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.
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.”
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.
Special Economic Zone Authority’s (SEZA) P126 million Master Planning of Pandamatenga Special Economic Zones Business Case, Urban & Landscapes tender is in court after one of bidders, Moralo Design challenged its disqualification from the tender.
SEZA is transforming Pandamatenga into an Agropolis which will combine modern farming with top notch industrial, residential, commercial and recreational land use. The project is measured at 137, 007 ha which comprises of 84, 500 ha for commercial production, 12 400 ha for the subsistence production, 107 ha will be for Agro-processing while 40 000 ha will be for the Zambezi Integrated Agro-commercial Project (ZIACDP).
In their court papers, Moralo Designs, represented by Jones Moitshepi Firm, said they received a letter from SEZA on or around the 12th November 2020 notifying that their bid has been disqualified at the technical evaluation stage of the tender adjudication process.
In their response, Lonely Mogara who is Chief Executive Office of SEZA said Moralo Designs is not entitled to be heard by the court as the company never participated in the disputed tender hence SEZA knows the bidder as Moralo Design Consortium.
“Moralo Designs had failed to establish any right to be heard by the court. The fact that they had submitted a tender was not guarantee that they would be awarded the tender,” he said. “The reasons for the disqualification of Moralo Design Consortium’s bid were valid and justified because their bid was insufficient as it lacked vital information as required by the terms of reference.”
SEZA Chief said the requirements for the work plan and project programme were clearly stated in the Invitation To Tender (ITT). Moralo Design Consortium was not penalised for non-existent requirements. In disqualifying the bid by Moralo Designs Consortium, Mogara further indicated that SEZA considered that there was a requirement for a programme and work plan.
“The purported “project programme” that was submitted by Moralo Design Consortium failed to depict the activity durations, activity phasing and interrelations, milestones, delivery dates of reports and logical sequence of activities constituent with methodology and showing a clear understanding of the terms of reference,” said Mogara in responding affidavit.
He said the ITT required that there be provision of delivery dates within the programme hence Moralo Designs Consortium failed to consult with SEZA when they felt that such a requirement would be impossible to provide. He continued to say there was an avenue available when the tender was being prepared, but they failed to use it.
“Moralo Designs’ application for interim relief lacks merit and only seeks to delay SEZA from completing the evaluation and award of a tender that will serve the greater good of the nation,” said Mogara.
He went on to say Moralo Designs has no prospects of succeeding in its review application as the possibility of court granting the review are so remote in that the court does not possess the requisite technical knowhow on what constitutes an adequate work plan and what ought to be contained in it.
A bidder disqualified for failure to provide adequate information has no right to be protected by the court. Irreparable harm can only be suffered by one who has shown that there exists a right in so far as having stood the chance of being awarded the tender.
The financial benefit likely to be derived by Moralo Designs- which is highly unlikely- is outweighed by the nature of the project. In the unlikely event that the application for review is successful, they can claim for damages. The availability of such remedy weighs in favour of the interdict being refused. The refusal stands to benefit the nation more than the financial interest that Moralo Designs seeks to protect.
Moralo Designs failed to establish the urgency of their application. They waited for more than a month and half after the disqualification to approach the court on urgency. Meanwhile when delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed that the detailed design and construction of 12 steel grain silos — with an overall storage capacity of 60 000 metric tonnes — is underway at the Pandamatenga SEZ and the P126 million project will be completed by August 2021.