DCEC versus MEDIA: The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) this week slapped News Company Botswana, publishers of The Botswana Gazette with a search warrant in a development that rocked the media industry and invited widespread criticism of the DCEC. The Publisher, Shike Olsen and his Editor and Reporter were interrogated by the DCEC offi cials while their lawyer was briefl y jailed at Mogoditshane Police Station. Read full account on Page 21 as we zoom into the DCEC Act.
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) had a run in with a midweek publication, The Botswana Gazette, this week following publication of a story alleging collusion and corruption. The DCEC had obtained a search warrant against the News Company Botswana premises but it encountered challenges in executing the warrant because lawyers representing the organisation raised objections bordering on the legality of the search warrant.
The DCEC has also in the recent past praised the media for its work in exposing corruption, declaring that they are friends with media. But this week the civility of the corruption busting organisation was all gone as it flexed its muscles against The Botswana Gazette, an episode that led to the temporary jailing of Gazette lawyer Joao Salbany and the arrest of the publication’s Managing Editor, Shike Olsen; Deputy Editor, Lawrence Seretse; and reporter, Innocent Selatlhwa.
Many commentators viewed the development as harassment of the media and feared for the worst in so far as Media Freedom is concerned. MISA Botswana voiced out, labelling the decision by the DCEC an assault on Media Freedom; Botswana Congress Party (BCP) publicity secretary, Taolo Lucas complained about the section 44 of the DCEC Act which he labelled as draconian and going against the spirit of the Botswana Constitution; while Dr Phenyo Butale of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) had a go at a host of legislations which he said were not friendly to the media.
He said what the DCEC was doing was harassment of the media and a calculated effort to muzzle the press. The Law Society of Botswana released a statement rebuking the arrest of one of their members, Salbany and “an apparent muzzling of the media”.
LSB wrote, “… the arrest of an attorney during the discharge of his duties is an affront to the Constitution and the very basic tenets of Democracy and the Rule of Law. The arrest runs afoul of enshrined Constitutional rights of the Gazette Newspaper and the Journalist to legal representation and to adequately prepare a defence and similarly an affront to the attorney’s Constitutional rights to protect the rights of his clients.
According to the LSB, the arrest brings once again into sharp focus the culture of impunity that the Society alluded to at the Opening of the Legal Year in 2015. It further brings into question the country’s soft-spoken credentials on the Rule of Law.
Salbany, of the Law firm Bayford and Associates was arrested and detained at Mogoditshane Police Station supposedly on a charge of obstructing the officers in their investigations. According to the DCEC Act, the offence carries a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to a fine not exceeding P10 000, or to both.
This week’s raid by the DCEC further brought into sharp focus the law that set up the organization. A closer look at the Act demonstrates that the Director General of the DCEC wields a lot of power which when unleashed could leave a lot of ash on the ground.
A reading of the Act further explains why she (Director General) searched the News Company Botswana premises. Unoda Mack, a prominent lawyer who had accompanied Duma Boko to rescue Salbany intimated that the search warrant was valid, but the DCEC officers could have avoided the drama by explaining their mission. As things stand, the newspaper has done nothing wrong, the DCEC only felt that there could be evidence of a case they are working on at the premises.
After interrogating the journalists in the presence of attorneys Kabo Motswagole, Boko and Mack, the DCEC went ahead and searched the News Company Botswana premises and confiscated a computer.
Below we reproduce some sections that give the DCEC Director General powers of search and arrest, as well as subsequent prosecute:
13. SEARCH WITH WARRANTS (1) If it appears to the Directorate that there is reasonable cause to believe that there is in any premises, place, vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle anything which is or contains evidence of the commission of any offence under Part IV, the Director or any officer of the Directorate may make an application on oath to a magistrate for a warrant to search such premises, place, vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle.
(2) If a magistrate to whom an application is made under subsection (1) is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is in the premises, place, vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle referred to in subsection (1) anything which is or contains evidence of the commission of any of the offences referred to in Part IV, he may by warrant direct the Director, or any officer authorised by him under section 7(1)(a), to enter and search such premises, place, vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle and seize and detain anything which the Director, or the officer authorised by the Director, has reason to believe to be or to contain evidence of any of the offences referred to in Part IV.
14. SEARCH WITHOUT WARRANT IN CERTAIN CASES Whenever the Director, or an officer authorised by him under section 7(1)(a), has reasonable cause to believe that there is in any premises, place, vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle any article or document which is evidence of the commission of an offence, or in respect of which an offence has been, is being, or about to be committed, under Part IV, is being conveyed, or is concealed or contained in any package in the premises, place, vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle, for the purpose of being conveyed, then and in any such case, if the Director or the officer authorised by him under section 7(1) considers that the special exigencies of the case so require, he may without a warrant enter the premises, place, vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle, and search, seize and detain such article, document or package.
15. EXERCISE OF POWERS OF SEARCH AND SEIZURE (1) In the exercise of the powers of search, seizure and detention under section 13(2) or 14, the Director or any other officer of the Directorate may use such reasonable force as is Exercise of powers of search and seizure
(1) In the exercise of the powers of search, seizure and detention under section 13(2) or 14, the Director or any other officer of the Directorate may use such reasonable force as is necessary in the circumstances, and may be accompanied or assisted by such other persons as he deems necessary to assist him to enter into or upon any premises, or upon any vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle, as the case may be.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 7, 13 and 14, the Director, or any other officer of the Directorate shall not have access to any books, records, returns, reports or other documents, or data stored electronically, or to enter upon any premises, place, vessel, boat, aircraft or other vehicle if in the opinion of the President in writing such access or entry is likely to prejudice national security.
18. RESISTING OR OBSTRUCTING OFFICERS (1) Any person who resists or obstructs an officer in the execution of his duty shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) Any person guilty of an offence under this section or section 7(2) or 8(2) shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to a fine not exceeding P10 000, or to both.
44. PROHIBITION OF DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION Any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, discloses to any person who is the subject of an investigation in respect of an offence alleged or suspected to have been committed by him under this Act the fact that he is subject to such an investigation or any details of such investigation, or publishes or discloses to any other person either the identity of any person who is the subject of such an investigation or any details of such an investigation, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to a fine not exceeding P2 000, or to both.
An international report complied in South Africa dubbed ‘Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana’ says that the transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana live a miserable life. The community experiences higher levels of discrimination, violence and ill health.
In this report, it has been indicated that this is because their gender identity, which does not conform to narrowly define societal norms, renders them more vulnerable. Gender identity is a social determinant of health, which means that it is a factor that influences people’s health via their social context, their communities and their experiences of social exclusion. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has recognized this, and transgender people are considered a vulnerable population under the Botswana Second National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2010-2017.
In a recent study that shed light on the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana, transgender persons often experience discrimination because of their gender identity and expression. The study was conducted by the University of Cape Town, LEGABIBO, BONELA, as well as Rainbow Identity Association and approved by the Health Ministry as well as the University of Botswana.
Of the 77 transgender and gender non-conforming people who participated in the study, less than half were employed. Two thirds, which is approximately 67% said that they did not have sufficient funds to cover their everyday needs. Two in five had hidden health concerns from their healthcare provider because they were afraid to disclose their gender identity.
More than half said that because of their gender identity, they had been treated disrespectfully at a healthcare facility (55%), almost half (46%) said they had been insulted at a healthcare facility, and one quarter (25%) had been denied healthcare because of their gender identity.
At the same time, the ‘Are we doing right’ study suggests that transgender and non-conforming people might be at higher risks of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population. More than half had experienced verbal embarrassment because of their gender identity, 48% had experienced physical violence and more than one third (38%) had experienced sexual violence.
The study showed that mental health concerns were high among transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana. Half of the transgender and gender non-conforming study participants (53%) showed signs of depression. Between one in four and one in six showed signs of moderate or severe anxiety (22% among transgender women, 24% among transgender men and 17% among gender non-conforming people).
Further, the study revealed that many had attempted suicide: one in three transgender women (32%), more than one in three transgender men (35%) and three in five gender non-conforming people (61%).
International research, as well as research from Botswana, suggests that not being able to change one’s gender marker has a negative impact on access to healthcare and mental health and wellbeing. The study further showed that one in four transgender people in Botswana (25%) had been denied access to healthcare. This is, at least in part, linked to not being able to change one’s gender marker in the identity documents, and thus not having an identity document that matches one’s gender identity and gender expression.
In its Assessment of Legal and Regulatory Framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis, the Health Ministry noted that “transgender persons in Botswana are unable to access identity documents that reflect their gender identity, which is a barrier to health services, including in the context of HIV. In one documented case, a transwoman’s identity card did not reflect her gender identity- her identity card photo indicated she was ‘male’. When she presented her identity card at a health facility, a health worker called the police who took her into custody.”
The necessity of a correct national identity document goes beyond healthcare. The High Court of Botswana explains that “the national identity document plays a pivotal role in every Motswana’s daily life, as it links him or her with any service they require from various institutions. Most activities in the country require every Motswana to produce their identity document, for identification purposes of receiving services.”
According to the Legal Gender Recognition in Botswana report, this effectively means that transgender, whose gender identity and expression is likely to be different from the sex assigned to them at birth and from what is recorded on their identity document, cannot access services without risk of denial or discrimination, or accusations of fraud.
In this context, gays and lesbians advocacy group LEGABIBO has called on government through the Department of Civil and National Registration to urgently implement the High Court rulings on gender marker changes. As stated by the High Court in the ND vs Attorney General of Botswana judgement, identity cards (Omang) play an important role in the life of every Motswana. Refusal and or delay to issue a Motswana with an Omang is denying them to live a complete and full-filing life with dignity and violates their privacy and freedom of expression.
The judgement clarified that persons can change their gender marker as per the National Registrations Act, so changing the gender marker is legally possible. There is no need for a court order. It further said the person’s gender is self-identified, there is no need to consult medical doctors.
LEGABIBO also called on government to develop regulations that specify administrative procedure to change one’s gender marker, and observing self-determination process. Further, the group looks out for government to ensure members of the transgender community are engaged in the development of regulations.
“We call on this Department of Civil and National Registration to ensure that the gender marker change under the National Registration Act is aligned to the Births and Deaths Registry Act to avoid court order.
Meanwhile, a gay man in Lobatse, Moabi Mokenke was recently viciously killed after being sexually violated in the streets of Peleng, shockingly by his neighbourhood folks. The youthful lad, likely to be 29-years old, met his fate on his way home, from the wearisome Di a Bowa taverns situated in the much populated township of Peleng Central.
CEO of Khato Civils Mongezi Mnyani has come out of the silence and is going all way guns blazing against the company’s adversaries who he said are hell-bent on tarnishing his company’s image and “hard-earned good name”
Speaking to WeekendPost from South Africa, Mnyani said it is now time for him to speak out or act against his detractors. Khato Civils has done several projects across Africa. Khato Civils, a construction company and its affiliate engineering company, South Zambezi have executed a number of world class projects in South Africa, Malawi and now recently here in Botswana.
About ten (10) Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidates who lost the 2019 general election and petitioned results this week met with UDC Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando to discuss the way forward concerning the quandary that is the legal fees put before them by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers.
For a while now, UDC petitioners who are facing the wrath of quizzical sheriffs have demanded audience with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC) but in vain. However after the long wait for a tete-a-tete with the UDC, the petitioners met with Saleshando accompanied by other NEC members including Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, Reverend Mpho Dibeela and Dennis Alexander.