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Botswana breaks ranks with AU over ICC

Vice President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi

NEW YORK – The Vice President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi has in what was interpreted by political experts as a defiant statement against the 2014 position of the African Union (AU) on the International Criminal Court (ICC), reaffirmed Botswana’s unwavering support and commitment to the ICC and what it stands for.

The 54 nation AU has urged its members to "speak with one voice" against criminal proceedings at the ICC instituted on sitting presidents. The organization expressed disappointed that a request to the United Nations Security Council to defer the trials of Kenya's leaders had not yielded the "positive result expected".

In the SADC region, only Botswana is opposed to the AU position, which was made in a statement last year February following an Ethiopian summit attended by 34 leaders. Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto, who both deny the charges, face charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC in the Hague for allegedly orchestrating post-election violence in which more than 1,000 people died.

Sometimes back in November, the Security Council rejected an AU demand to suspend the ICC trial of the two leaders. Guatemala's UN ambassador, Gert Rosenthal said the attempt to suspend the trial was an act of "contempt" against countries that had sought to help Africa with peacekeeping troops and efforts to boost justice in the continent.

Eight Security Council nations, all ICC members or supporters, including Britain, France and the United States, abstained to ensure the failure of the resolution. The resolution got seven votes, two below the number needed to pass in the 15-member body. It was the first time in decades that a Security Council resolution failed in such a way without a veto by one of the permanent members.

However, this week at the United Nations assembly debate Botswana spoke hard against the controversial Security Council’s permanent seats and the veto.

“Botswana continues to firmly support the initiative by France calling for the permanent members of the Security Council to refrain from using their veto powers in situations
involving mass atrocities,” said Masisi.

Masisi said the UN, which promotes democracy around the globe, should itself lead by example. “The UN Security Council is not an example of a democracy where permanent membership is limited to five countries which further have a veto.

There should be no permanent members and no veto at all. The practice of might is right, is actually wrong. Whilst in the main, it is indeed the primary responsibility of states to ensure the protection of their people, the reality is that some, like Syria, are manifestly failing to do so,” he said.

Masisi further observed that Vetoes violate international humanitarian law with shameful impunity. He added that this should clearly necessitate the application of Pillars II and III of the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P): yet, nothing is happening.

“Is it perhaps time that R2P is made a formal agenda item for debate by the General Assembly? Perhaps such a debate could provide sufficient impetus for the Security Council to carry the full mantle of its mandate, including improving its relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in order to facilitate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against humanity,” he said in his debate which was read to an almost half-empty GA hall.
 
International Criminal Court

Defying the AU, Masisi said Botswana's commitment to a strong and effective international justice system remains resolute. “Our belief in the ICC, as the only standing international criminal tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity, is unwavering,” he told member states.

The Botswana Government, Masisi, in what many suspected was referring to South African president, Jacob Zuma said regrets that non-cooperation by some State Parties still plagues the Court, making allowance for continued impunity and escape from accountability for crimes committed against humanity.

The South African government recently made news world headlines when they helped the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to escape from arrest during a visit. The court ruled that SA government had a legal duty to arrest Bashir.

Zuma’s government allowed Bashir to leave the country on June 15 despite a court order blocking his departure, arguing that he had immunity from arrest during his visit to the country for an African Union summit.

Masisi said his government urges all Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC to stand fully behind the Court. Cooperation is vital for the assurance of the Court's integrity and effective functioning.

“My delegation and I are hopeful that as we commemorate 70 years of the United Nations, we can have unanimous agreement that judicial accountability, inclusive governance and the protection and promotion of human rights are essential elements for peaceful societies.

This, he said, should not be seen as the preserve of the ICC or Security Council alone, but rather as a shared responsibility of the member states.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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