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.
Following their loss to the Duma Boko-led lobby in the Botswana National Front (BNF)’s national congress last month, some members of the party are reportedly considering forming a new political party.
According to members, the new party will be formed after they receive a tip-off that the BNF will do all it can to ensure that the aggrieved members do not participate in the 2024 national elections. This will reportedly done through a carefully orchestrated primary elections elimination campaign.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.