He was never a man short of ambition. But Tati East legislator, Samson Guma Moyo finds himself between a rock and a hard place as his business and political empire is potentially crumbling at his feet and he has very little left in him to save his grace.
Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) could be exactly what the doctor ordered – as per the script of those worried by his rising political and business star. Guma was galvanising himself for presidency and many in his party had noticed or heard at this stage. At this stage Guma has roped in Dick Bayford to reverse the Hero to Zero cursive and only time will tell.
Some presidential campaigns fizzle with a whimper — and some go out with a cringe-inducing bang. The shapeup to the 2019 political season will have its share of bottle-rocket candidates like Mokgweetsi Masisi, Duma Boko, Dumelang Saleshando and others, who shot to the top of politics with fiery confidence but could explode amid colourful comments and personal controversies.
Guma wanted to be party to the mill will as the political story of Botswana unravels in the next five years. But as things stand, his story is over. The question remains if he will resurrect his fortunes?
This publication has established from various sources that Guma harboured the idea that he could soon run for the office of President. So determined was the flamboyant legislator that he was ready to table a private member’s bill calling for direct election of the president of the republic of Botswana. At the peak of his political life within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Guma was elected the party chairman in Maun amid contestations that money was the leverage that saw the slippery legislator cross the bridge.
Sources who spoke to Weekend Post demonstrated that at this stage Guma saw himself as a maverick and was potent with an eminent appointment to the highest office in the land. He was more than ready to position himself among the elites of the ruling party to ensure that his presidential bid gain traction.
Of course he understood the dynamics and politics of the BDP very well to the extent that his chase for a seat at Orapa House would face obstacles of imminent proportions. He was slowly but surely waxing lyrical the party to allow him to table a private member’s bill on direct election of the president and he was almost on a home run – until BURS and DCEC together with the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) stopped him on his tracks.
In 2013 Guma had told this publication that he was still engaging the party on the subject of direct election of the president. He has said he did not want to rash the matter as he was duty bound to get the buy in of the party leadership and its members. “Little did we know that this was to the most extent to serve his appetite for the presidential office,” said one of Guma’s confidantes.
They had only assumed that Guma was reacting to a fertile political landscape whereupon the opposition was calling for direct election of the president and the civil society and academia were fattening up the debate.
2014 was hardly the first political season to witness the sudden collapse of a can't-lose personality – 2015 has definitely come hard on him, relegating him to shadows and alienating him from the very same people he wanted to cling onto for protection and gloss of his political career.
Guma severed ties with Thapelo Olopeng, his long-time business partner. Olopeng was probably the anchor in the business. Guma’s latest predicament with the tax collecting agency leaves him in the cold because it has alienated him from President Lt Khama, who surely is in the know of what Guma did wrong or right. The Tati East legislator has also publicly attacked Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama.
Tshekedi is also seen as a potential Vice President and ultimately president of the future as long the BDP is still in power. Guma had even told his constituents who had congregated in Francistown at Marang hotel last month that some people did not want him in politics. He further told them that he was preparing to quit politics.
Guma is not new to political turbulence, at one stage he had to leave cabinet because of alleged investigations by the DCEC. But the matter died a natural death and he was back in Khama’s arms was more or less endorsed for chairmanship of the party against former Education minister, Dr Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi. In the last central committee election of the ruling party, Guma had strategically chosen not to run for any position given his sudden resignation from chairmanship last year after some senior party officials accused him of aiding their demise at the party primaries. Instead he inked his name all over Vice President Mokweetsi Masisi’s campaign; it was also supposed to be a strategic move calculated to give no indication of his (Guma) long term plans.
Permutations are such that Guma was eyeing the after President Khama era which seems to have attracted onlookers. It is understood that he fancied his chances against anyone who could succeed Khama under the current automatic succession and put his money on the direct election of president law – because under such a dispensation anyone can put their hand up and be slotted onto the ballot paper.
Khama’s term comes to an end in the first quarter of 2018, and a few prominent ruling party members want to succeed him, but the best bet for now is Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi who should benefit from the automatic succession dispensation – but this will only last as long as the status quo.
The Tati East legislator is seen as being too cosy with Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU PF and President Robert Mugabe. He also has mining businesses in that country. Guma has even had adhoc meetings with Mugabe in the past.
For now Guma remains in the eye of the storm – and many are waiting to see if he will call it a day in politics as he has promised; what will be the end result of his current run-in with the BURS and the DCEC; and whether he will re-locate to Zimbabwe where he has other business interests?
The BURS wants him to pay over P35 million in unpaid taxes, and the DCEC on the other hand wants to charge him with living beyond his means. His accounts are currently frozen and he wants the action reversed, he fingers Office of the President in his current troubles.
The much-anticipated opposition unity talks that will see Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) engage Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are expected to kick off any time from now.
According to informants, the talks, which were preceded by-elections negotiations, aim to be as inclusive as possible. As the talks start, the UDC, composed of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP), insist on retaining its preferred model of Umbrella; on the other hand, the BPF is proposing a PACT; and AP is in favour of an alliance model.
BPF is reportedly sceptical on the umbrella model and wants cooperation with the flexibility to allow other parties to join hands with UDC but without necessarily contesting elections using UDC symbols and colours.
BPF, which is currently the fastest-growing party, seems to be focused on self-actualization, self-preservation and securing institutional capacity in case of any political calamity. Although often profitable, cooperation politics can often leave individual political parties battered by political events and weakened beyond meaningful survival.
Discussions with some BPF members suggest that the party has big ambitions and harbour serious intentions of taking the BDP by its horns-all by itself-one day. “The position by some of our leaders is that the future of the UDC remains uncertain. The position and advice are that we should not put all our eggs in one basket. And the party elders think the pact model of cooperation is the safest under prevailing circumstances. Some, however, are worried that we should not overestimate our worth despite being the fastest-growing party in the country.
However, the matter is yet to be concluded once we receive the official invite,” revealed a BPF member of the NEC. Asked about the specifics of the pact idea, another high ranking party official revealed that the party Patron, Lt Gen Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi Khama are among those who are for the election pact model.
BPF Spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse has earlier this year told this publication that: “We have not settled on a model yet.” He also added that as a party, they are ready and willing to work with UDC, “but we will have our thoughts on how the cooperation or the talks should transpire, and they too will tell us their preference, and we will sit on the table to see how best to work together”.
AP heads into these negotiations with proposals of its own. On the model part, AP has expressed flexibility but want its partners to consider other models. AP believes that beyond the umbrella model, the coalition could also have a matrix to ensure that opposition parties select the best candidates for parliamentary and council seats.
AP, a splinter party of the beleaguered Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), asks for the constituencies allocated to BMD in the previous talks before it was kicked out on the eve of the 2019 elections.
AP, which garnered a popular vote of under 40 000 in the 2019 general elections, is confident that it brings tremendous value to the UDC, and state power could be within reach in 2024. To reconcile the various interest of political parties, the leaders have agreed to engage political experts in a bid to arrive at the best decisions.
“There will be no conveners because parties in the past believed that they (conveners) took decisions on behalf of the constituent parties, though they are not representing any. So, the idea is to rope in political experts to direct UDC and the negotiating parties as to which path of cooperation model to follow,” a highly placed informant said this week.
UDC convener Lebang Mpotokwane has also defended the umbrella model in the past, noting that it creates fewer problems for the participants. The negotiations will be the fourth opposition cooperation talks since the 2009 elections. The opposition has held talks in 2011, 2012 and 2017. The 2012 talks resulted in Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which has been anchoring negotiations since then.
When the Chairperson of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Governing Body invited member states to submit candidates for the vacant Director-General post for consideration, Botswana developed a keen interest.
It swiftly mobilized to beat the deadline, but the unions, upon consultation, nominated Justice Key Dingake as their preferred candidate, much to the government’s disappointment, who then decided to dump the whole issue altogether.
In accordance with the Rules governing the appointment of the Director-General and the decisions made by the Governing Body at its 341st and 342nd Sessions, the Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidates for appointment to the office of Director-General of the ILO through communication to all Governing Body members and all ILO Member States and candidatures must be submitted by a Member State of the ILO or by a regular or deputy member of the Governing Body.
The deadline for submission was on Friday, 1 October 2021, and candidatures were to be sent by postal or electronic mail to the following address to the Chairperson of the Governing Body. This publication had established that when Cabinet sat to discuss the issue, it was resolved that the unions as key stakeholders should be consulted and requested to submit a name for consideration. They did and offered Justice Oagile Key Dingake-a distinguished scholar and labour law expert whose contribution to the country’s labour fraternity is unparalleled.
When asked this week to share their side of the story, the unions said they were first invited to partake in the process by the government but never got a response after they nominated judge Dingake as an ideal candidate.
“We sent our correspondence to the Minister of Employment, Labour and productivity, Mpho Balopi, with our suggested name being Justice Oagile Key Dingake, but since then we never got a response,” said unionist, Tobokani Rari who further expressed disappointment at how the government has handled the matter.
Rari said that while he would not want to impute any improper motives to anyone, the developments rekindled memories of the government’s hostility towards Judge Dingake, who has been forced by circumstances to take his skills and wealth of experience to the benefit of other countries. Balopi did not respond to questions sent to him and did not pick this publication’s calls at the time of going to press.
Cabinet insiders say Dingake’s name spoilt the party and dampened the spirits. “In the list of nominated names, he was the leading candidate, but I guess the powers that be could not imagine themselves campaigning for him and doing all they did for the Executive Secretary of SADC Secretariat, Elias Magosi.”
Dingake’s sin, observers say, has always been his progressive, independent mind and family’s political background, all of which have always stood in his way to progress to the country’s judicial ladder’s ends.
It is understood that also in the mix and preferred by the state was former Attorney General, judge, and now Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Botswana to the United Nations and other international organizations, Dr Athaliah Molokomme, who also has a background in human rights advocacy.
But insiders say many believed that the country should export Dingake to represent the country given his decorated experience and background. As a lawyer, Dingake represented 90% of Trade Unions in Botswana, drafted numerous Collective Labour Agreements, later presided overall trade disputes, including Collective Labour Agreements, and made determinations as Judge of the Industrial Court of Botswana.
Dingake has also written and lectured widely on trade, labour and human rights and holds numerous citations and awards for his work regarding peace, human rights, and social development. Had he contested and won, he would have been the first African to lead the ILO.
The ILO is built on the constitutional principle that universal and lasting peace can be established only if based on social justice. The ILO has been the source of such hallmarks of industrial society as the 8-hour day, maternity protection, child labour laws and a whole range of policies promoting workplace safety and peaceful industrial relations. Unique among UN organizations, the ILO has a tripartite structure involving governments, employers and workers.
ILO Director-General elections events lineup…
At its 341st (March 2021) and 342nd (June 2021) Sessions, the ILO Governing Body approved the following timetable for the appointment of the Director-General because the current term of office of the Director-General will come to an end on 30 September 2022:
1 July 2021: The Chairperson of the Governing Body calls for candidatures 1 October 2021: Last date for the reception of candidatures A week in January 2022: The Chairperson of the Governing Body conducts interviews with candidates for the position of Director-General based on the format and principles contained in document GB.342/INS/6 and the guidance provided by the Governing Body at its 342nd Session 14-15 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts candidate(s) hearings 25 March 2022 (344th Session of the Governing Body): The Governing Body conducts the ballot for the election of the Director-General 1 October 2022: The term of office of the Director-General commences.
Botswana and the European Union (EU) appear to have been at each other’s throats behind the scenes since last year, with the EU saying it held several meetings with Botswana to convince her to address human rights issues.
This is contained in a 2020 Human Rights Report that reveals broad divisions in contentious issues boiling behind the scenes between Gaborone and the Union. According to the report, which was released recently, the EU says it “continues to follow closely three main human rights issues in Botswana: the application of the death penalty; the rights of LGBTI persons; and gender equality.”
“Botswana remains part of a small group of countries – in Africa and globally – which continue to retain the death penalty both in law and in practice. Three executions were recorded in 2020,” the report says. According to the report, the Botswana Government indicated that a public debate on the application of the death penalty should be part of its ongoing work towards developing a Comprehensive Human Rights Strategy and the related National Action Plan.
The report says further progress on the rights of LGBTI persons’ seen in 2019, when Botswana’s High Court decriminalised same-sex consensual relations, is still pending, subject to a final court decision over a government appeal.
“Finally, gender-based violence and the need to advance gender equality and women’s rights in society remain another challenge for the country. In response to the high incidence of gender-based violence – which has intensified in many countries during the current COVID-19 pandemic – the President and the First Lady launched a public campaign to fight gender-based violence and to promote equality,” the report says.
The report says the EU did not fold its arms and watch from the sidelines the human rights issues in question are concerned but confronted Botswana to have the contentious issue addressed. “The EU continued to engage with the Botswana Government, multilateral organisations, non-governmental organisations and the broader society in Botswana in three main areas: the death penalty, gender-based violence and empowerment of women, and rights of LGBTI persons, as well as on the support of media and implementation of Universal Periodic Review recommendations,” the report says.
The report says that in addition to ad hoc consultations and human rights-oriented outreach efforts, the EU engaged with the Botswana Government on human rights formally in the context of the Article 8 Political Dialogue, which took place in February 2020.
“The dialogue offered an opportunity to exchange views on EU’s and Botswana’s experiences concerning the three EU priority areas in Botswana (capital punishment, gender-based violence and rights of LGBTI persons) as well as other human rights challenges, while also exploring opportunities for EU-Botswana cooperation on human rights issues in the context of the EU-Africa partnership and at the multilateral level,” the report says.
In parallel to engagement with the government, the EU said it continued to maintain dialogue with representatives of civil society focusing on human rights and with UN organisations and other partners of the country.
“The EU continues to be the driving force behind the Gender Dialogue (in principle co-chaired with UN Women and the Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Immigration, Nationality and Gender), which brings together various stakeholders to discuss gender issues to chart a way forward regarding partnerships. The EU has also used public diplomacy efforts to stimulate broader dialogue in the country on human rights issues,” the report says.
The EU said it continued to provide financial support to projects funded through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, with activities focused primarily on helping Botswana tackle gender-based violence, strengthen the notion of gender equality in the country, and promote participation in political processes.
“With six projects already underway, the EU signed two new programmes, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, to support victims of gender-based and domestic violence and defend the rights of marginalised people, with a combined budget of EUR 430,000,” the report says. It says one of the projects is designed to offer care services to victims of gender-based violence and provide clinical services, counselling, shelter, and a referral system for legal and social assistance. Another project provides legal, medical and psychosocial support to refugees, undocumented migrants and indigenous people.
It says Botswana remains an important like-minded partner for the EU on the human rights agenda at a multilateral level. “The country’s positive role on human rights in the multilateral context would be further strengthened by initiating a domestic process of reflection about the signature and ratification of several pending core human rights conventions and/or optional protocols (e.g. the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture, etc.)” the report says.
But the report acknowledged that Botswana is a stable and well-established democracy with a legal framework and institutions designed to guarantee respect for human rights in society. It says human rights complaints are addressed by the courts, with the government accepting decisions and implementing relevant rulings.
“Although the media scene in the country is relatively undeveloped, the World Press Freedom Index has noted a further positive trend concerning the role of the media in society (as was also the case in 2019) and has improved Botswana’s ranking from 44th to 39th place (out of 180 countries),” the report says. Meanwhile, this week, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi met with the EU delegation led by the managing director for Africa of the European External Action Services, Ms Rita Laranjinha.