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UN Assemblies: Khama vindicated?

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.

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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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