positive outcomes of this initiative will trickle down to improving the quality of life of not only the children enrolled, but Kokotsha as a whole,‚ÄĚ said Tsabong District Council Deputy Council Chairman, Honourable Councillor Baitsiwe.
Tsabong District Council made the necessary renovations to an old playgroup structure on site, also supporting the playgroup with necessary resources so that the 40 children enrolled in will experience leading ECD methods and approaches, inclusive of mindful play, creativity, LEGO programmes, playful literacy, early brain development, and more. The playgroup will begin by serving 40 children in the community until the end of 2023 and increase to 80 from 2024.
‚ÄúWhen we say, ‚Äúit takes a village to raise a child‚ÄĚ, Kokotsha is that village! From the most inspiring and supportive leadership at the Tsabong District Council ‚Äď whose vision and priority towards early childhood development brings us here today, to the leadership within Kokotsha with the most committed civil servants, and our dedicated Mamapreneurs – we have truly learnt the meaning behind that phrase,‚ÄĚ said Learn To Play Founder and CEO, Priyanka Handa-Ram. ‚ÄúKokotsha stands as a model not just for our other community playgroups across the country, but for the entire African continent on how policies, programmes and communities need to devote time, effort and resources to nurturing our children. Working with the Tsabong District Council and the leadership in Kokotsha to be ready for opening, including renovating this incredible playgroup centre, has been so smooth and efficient ‚Äď all testament to the Council‚Äôs commitment to bring play-based learning to Kokotsha, and indeed the district at large. Effective partnerships with local governments and community leadership are key to forging a path to universal access to high quality early childhood development in our beautiful Botswana.‚ÄĚ
Three mamapreneurs identified by the Kokotsha community were trained in Gaborone for two weeks in April this year on ECD essentials, managing and facilitating daily playgroups, effective monitoring and evaluation, school readiness, digital literacy, child protection, first aid and more. These phenomenal women are now part of the 35 Mamapreneur-strong network of change-agents across Botswana within the Learn To Play ecosystem.
ECD plays a crucial role in a child’s overall development, setting the foundation for their cognitive, social, and emotional development.¬† Research has consistently shown that quality of early education has a long-lasting impact on a child’s academic performance, social skills, and overall wellbeing and that children who attend high-quality early childhood education programmes are more likely to perform better academically and have higher graduation rates. These programmes help children develop empathy, self-regulation, and positive relationships with peers and adults. These very impacts are being measurably reported across Learn To Play playgroups in Botswana, and the impact is clear for all to see.
Learn To Play now operates play-based learning playgroups in 6 districts across Botswana, and gaging and benefitting over 450 children in Pandamatenga, Bere, Kokotsha, Mabele, Nata, Bontleng, Gopong, Kavimba, Kacgae, and Dukwi, working to create a sustainable framework for development. Learn To Play is Inspired by Play and Informed by African communities, just like that of Kokotsha.