Following hurdles and long court battles, the government of Botswana has finally deported two Ugandan refugees who were incarcerated at the Dukwi refugee camp – while clearly acting in contempt of court.
The refugees, Musa Isabirye and Timothy Yamin had complained over living poor conditions and harassment by security agents at the migrant camp where they were residing prior to deportation.
In a court order, government was warned against deporting the Ugandan refugees. In fact, the order which was released on 23 October 2015 by Francistown High Court had barred the government or anyone from deporting them.
The court order stated that: “the respondents or anyone acting under their authority are prohibited and/or interdicted from deporting the applicants until the application for an interim interdict is determined to its finality.”
It further ruled that “the notice prohibiting applicants (refugees) legal representatives from consulting their clients is declared unconstitutional, irrational and unlawful. The applicants’ legal representatives are hereby permitted to consult applicants.”
WeekendPost can confirm that the refugees were on Monday night (26 October 2015) around 10pm last week deported under harsh circumstances.
In addition, their lawyer Martin Dingake of Dingake Law Partners was denied access to properly consult with them prior to their extradition, following their brief detention at Sir Seretse Khama Airport police station.
Government senior attorney at the Attorney General chambers Morulaganyi Chamme also confirmed in an affidavit, in which the refugees’ had filed an application for contempt of court based on their lawyers alleged denial of access to consult with them, that “my information is that the applicants (refugees) are no longer in the custody or control of people before the court in the current proceedings, because they were deported on the 26th October.”
Chamme said he however never discussed the court order with the Commissioner of Police and of Prisons and Rehabilitation. He said his concentration was on the deportation which was controlled by the Department of Immigration.
Meanwhile, a lawyer representing the Ugandan refugees, Martin Dingake said that the deportation is unfortunate as it points out to a contempt of court order.
“I therefore cannot deny nor confirm it but I have absolutely no reason to disbelieve it, coming as it does, from a person of Chamme’s rank within the AG’s chambers,” he told this publication.
Chamme, the AG senior official defended government and justified the contempt of court: “there is no evidence that the Attorney General, Commissioner of Police and Commissioner of Prisons and Rehabilitation have willfully disobeyed the court order. The founding affidavit clearly shows that the Commissioner of Prisons was completely removed from the conduct complained of. I aver that Attorney General Officials and to promote compliance with it. The rest of the respondents will explain their roles but my instruction are that they did not intend to disobey the order of court.”
Assistant Superintendent and deputy Station Commander at Sir Seretse Khama Airport Police Station, where the refugees were detained before being booted out of the country, Unoziba Rari also stated in the responding affidavit that “it has never been the intention of government to disobey any court order.” In fact he said the deportation of refugees is a preserve of the Immigration Department, which only provide support service, such as a holding cell, where necessary.
Rari also armored supervision saying: “all deportation decisions are made and affected by immigration department, hence, there is no way that we could act to the contrary of a court order in an immigration department case.”
As a consequence, Dingake stated in his replying affidavit on 3 November 2015 that he therefore “seek an order in terms of the draft order and will edge the court at the hearing of this matter, that the contempt as regards deportation be referred to oral evidence so that the key players are identified and each answer as to their role and can be examined and cross-examined.”
Most surprisingly, Dingake said the deponent does not explain how it could be that after an order was obtained interdicting the government or its officials from deporting the applicants while the deportation was nevertheless carried out.
“It is not difficult to see why the deponent would not have been firm with the Director as regards the order. This is mostly so because of the deponent’s attitude towards the court order, an attitude that was to play a role, one way or the other about not just refusal to allow me an opportunity to consult clients but also to have them deported in the middle of the night and under the cover of darkness,” the refugees prominent lawyer punched maintained.
He stressed that there can be no wilful disobedience of a court order other than this, done with the condonation of the office of the Attorney General and its officers, amongst whom the deponent is a senior member of.
“The Attorney General and her officers have thus degraded our values as a constitutional democracy because of misgivings they have about a court order and about which they have done absolutely nothing or very little, if any, to challenge.”
Meanwhile, when contacted for comment, Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Edwin Batshu who authorizes deportations said he does not know whether the Ugandan refugees have been extradited. “Please check with Shaw Kgathi as he manages refugees,” he told WeekendPost in a telephonic brief interview.
This publication then contacted Minister for Defense, Justice and Security (MoDJS) Shaw Kgathi who fumed at this newspaper when asked to ascertain if indeed Ugandan refugees and Eritrean asylum seekers as well as lawyer Salbany have been or are in the process of being deported: “whoever told you that will tell you the whole story,” adding that “I am in a meeting” before he hung up the phone.
According to Public Relations Officer in the MoJDS Samma Tabudi, “we do not have any refugees in Botswana as their status was long revoked in terms of section 11 (a) of the Refugees (Recognition and Control) Act (CAP 25:01).”
Tabudi however would not elaborate more on why they were repealed and on the other hand Dingake insisted that his clients are and were security threats and the deponent does not say how they are threats to national security. 10 Eritrean asylum seekers may seek resettlement
In a related matter, Lobatse High Court previously ruled against government’s move to refuse to grant 10 Eritrean football players who were requested asylum after losing 3 – 1 to Botswana national team in the 2018 world cup qualifiers – citing human rights violations in their country.
WeekendPost has established that the players will eventually exit the borders of Botswana and be resettled in another country believed to be in Southern Africa. It is not clear yet as to why the government is booting out the asylum seekers.
A lawyer representing the Eritrean asylum seekers Dick Bayford of Bayford Associates told this publication that government has been speaking to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) about their resettlement.
“The 10 Eritrean football players seeking for refugee status currently in Botswana will be moved to another country that is at least not of their origin,” Bayford highlighted. The notorious lawyer known for fighting gigantic battles with government said the resettlement of the Eritreans is now being discussed with countries that will host them.
Through Bayford’s facilitation, as sanctioned by Eritrea Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, the Eritrean asylum seekers were relieved by a High Court ruling in Lobatse on October, 19, which interceded and ruled in errand of the
Eritrean players which obligated the government to climb down on their prior move and agreed to grant them asylum.
The players have since been kept at an illegal immigrant detention centre.
However, when addressing a Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) media briefing this week Kgathi denied allegations that Botswana has somehow withdrawn Eritrean football players’ asylum.
He was saying this in light of a leaked letter from Permanent secretary, Segakweng Tsiane to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) stating that the ten players should seek asylum elsewhere.
Stanbic Bank Botswana Quarterly Economic Review indicates that Botswana will fail to meet some of its Vision 2036 targets, particularly unemployment reduction and reaching high-income status.
The report says this is mainly due to the slow economic growth that the country is currently experiencing. This Quarterly Economic Review focuses on the 2020 Budget Speech.
The first paper reviews the entire budget with its key observations being that this budget is prepared as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act; the priorities it seeks to address are drawn from Vision 2036 and the eleventh
The 2020 budget Speech, which was the maiden speech by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Thapelo Matsheka, and the first after the 2019 general elections, was delivered to Parliament on the 4th of February 2020.
It has been well received by the labour unions, business community, and the public at large as well as international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
It mainly derived its support from key facets including, emphasis on changing the business-as-usual approach to development; outlining the transformation agenda; fiscal reform that minimizes the negative impact on economic development and human welfare, competiveness and the decision to implement the 2019 negotiated and agreed public sector.
The budget’s progress review shows that economic growth was consistent with the NDP 11 projections, with growth of around 4 percent. At this growth rate, the country would neither ascend to a high-income status nor reduce unemployment towards the Vision 2036 target of a single digit.
Simple calculations of this review confirm that the economy will need to grow the Vision 2036’s target of 6 percent over the next 16 years for per capita income to increase from around USD 8,000.00 to above USD 12,000.00 in current prices.
Further, the population is anticipated to grow by only 2 percent per annum.
For this reason, the focal areas for the forthcoming FY’s budget include measures to increase economic growth towards an average of 6 percent per annum.
Economic diversification is reportedly progressing fairly well. The report says, the share of the non-mining private sector in value added has risen to 66 percent in 2018 from to 63 percent in 2015.
The sectoral pattern of growth showed that the performance of services sector (particularly transport & communications, trade, hotels & restaurants, and finance & business services) has been the silver lining and that of mining sector was subdued whilst the utility sector disappointed.
The drive towards the service sector of the economy, especially to low-productivity activities (tourism, public administration, wholesaling and retailing) does not bode well for the country’s development aspirations.
In the previous versions of this Quarterly Review, it was noted that there is need for the rethinking of economic diversification. Since the country’s domestic market is small, it is inevitable that economic diversification not only focus on broadening the product mix, but also the composition of exports and markets.
This understanding of economic diversification has not been embraced by this year’s budget. Consequently, Botswana’s exports are still overwhelmingly diamonds, which means that the rest of economic sectors are still highly dependent on foreign-exchange earnings from diamonds. Thus, “the transformation programme requires a review of the country’s entire ecosystem”.
The budget review of the economic context also depicts that an economy with positive medium-term prospects, with growth expected to recover to 4.4 percent in 2020 from the expected growth of 36 percent in 2019 largely due to faster growth of services sectors and, thereafter, to slow-down to 4 percent in 2021.
These projected growth rates are comparable to those of the IMF staff’s baseline scenario of 4.2 percent in 2020 and 4 percent in 2021. Thus, the business-as-usual scenario produces growth rates that are still too low to achieve Botswana’s development objectives and create enough jobs to absorb the new entrants into the labour market.
Trade tensions between the two major markets for diamond exports, viz., the United States of America and China, is one of the factors that are cited as contributing to, indeed, undermining not only the domestic growth, but also the fiscal position.
Another notable downside risk to both global and domestic growth is outbreak of the coronavirus in China around January 2020. This has been declared as a global health emergency. In an attempt to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, the Chinese authorities have ordered city lockdowns and extended holidays, of course, at the expense of near- term economic growth, according to the new Stanbic Bank Botswana report.
According to Nomura Holdings Inc., fewer migrant workers returned for work than in previous years and business activities have been slow to pick up. The havoc wreaked by the virus on the world’s second largest economy is likely to spill over to the global economy. In fact, it has resulted in a glut in crude oil and, thereby placed oil markets into a contango, i.e., a market structure where near-term prices trade at a discount to future contracts.
It also presents significant risks one of Botswana’s main drivers of economic growth, diversification and foreign exchange earnings. According to the Financial Times (February 13, 2020), Chinese tourists spent $130 billion overseas in 2018. Regardless of whether the growth materializes, the projected domestic growth rate would not transform the economy to a high-income one.
Progress towards reduction of unemployment, to a target of single digit, and poverty and achieving inclusive growth has also been relatively slow, the Stanbic Bank Botswana Review says.
Ministry of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration (MOPAGPA) has through the Office of the President (OP) proposed to avail Orapa House for use by private training institutions as well as research institutions involved in the area of technology development.
For a very long time the monumental building located in the heart of the city has been a white elephant, despite government purchasing it for nearly P80 million from De Beers in 2012.
However, government has now identified a productive use for the iconic building. “The overall vision is for the building to be transformed into a hub for digital technology research and development to be carried-out by institutions, such as; Limkokwing University, BIUST, BITRI and other relevant stakeholders.”
The decision was taken as government traverse a new path of transforming the economy from a mineral led economy to a knowledge based economy through the promotion of research and innovation. However, the facility will need major maintenance to be carried-out in order to meet the requirements of the proposed change in use.
“The work will include provision of laboratories, work stations, production areas and seminar rooms; audio visual centre, high speed internet connectivity, exhibition areas and offices,” reads the proposal note for the development.
These developments will be done through the refurbishment and maintenance of the main building, workshop, and ablution block, gate house, parking area, grounds, and access control and security service.
“There will be minimal modifications to the structure as it stands. The project is estimated to cost approximately P50, 000, 000,” says the report. In this regard, it is said, the initial scope of the OP facility will be modified to accommodate the envisaged digital technology research and development hub.
With funds needed to improve the building, OP has requested that; “the 2020/21 annual budget provision for Orapa House will need to be increased by P37,500,000 from P2,500,000 to P40,000,000 to kick start the maintenance works.” Funds will be sourced from the projects that have been delayed due to Covid-19 protocols during the 2020/21 financial year.
The building has been a thorny issue for government for years. Initially, OP was expected to move there but the move never materialised. At one point it was a question of whether the Office of the President and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development were planning to override a decision by Parliament which rejected the proposal to buy Orapa House under the belief that government may be buying its own property. The building was to be bought at a negotiated cost of P79 million.
Again in 2012, Government had wanted to buy Orapa House for a negotiated P79m but the Finance and Estimates Committee of Parliament had rejected the request because of the inconsistencies realised in the supporting documents of the proposed procurement. The valuation of the building was put at P74 million.
The Ministry of Lands and Housing had initially offered De Beers P73, 000,000 as the purchase price. However, De Beers countered with P85, 000,000. On negotiation and converging of the minds, the selling price was finally agreed at P79, 000,000.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele, has expressed discontentment at the worrying and deteriorating state of brigades in the country.
In an audit inspection which was carried out at Tshwaragano Brigade in Gabane, a number of observations showed weaknesses and shortcomings in the conduct of the financial affairs of the institution.
According to Letebele’s report, former students of the brigade had been engaged to carry out maintenance works on the school premises, comprising of painting, tiling, plumbing and electrical works, which covered the period from July 2017 to June 2018.
Although the agreed maintenance period had elapsed, the works had not been completed because of unavailability of funds and this situation had persisted up till the time of inspection in November 2019.
Auditor General says arrangements should have been made in time for funds to be available to complete these relatively minor works even before the works commenced.
Various contractors had been engaged for clearing the bush and for the supply of concrete stones, pit and river sand and hiring equipment for digging the trench towards the construction of an auto mechanics workshop, the report said.
It stated that the cost of services and supplies provided totalled P117 949.80. However, despite the services and the supplies having been paid for, the construction works had not commenced for a long period afterwards, resulting in the trench filling back in.
The audit inquiries had not elicited satisfactory responses as both the institution and the Ministry had not accepted the responsibility for the project, although orders for the provision for the supplies had been made. For their part, the Ministry had stated that they had sub warranted funds for the purchase of porta cabins.
Letebele indicated that it is therefore confusing that a project which is critical to the functioning of an institution such as this one would commence without a well-defined plan.
Furthermore, the accounting and maintenance of records for the supplies items were not of the standard prescribed by the Supplies Regulations and Procedures in that the supplies ledger cards, the main accounting records for Government assets, were not properly maintained for the recording of receipts and issues.
This had resulted in significant discrepancies between physical and ledger balances, while in other instances the supplies items had not been recorded at all.
The report says 24 of the 91 new computers found in the computer laboratory at Kumakwane ABC campus were not recorded anywhere, as were the other computers in the storeroom which could not be counted due to the disorderly storage conditions.
The institution had entered into a contract agreement with a security company for the provision of security services at Tshwaragano Brigade, ABC and Horticulture campuses at Kumakwane for a 2-year period which ended in June 2018, WeekendPost learnt.
After the contract expired in June 2018, an extension was granted till the 30th September 2018. Since then, there has been no security service coverage for the institution to-date. According to Auditor General, in the face of prevailing crimes, it is of paramount importance that government properties be protected by provision of security services at all times.
At Tlokweng Brigade, it was noted that the kitchen staff were working under difficult conditions as the kitchen facilities and equipment, such as the cold room, tilting pot, food warmers and solar power for hot water were dysfunctional. The kitchen roof was leaking and men’s restrooms was not working. All these need to be brought to a reasonable and functional state of repair.
The kitchen staff should use a purpose-designed Rations Ledger for the recording of receipts and issues of foodstuffs to reflect the usage of those items. As far back as 2014 the Department of Buildings and Engineering Services had found that the house occupied by the bursar was uninhabitable on account of structural defects, the report said.
A site visit during the audit had established that the house was indeed unfit for occupation as there were cracks on the walls, power switches were not working and the roof was leaking. On a sadder note, there were a number of finished items of clothing, such as dresses, shirts, and jackets from students’ practical exercises from the Fashion Design Textiles Workshop.
Auditor General shared her take on this, saying: “I have not been able to ascertain the policy on the disposal of products from these practicals. A trace of 103 green acid-proof overalls which had been purchased in August 2018 had indicated that there was no record of these items having been recorded or issued, nor were they available in stock. I was not able to obtain any explanation for this situation.”
Kgatleng brigade was also audited and inspected by Auditor General who observed that the brigade has 26 institutional houses at Bokaa, both old campus and new campus. Some of these houses are very old and dilapidated, with two declared uninhabitable. The condition of the houses is a clear indication of lack of care and maintenance of these properties.
At the time of the audit, there was no contractor engaged for the provision of security guard services at the new campus, after expiry of the previous one in July 2019. It is hoped that steps would be taken to safeguard the security of the premises and government properties against any acts of hooliganism.
In August 2019, there was a break-in at the electrical and at the plumbing maintenance workshops and a number of high value items, such as drilling machines, bolt cutters, spanners and cables, were stolen. The break-in and theft were reported to the police.
“However, at the time of writing this report I was not aware of the outcome of the police investigation, nor of any loss report submitted in terms of the Supplies Regulations and Procedures,” Letebele said.