NEW YORK – World leaders have adopted the much-talked about ambitious, bold and universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a migration from the much publicized Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and as expected, President Lt Gen Ian Khama chose not to attend.
In an interview with South African financial publication, Business Day, in 2013 Khama dismissed the Union General Assembly (UNGA) meetings as nothing but wasteful and worthless ‘talk shops’.
The resolutions of the UN are not legally binding and implementation is left to individual countries. Although it has been hailed as the great hope for the future of mankind – the UN has also been dismissed as a shameful den of dictatorships owing to the undemocratic politics of the Security Council. This view is held particularly by the developing world.
Nonetheless, many had expected President Khama to attend this year’s historic and epic United Nations 70th anniversary General Assembly, which even attracted the Russian President, Vladimir Putin who has a decade of absenteeism with the UNGA. This year’s GA was special because of its uniqueness and extraordinarily rich agenda, but Khama remained unmoved.
The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the UN. As opposed to the controversial Security Council, which is exclusive and grants unique veto rights to five nations, all 193 UN member nations have membership and equal voting rights in the General Assembly.
The General Assembly approves the admission of new UN members and elects members to other UN organs. Over the years, it has become the primary platform for the dialogue between developed and developing states. This week, Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe endeared himself to as he launched a scathing attack on the West in relation to several issues that many agree with him but shy away from discussing for fear of offending their economic masters.
Opposition parties in Botswana and other stakeholders continue to urge Khama to revisit his position and view on the UNGA but the President won’t relent. Khama, his detractors say, unlike Mugabe, prefers to snipe at a distance, an attitude associated with cowardly man – they say. His detractors further argue that the President needs to give the organization support by way of presence and contribution in debates if indeed he shares its objectives and believes in its significance.
The new UN agenda entitled ‘Transforming our world: 2030 agenda for sustainable development’, will serve as the launch pad for action by the international community and by national governments to promote shared prosperity and well-being for all over the next 15 years.
The agenda which has 17 SGDs and 169 targets is unique in that it calls for action by all countries- poor, rich and middle –income, unlike the now defunct MGDs which the developing world heard of towards the end of the 15-year period during which they were to be achieved. SDGs have seen much more effective consultation. The co-chair of the Open Working Group, Macharia Kamau said, “no one can say they were not consulted. There was wide consultation and therefore there is accountability.”
To show their support, countries have sent their representatives. The programme shows that out of 53 African states, 60 percent of the heads of states are in attendance, 25 percent sent Ministers while the remaining 15 percent sent Vice Presidents. Botswana is represented by both the Vice President and a Minister.
This publication sought opinions from various UN senior officials on the attendance and non-attendance of heads of states and if at all that has any significance.
Many were of the view that ‘agendas are not for Presidents but countries at the end of the day’. They further said while a head of state’s attendance is always encouraging, the monitoring and assessment of the goals looks largely on the country leadership’s commitment to the goals. Botswana’s anti-poverty strategy and commitment to UN agreed objectives is said to be one of the most robust and successful when compared to her regional counterparts.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Anders Pederson is of the view that Botswana has done very well by dramatically reducing poverty levels and achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment, and to social services such as education and health. Botswana has also shown true leadership in the sub-region during the MDGs era.
“Although inequality is still a challenge, Government’s commitment towards addressing this gives us hope and assurance that by 2030, this will be a thing of the past,” he points out.
Does Khama’s presence really matter that much?
UN senior officials say yes and no. “Yes because it is a head of states assembly but also an issue to do with the highest political representation. As for a Vice-President or a minister, many might argue that it is still a high political representation, and the president may as well tell them what to say, where and how,” they advised.
The presidents however, the officials said, need to show up regularly or occasionally “because a UN Assembly is the highest political event in the UN calendar and the opportunity provides presidents with a rare opportunity to talk to the world”.
They further observed that through the addresses, presidents are also provided with a rare opportunity to raise problems within their respective countries for the world to offer advice or assistance. These, they said, may be through formal dialogue or informal ‘chats’ with counterparts during adjournments.
According to the UN officials, presidents hardly find themselves in one place at the same time and the UN assembly provides that rare opportunity for them to connect, interact and iron out issues that may have been pending because of insufficient time or resources.
“Attendance at the highest level also shows respect to the organization you say you support and the organization that you sustain annually through your budget,” they further advised.
When addressing the ongoing GA the Botswana’s Vice President, Mokgweetsi Masisi who made it clear at the onset of his statement that he is standing in for President Khama said Botswana’s progress has been very encouraging.
“We have reached universal access to education and almost closed the disparity between girls and boys in schools; health services are practically free and have been brought within an 8km radius of each community across the country; HIV anti-retroviral drugs are provided freely for all Batswana and transmission of the virus from mother to child is almost at zero; focused interventions for youth employment and income-generating opportunities have resulted in the improved quality of life of our citizens,” he said.
He further said one notable area of success worthy of singular mention has been the national flagship programme for the complete eradication of poverty.
“Through the deliberate actions of this strategy, evidence is beginning to show that steady progress is being made. Interestingly, the evidence also shows that women are greater beneficiaries of the programme and achieve significantly better results that actually transform their livelihood and that of their families. This has been a patent reminder of the role women can play in national development, when given the opportunity,” he said to a half-empty assembly.
The style and culture at the Assembly is that when one is done with his address they leave and those that are not presenting on that day do not care to show up, and worse still, the world major media outlets are only interested in the United States of America President’s speeches as well as a few of the world’s major economies like China and Russia to feed on tensions between these governments, which often see the UN as bloated and inefficient.
Khama is a fierce and fearless critic of some regional and international leaders and is revered and disliked by many in the region for his unpopular views on emerging issues. His government’s foreign policy has however come under heavy criticism for lack of consistency.
In Botswana because of his non-attendance critics argue that his assistant, Masisi cannot express himself with the same confidence and authority because being a messenger usually comes with boundaries but Khama is of the view that it is not about who attends but the country position.
Achievability of SDGs and Botswana With the world moving from the 8 MDGs to 17 SDGs questions have now shifted to achievability of the SDGs given their number. Botswana’s latest report of the MDGs depicted a country on the right path despite a few areas of concern like the quality of education, high and widening inequalities, the high HIV/AIDs prevalence rates and a few minor cases.
Globally there are concerns that the new SDGs lack clarity on evaluation, accountability and transparency. Leaders however say these will be looked into. Others worry that 17 being the number of SDGs seems too many, and 169 target indicators might be difficult to monitor even for countries with good data collection mechanisms, the biggest worry however remains resources.
“In Botswana, we’re looking forward to align our work on poverty eradication; environment and climate change; governance, human rights and gender equality and their outcomes even closer to the Botswana Vision Post 2016 and the National Development Plan 11. These new Global Goals will guide and help us achieve that. The Goals spell out how we work together to promote dignity, equality, justice, shared prosperity and well-being for all, while protecting the environment. We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last one that can avoid the worst effects of climate change,” Pederson said.
Gaborone Bonnignton South Member of Parliament (MP) Christian Greef has submitted a letter of complaint to party chairman Slumber Tosogwane to take stern action against former minister Dr Alfred Madigele for causing chaos in the constituency.
There has been simmering tension between the two in Gaborone Bonnignton South, where former minister Dr. Madigele is said to be busy working the ground with the intention of contesting the constituency in 2024. Greef is said to have fallen out of favour with the party top hierarchy due to his association with the beleaguered party secretary general Mpho Balopi, something which he says is “unfounded”. Greef told this publication that “there are some with mischievous attempts here, but I will sort them out.”
Insiders, however, reveal that it is Madigele who has been causing unrest in the constituency as he plots his comeback to parliament in 2024. This is notwithstanding the fact that Madigele has also been promised the position of secretary general, should the party faithful ratify a proposal by the party politburo to reconfigure the position.
However, Madigele does not want to count on the SG position, hence the decision to to contest the Gaborone Bonnington South constituency. There are reports that there is a spirited campaign by some party members to reject a mulled plan to have the SG being a full-time employee of the party. This has irked Greef and has since approached the party structures for redress. “We are writing this letter to issue a complaint regarding misconduct by certain members of the BDP in our constituency.
There are several incidents where these individuals have been causing uncalled-for disruptions during party activities in Gaborone Bonnington South,” a letter penned by Greef, addressed to the regional chairperson, reads. He further added, “The group of people who are causing all these unnecessary tension in our constituency is identified and allegedly known by Madigele’s teams who is said to be campaigning for 2023 primary elections.
As the branch we witnessed the same team with similar misconduct during Bophirima Ward by election which we believe caused the party to lose the ward and continue to bring the image of the party in disrepute.” Lately, Madigele has relocated to the same constituency and that has created anxiety to Greef who is a first-time MP. Greef is concerned about how his rival was accepted in his constituency without his knowledge. If he had his wish, he would kick out Madigele from the constituency.
Greef, in another letter copied to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and Chairman Slumber Tsogwane, says Madigele has brought the branch into disarray by campaigning for a parliamentary seat contrary to the party’s regulations for conduct of primary elections. “I therefore humbly appeal to you to call Dr Madigele, who is not a member of our branch, to order,” he said. Party officials in the region are aware of the matter; some say the MP’s complaint is baseless. However, the MP, according to sources, will fight to the bitter end to ensure that his arch rival is purged out.
Monthe and Marumo Attorneys who are representing suspended Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katlholo in a legal dispute pitting him against the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) have said that they would submit a legal bill to the agency.
This was after DCEC’s acting Director General, Tshepo Pilane had written a letter to the law firm demanding that some files and documents belonging to the agency be returned. “We refer to your letter dated 3rd June 2022 wherein you advised of termination of our mandate. In view thereof we have to file a notice of withdrawal as attorneys of record for and on behalf of the Organisation (DCEC),” Monthe Marumo Attorneys said in their letter.
The lawyers also indicated that, “the firm is in the process of finalizing your invoice and upon settlement of same, we will duly release the contents of the file, in so far as it relate to DCEC.” Pilane had informed the law firm that, “Following the Directorate’s termination of any and/or mandate between the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) and your law firm and/or attorney of an Associate law firm of Monthe Marumo and Company on the 3rd June 2022.”
He added that, “I do hereby request that all DCEC documents in custody be returned to the DCEC on or before 12hours today the 6th June 2022. You are also informed that none of this information shall be used by your office under any circumstances.” Meanwhile Katlholo has told the High Court that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security was on the rampage as it continues to act with impunity.
He revealed this in an urgent application in which he seeks among others that Pilane, Deputy Director General of DCEC Priscilla Israel and the agency’s senior legal advisor Edwin Batsalwelang to be committed to jail for contempt of a court. The Court order had directed that a deputy sheriff should collect files and dockets from the DCEC office and place them into the custody of the Court. “Consequent to the order of his Lordship, the DISS has continued on its rampage and has arrested two officers of the DCEC and detained them in a Hitler style arrangement,” said Katlholo.
He added that, quite clearly the “DISS with the assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents seeks to conceal all the evidence by obstructing Judicial process.” He said his latest current application has been brought at the earliest opportunity following defiance and acts of obstruction at the instance of the respondents. Katlholo saidthe conduct of the Pilane, Israel, Batsalelwang and DIS are an aggression on the rule of law, the Constitution of Botswana and the Judiciary in general.
“The DISS clearly has every intention of continuing to defy my rights and with the due assistance of the 1st to 3rd Respondents (Pilane, Israel and Batsalelwang). To refuse an interdict, thereby allowing the perpetration of an ongoing wrong is an anathema to the principle of legality,” said Katlholo. He said, “The DISS cannot be allowed to continue acting in contravention of the law, and to fragrantly invade an act of Parliament.”
He reiterated that the files or documents or dockets remain vulnerable and there is need that they be removed from the office and placed in the custody of the Registrar. There can never be a safe place than Court, said Katlholo. “Should the matter not be heard as urgent, the likelihood of the files concerned and the information therein dissipating or being interfered with is high and once the evidence of the concerned files has been compromised or contaminated there is no other relief in law that fix such, there is therefore no alternative remedy,” he said.
Katlholo added that, “Most importantly, any unwarranted access to the files may compromise the integrity of ongoing investigations and expose informants and whistleblowers. Once they have been compromised, no court action may restore such.” He said it was necessary and extremely urgent that the Court steps in to protect the rule of law against the respondents, more particularly the DIS and its agents.
The United States through its State Department’s annual report on global religious freedoms is keeping tabs on Botswana’s decision to arrest of controversial pastor Thuso Tiego by the police.
The report was released a week ago. Tiego was re-arrested this week by the police after he allegedly attempted to spearhead a campaign aimed at shutting down some shops that are run by foreigners. The US’ State Department report says Police arrested a pastor from the Bethel Transfiguration Church September 7 when he tried to deliver a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi demanding his resignation over what the pastor said was mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis.
“The pastor, Thuso Tiego, also criticized the government for restricting religious gatherings at a time when he said that individuals turned to churches for counselling and support during the pandemic,” the report says. It says Tiego was held overnight at a police station and released without charge. The report cites media reports saying that several of his supporters were beaten by police when they gathered outside the station demanding Tiego’s release.
“The national police service did not announce any disciplinary action against the officers involved,” the report says adding that, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion, with certain exceptions, and protection against governmental discrimination based on creed.” On other related issues, the report said the government continued to pursue court cases involving unregistered churches (sometimes called “fire churches”) coming into the country to “take advantage of” local citizens by demanding tithes and donations for routine services or special prayers.
“The government required pastors of some of those churches to apply for visas – even those from countries whose nationals were normally allowed visa-free entry. The government said in June 2019 that it was reviewing the visa policy for these foreign pastors, but by year’s end had not released the results of this review or announced any changes,” the report says. According to the report, former members of one of the most prominent unregistered churches forced to close in 2019, the Enlightened Christian Gathering, subsequently formed their own smaller, independent churches with local leadership that was ultimately registered by the government.
The report says, under the COVID-19 state of emergency that ended in September, the government limited attendance at religious services to no more than 50 persons at one time and limited services to twice a week. The government also banned all religious gatherings during “extreme social distancing” periods. Although the limits on religious gatherings lasted 18 months and prevented some individuals from fully practicing their faith, most religious groups did not say their freedom of religion was being restricted and stated that the extraordinary measures were necessary for public health
The report says the US Embassy officials engaged with Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, and other religious representatives to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. “Topics included government tolerance of minority religious groups, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on religious expression, and interfaith cooperation to address community challenges,” the report says.
The report says under its broader protections of freedom of conscience, the constitution provides for freedom of thought and religion, the right to change religion or belief, and the right to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance. It says the constitution’s provision of rights also prohibits discrimination based on creed.
The constitution permits the government to restrict these rights in the interest of protecting the rights of other persons, national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.” “The state of emergency imposed from March 2020 to September 2021 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which capped the size of regular religious gatherings and meetings, was the first time the government ever exercised this provision,” the report says.