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BDP to review ‘unpopular’ policies

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) will have a busy road in the next four years as the party will meet in an unprecedented number of party congresses in a bid to save the party from losing power in 2019.

In an unusual turn of events, by the time delegates disperse from the 2017 elective congress, the party would have met four times in a space of two years. The 2017 Congress will also serve as President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s last as the party leader and will present his valedictory remarks to the delegates.

In two weeks’ time, the party will converge in Gaborone at Limkokwing University for a Special Congress where they will discuss some issues which were not finalised at their last congress in Mmadinare.

BDP Secretary General Botsalo Ntuane exclusively revealed to this publication on Thursday that the Central Committee has again resolved to hold another special congress next year where the delegates will deal with matters of government policies and BDP as an organisation.

“This year’s special congress will be deliberating on the issues emanating from Mmadinare Congress, whereas next year’s special congress will deal with government, policies and the organisation,” said Ntuane.

Ntuane revealed that the party will start to be superior in formulation of policies as opposed to the status quo in which cabinet alone drives government’s policies. “The party will review the existing government policies and make some resolutions to be implemented by government,” he stated.

The former Gaborone West South (now Gaborone Bonnington South) legislator admitted that as much as government has introduced good policies and initiatives, the party rarely takes credit as opposed to blame it gets for failing government policies.

The secretary general also conceded that it is crucial for the party to be on the forefront of policy making since government is elected on the basis of what the ruling party promised to the electorates, and noted that failure to deliver by the government is failure of the party to fulfil its promises. “We have allowed next year’s special congress to specifically deal with that and ensure that going forward the party is superior in formulation of every government policy,” said Ntuane.

 The ruling party has come under fire for some of its initiatives which some believe are not sustainable and will not address the thorny issue of unemployment in the country. Programmes like Ipelegeng, Tirelo Sechaba and Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) have come under attack from opposition for supposedly being populist and unsustainable.

There has been debate on whether cabinet and bureaucrats should be leading in formulating government policies or the party should take the driver’s seat on such matters.

At the beginning of this year the party leadership including the cabinet were visibly divided on the introduced Graduate Volunteer Scheme (GVS).

Ntuane also disclosed that the central committee has sanctioned the establishment of Women Wing General Assembly and Youth Wing National Council where they will discuss policy matters relating to their sectors. The Women’s Wing will address government policies with regard to women while the Youth Wing Council will scrutinize government policies relating to the youth.

Both forums which are to be held ahead of the party special congress next year are expected to make recommendations to the party for possible review of existing government policies.

Ntuane, who became the eighth BDP secretary general after being elected in Mmadinare, has been spearheading the reform agenda. Ntuane has swiftly clarified that the reforms do not necessarily focus on the politics part of it alone, but other components as well. “These special congresses are part of the reforms,” he said. “For the first time we now have the women general assembly, youth national council and special congress to specifically deal with government policies,” he said.

The BDP however still has a mammoth task with winning over support of the working class, as its relationship with unions remains brittle. Cabinet continues to sponsor bills which are anti-workers, the latest being the proposed Botswana Examination Council (BEC) Amendment bill which seeks among others to make it compulsory for teachers to supervise course work assessment and invigilate examinations.

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Dingake talks about gay rights in tribute to Kirby

11th January 2022

Former High Court Judge Professor Key Dingake has made his opinion known about gay rights in a glowing tribute to his retired former colleague Justice Ian Kirby.

Late last month a panel of Court of Appeal (CoA) led by Judge Kirby upheld a 2019 High Court ruling that decriminalised same-sex relations and stroke down two sections in the penal code. In his seminal judgment, Justice Kirby said these sections served only to incentivize law enforcement agents to become keyhole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens.

In this case one Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a homosexual had instituted an application in the High Court challenging the constitutionality of Sections 164 (a) and 164 (c).

Paying tribute to Justice Kirby, Justice Dingake said overall the Kirby court was restrained and brilliant in its genre of conservatism. Judge Dingake said the case of Motshidiemang is evidence of the latter. “In a stroke of a pen, he ended the long and tortuous road to equality of gay people.

I was reminded of this long and tortuous road by a piece written by, Zackie Achmat, that indefatigable human right defender, recently, when he reflected on a union of gay men, one Khoi and the other a Dutch sailor, way back in 1735, who for their love for each other were brutally murdered,” Justice Dingake said.

He said in truth Botswana’s Constitution never denied the right to equality for gay men. It was society and the judges who did – some arguing that the time is not right to extend equality rights to gay persons – forgetting the self-evident truth that we are all born equal and that rights are not negotiable – not even with Judges.

“It ought to be remembered that the Motshidiemang case was similar to the case of Kanani that preceded it. Justice Kirby was part of the panel that sat in Kanani. In Kanani he agreed with the other Justices and refused to strike down the offensive legislation. The same legislation he struck down in Motshidiemang.

There is no doubt in my mind that Kanani was wrongly decided at the time, as several of my writings thereafter contended, having regard to the legal injunction to always interpret constitutional rights liberally and to treat the constitution as a living organism,” Justice Dingake wrote.

He added that in Kanani the Court of Appeal held back “our march to freedom for more than a decade – and perpetuated the suffering of gay persons as their being was criminalized based on an inaccurate and narrow reading of the Constitution”.

The truth of the matter is that, he said, our Constitution never denied gay persons the rights to equality and the right not to be discriminated against. “Some sections of society (may be the majority) and the bench did so. The bench did so because of the choices they exercised.

They chose to interpret the constitution restrictively, which is not permissible; they chose to be blown away by ‘public opinion’, which was not right, and they chose not read: ‘sexual orientation’, into section 15 of the constitution, which they could have done.”

Botswana’s Constitution he said commands that it be interpreted in a manner that saves humanity from the scourge of indignity – and with a sense of the future – and to secure the rights of generations yet to be born. It is always the duty of Judges to breathe life into the Constitution – and to effect the promise of the Constitution – by among other things rejecting the tyranny of the majority.

“Section 3, the principal section conferring fundamental human rights in Botswana has always been there. It was ignored in Kanani, and thankfully given effect to in Motshidiemang.  A big lesson here is the often overlooked fact: Judges matter! Who the Judge is may be life changing in any given matter.

When one considers the decision in Kanani and Motshidiemang, based on similar facts and the diametrically opposed conclusions, one may be given to think that may be: ‘the constitution is what the Judges say it is’, at any given time, as that brilliant luminary judge and scholar, Charles Evans Hughes (1862 -1948) LLD, once ruminated.”

Interestingly, Judge Dingake wrote about homosexuality more than 12 years ago in his book ‘Key Aspects of the Constitutional Law of Botswana’. Justice Dingake expressed his views on what was said then to what was said in the recent judgment.

In that book, he began the debate by stating that homosexual issues are not frequently debate in Botswana. “Empirically, the extent of homosexual tendencies is not known. In any event the phenomenon does not appear to be widespread,” the Judge wrote.

He said serious debate however cropped up sometime around August 1995, after president Robert Mugabe’s much publicized anti homosexuals speech at the Harare International Book Show. Even then, he said, the debate was only confined to a small circle of intellectuals, with the broader community generally contemptuous and not willing to engage in serious debate about the issue.

“Although the intellectual community is by no means unanimous, there are some voices, particularly emanating from the University of Botswana, that are calling for equal treatment for homosexuals. Despite the enormous capacity of such arguments to court controversy general response of the public was one of cynicism. This general lack of interest among the general populace contrasts sharply with the enthusiasm and interest on the issue, just across the border, in South Africa, where there are numerous homosexual associations,” he said.

He explained that the South African Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which has paved the way for homosexuals to be employed in the army, an advance that is unparalleled in modern democracies. He also explained that Botswana’s criminal law prohibits consenting adults of the same sex from having a sexual relationship, because that is said to be unnatural.

“Within the framework of Botswana’s Constitution there can be no doubt that the prohibition of sexual relationships between consenting male adults of the same sex is unconstitutional. No free society can, in this era, afford to treat its citizens differently on the basis that is patently irrational.

Every individual, is in terms of the Constitution equal before law and has the right of equal benefit of the law without discrimination. The legal recognition of homosexuals will confirm Botswana as a democratic country that is advancing with time.”

He added that it needs to be said that it is however fruitless to bury “our heads in the sand and hope the issue will disappear for good”. He concluded: “In time we will have to confront the issue head on. In time blind prejudice that stigmatizes homosexual relationships will have to stand up to rational scrutiny. It is advisable not too turn a blind eye to the pain of discrimination suffered by few of our fellow countrymen and women. In a democracy it is unacceptable that the majority should oppress the minority”.

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Electricity prices could go up

11th January 2022
BERA CEO - Rose Seretse

Consumers could pay more for electricity this year, as the government owned power producer, Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) plans to increase prices for electricity by 5% with effect from the 1st of April 2022.

BPC recent statement on tariff adjustment shows that with the planned 5% increase in electricity tariffs, electricity prices per kWh could increase by 111 thebe for household users, 226 thebe for government, 148 thebe for commercial businesses and 111 thebe for the mining sector.

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Botswana GDP in upward trajectory as economy recovers

11th January 2022
Peggy Serame & President Masisi

Botswana economy is registering growth as the country emerges from one of its worsts economic recessions since independence, following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

In late December 2021 Statistics Botswana released the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for the third quarter of 2021.

The nominal GDP for the third quarter of 2021 was P49, 260.5 million compared to P48, 684.0 million registered during the previous quarter. This represents a quarterly increase of 1.2 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

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