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.
Mowana Copper Mine in Dukwi will finally pay its former employees a total amount of P23, 789, 984.00 end of this month. For over three years Mowana Copper Mine has been under judicial management. Updating members, Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU) Executive Secretary Kitso Phiri this week said the High Court issued an order for the implementation of the compromise scheme of December 9, 2021 and this was to be done within 30 days after court order.
“Therefore payment of benefits under the scheme including those owed to Messina Copper Botswana employees should be effected sometime in January latest end of January 2022,” Kitso said. Kitso also explained that cash settlement will be 30 percent of the total Messina Copper Botswana estate and negotiated estate is $3,233,000 (about P35, 563,000).
Messina Copper was placed under liquidation and was thereafter acquired by Leboam Holdings to operate Mowana Mine. Leboam Holdings struck a deal with the Messina Copper’s liquidator who became a shareholder of Leboam Holdings. Leboam Holdings could not service its debts and its creditors placed it under provisional judicial management on December 18, 2018 and in judicial management on February 28, 2019.
A new company Max Power expressed interest to acquire the mining operations. It offered to take over the Mowana Mine from Leboam Holdings, however, the company had to pay the debts of Leboam including monies owed to Messina Copper, being employees benefits and other debts owed to other creditors.
The monies, were agreed to be paid through a scheme of compromise proposed by Max Power, being a negotiated payment schedule, which was subject to the financial ability of the new owners. “On December 9, 2021, Messina Copper liquidator, called a meeting of creditors, which the BMWU on behalf of its members (former Messina Copper employees) attended, to seek mandate from creditors to proceed with a proposed settlement for Messina Copper on the scheme of compromise. It is important to note that employee benefits are regarded as preferential credit, meaning once a scheme is approved they are paid first.”
A savingram the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development sent to Town Clerks and Council Secretaries explaining why councilors across the country should not have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term has been revealed.
The contents of the savingram came out in the wake of a war of words between counselors and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. The councilors through the Botswana Association of Local Authorities (BALA) accuse the Ministry of refusing to allow them to have access to their terminal benefits before end of their term.
This has since been denied by the Ministry. In the savingram to town councils and council secretaries across the country, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Molefi Keaja states that, “Kindly be advised that the terminal benefits budget is made during the final year of term of office for Honorable Councilors.” Keaja reminded town clerks and council secretaries that, “The nominal budget Councils make each and every financial year is to cater for events where a Councilor’s term of office ends before the statutory time due to death, resignation or any other reason.”
The savingram also goes into detail about why the government had in the past allowed councilors to have access to their terminal benefits before the end of their term. “Regarding the special dispensation made in the 2014-2019, it should be noted that the advance was granted because at that time there was an approved budget for terminal benefits during the financial year,” explained Keaja. He added that, “Town Clerks/Council Secretaries made discretions depending on the liquidity position of Councils which attracted a lot of audit queries.”
Keaja also revealed that councils across the country were struggling financially and therefore if they were to grant councilors access to their terminal benefits, this could leave their in a dire financial situation. Given the fact that Local Authorities currently have cash flow problems and budgetary constraints, it is not advisable to grant terminal benefits advance as it would only serve to compound the liquidity problems of councils.
It is understood that the Ministry was inundated with calls from some Councils as they sought clarification regarding access to their terminal benefits. The Ministry fears that should councils pay out the terminal benefits this would affect their coffers as the government spends a lot on councilors salaries.
Reports show that apart from elected councilors, the government spends at least P6, 577, 746, 00 on nominated councilors across the country as their monthly salaries. Former Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlogile Tshireletso once told Parliament that in total there are 113 nominated councilors and their salaries per a year add up to P78, 933,16.00. She added that their projected gratuity is P9, 866,646.00.
A surge in consumer spending is expected to be a key driver of Botswana’s economic recovery, according to recent projections by Fitch Solutions. Fitch Solutions said it forecasts household spending in Botswana to grow by a real rate of 5.9% in 2022.
The bullish Fitch Solutions noted that “This is a considerable deceleration from 9.4% growth estimated in 2021, it comes mainly from the base effects of the contraction of 2.5% recorded in 2020,” adding that, “We project total household spending (in real terms) to reach BWP59.9bn (USD8.8bn) in 2022, increasing from BWP56.5bn (USD8.3bn) in 2021.” According to Fitch Solutions, this is higher than the pre-Covid-19 total household spending (in real terms) of P53.0 billion (USD7.8bn) in 2019 and it indicates a full recovery in consumer spending.
“We forecast real household spending to grow by 5.9% in 2022, decelerating from the estimated growth of 9.4% in 2021. We note that the Covid-19 pandemic and the related restrictions on economic activity resulted in real household spending contracting by 2.5% in 2020, creating a lower base for spending to grow from in 2021 and 2022,” Fitch Solutions says.
Total household spending (in real terms), the agency says, will increase in 2022 when compared to 2021. In 2021 and 2022, total household spending (in real terms) will be above the pre-Covid-19 levels in 2019, indicating a full recovery in consumer spending, says Fitch Solutions. It says as of December 6 2021 (latest data available), 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose, while this is relatively low it is higher than Africa average of 11.3%.
“The emergence of new Covid-19 variants such as Omicron, which was first detected in the country in November 2021, poses a downside risk to our outlook for consumer spending, particularly as a large proportion of the country’s population is unvaccinated and this could result in stricter measures being implemented once again,” says Fitch Solutions.
Growth will ease in 2022, Fitch Solution says. “Our forecast for an improvement in consumer spending in Botswana in 2022 is in line with our Country Risk team’s forecast that the economy will grow by a real rate of 5.3% over 2022, from an estimated 12.5% growth in 2021 as the low base effects from 2020 dissipate,” it says.
Fitch Solutions notes that “Our Country Risk team expects private consumption to be the main driver of Botswana’s economic growth in 2022, as disposable incomes and the labour market continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.” It says Botswana’s tourism sector has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the related travel restrictions.
According to Fitch Solutions, “The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first detected in November 2021, has resulted in travel bans being implemented on Southern African countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. This will further delay the recovery of Botswana’s tourism sector in 2021 and early 2022.” Fitch Solutions, therefore, forecasts Botswana’s tourist arrivals to grow by 81.2% in 2022, from an estimated contraction of 40.3% in 2021.
It notes that the 72.4% contraction in 2020 has created a low base for tourist arrivals to grow from. “The rollout of vaccines in South Africa and its key source markets will aid the recovery of the tourism sector over the coming months and this bodes well for the employment and incomes of people employed in the hospitality industry, particularly restaurants and hotels as well as recreation and culture businesses,” the report says.
Fitch Solutions further notes that with economies reopening, consumers are demanding products that they had little access to over the previous year. However, manufacturers are facing several problems. It says supply chain issues and bottlenecks are resulting in consumer goods shortages, feeding through into supply-side inflation. Fitch Solutions believes the global semiconductor shortage will continue into 2022, putting the pressure on the supply of several consumer goods.
It says the spread of the Delta variant is upending factory production in Asia, disrupting shipping and posing more shocks to the world economy. Similarly, manufacturers are facing shortages of key components and higher raw materials costs, the report says adding that while this is somewhat restricted to consumer goods, there is a high risk that this feeds through into more consumer services over the 2022 year.
“Our global view for a notable recovery in consumer spending relies on the ability of authorities to vaccinate a large enough proportion of their populations and thereby experience a notable drop in Covid-19 infections and a decline in hospitalisation rates,” says Fitch Solutions. Both these factors, it says, will lead to governments gradually lifting restrictions, which will boost consumer confidence and retail sales.
“As of December 6 2021, 38.4% of people in Botswana have received at least one vaccine dose. While this is low, it is higher than the Africa average of 11.3%. The vaccines being administered in Botswana include Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson. We believe that a successful vaccine rollout will aid the country’s consumer spending recovery,” says Fitch Solutions. Therefore, the agency says, “Our forecasts account for risks that are highly likely to play out in 2022, including the easing of government support. However, if other risks start to play out, this may lead to forecast revisions.”