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Parliament initiates BNYC probe

BNYC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Benjamin Raletsatsi

This week, Parliament unanimously endorsed Ignatius Moswaane’s motion calling for government to set up a task force to investigate reports of corruption and maladministration at the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC).


Presenting the motion to parliament, the Member of Parliament for Francistown West had requested that government suspends termination of contracts of some BNYC employees until investigations are completed. Following the ongoing restructuring process, BNYC Executive Director Benjamin Raletsatsi wrote to 33 employees informing them that their contracts will not be renewed.  


The Executive Director had explained to the employees that he had been instructed by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture to lay off staff, something which Moswaane said defeated the whole purpose of government creating and maintaining jobs.


Moswaane made startling revelations about the troubled organisation regarding corruption and maladministration propagated by the current management. In the wake of the revelations, it has surfaced that BNYC had purchased 17 vehicles without a tender in which P4.5 million was obtained from staff gratuity while the better part of the money came from a loan obtained at Wesbank. It is understood that the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MYSC) was to clear the loan. MYSC has since instructed that the 17 cars which were purchased and delivered throughout the districts be parked and not be used.


Moswaane had also pointed out at maladministration regarding appointments alleging favouritism. “The Finance Manager was appointed without having gone for an interview and was employed on a 5 year contract without probation, compared to other employees’ 3 year contracts,” he said.


It is has also been established that BNYC at one point purchased 10 suits at the total cost of P57 000 for personal use by staff, with half of the amount being paid before delivery. The remaining amount was later paid and the process of procurement was signed by directors and board members within BNYC.


This publication has also learnt that a Toyota double cab vehicle was contracted by BNYC for the Executive Director but upon termination of the contract in which a colossal amount was paid, Raletsatsi was still using the car, raising suspicion that he could have rented a vehicle belonging to him or a friend to the organization. More information reveals that even after termination of the contract Raletsatsi continues to use the car, fuelling it at the expense of BNYC through the fuel voucher kept by the Executive Director.


More money from BNYC has been siphoned through the pretext of contracting consultancy companies, HR issues and restructuring in which over P400 000 was spent without any call for companies to bid for the tender. It has also emerged that some employees were brought in under the pretext of providing consultancy but later were employed by the BNYC.


A company called Profit Masters (Pty) Ltd continues to be a major beneficiary from BNYC under the pretext that it is providing consultancy including for the BNYC-BTC project. Allegations are that the company has since pocketed over a million pula.     


The Executive Director’s businesses have also been implicated in misuse of the organisation’s money. Evidence linking the above inference is verified by an event in which an invoice was sent to BNYC for payment of providing training, upon making a follow-up on the payment enquired, the person who answered the phone was an employee at a Samsung Shop at Rail Park Mall, owned by BNYC Executive Director.


While employees’ contracts were not renewed, some who are said to be the Executive Director’s allies have been given six months extensions. It has also come to this publications’ attention that management positions are dominated by new employees, including those who initially joined the organisation as interns.


This publication is also aware that the Chairperson of the BNYC, Louis Benedice Sibanda will be subject to investigation as a result of his involvement in administration duties which are supposed to be handled by the secretariat. The decision by Sibanda and his team to be hands on, believed to be the basis of maladministration has thrown the organization into turmoil. 

         
Moswaane’s motion could not be debated for two weeks and caused chaos in parliament following the Speaker of National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe and her deputy, Kagiso Molathegi’s decision not to allow it to be debated. In protest, MPs walked out of parliament on two occasions when the motion was deferred causing the quorum to collapse and ultimately, the end of parliament business.


The opposition parties had however voiced their concern with regard to government being mandated with the task of carrying out the investigations. Opposition instead had preferred the establishment of a Special Select Committee to deal with the investigations, an amendment which was moved by MP for Gaborone Bonnington South, Ndaba Gaolathe.

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Dingake talks about gay rights in tribute to Kirby

11th January 2022
Dingake

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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