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Cabinet sitting on reformer IEC report

IEC says they only implement the electoral law as it is

Cabinet is sitting on a detailed report comprising of recommendations by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and various stakeholders including the general public that would see Botswana’s electoral laws being reformed.


The report which is extracted from election observer reports and IEC internal evaluation reports was submitted to the executive following the 2009 general elections – for any possible action to effect the reforms.


WeekendPost has established that the executive is expected, under normal circumstances, to discuss the report contents and propel the debate further to parliament. The executive instructs the Attorney General Chambers to draft the bill and then it goes to the parliament floor to be debated where if passed by parliament it becomes law.


Sources at the IEC are concerned that although the 2014 elections evaluation process has commenced, the 2009 recommendations are yet to be attended to. There were submitted way back by the IEC to the executive for action. This according to sources does not help efforts to empower the IEC and make the electoral process credible and as effective as possible. The report recommendations come from vigorous consultations with stakeholders and the general populace across the country.


This publication understands that some recommendations keep coming up after various elections with cabinet taking no action. “It seems the system works for them (executive) and so they may not want to rock the boat on reforms as yet,” the source further told this publication.


Independence of IEC
In the report, stakeholders have recommended that Botswana should consider moving speedily to enact the IEC Act as a way of enhancing the status of the IEC as an independent, robust authority able to deliver credible elections. IEC was established by section 65A of the constitution. However, it is not established as an independent legal entity with a legal status separate from government. The recommendation is not helped by the fact that IEC is housed under the auspices of the Office of the president and therefore reports directly to the office.


Furthermore, “there is no provision which states that IEC, in the exercise of functions, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority (as was the case in the previous section 66 (7) of the constitution relating to the supervisor of elections).” There have been growing concerns from opposition parties and some sections in the society with regard to the institutional independence of the IEC.


Election of the president
According to the report, it is in the interest of strengthening Botswana’s democracy and removing any doubts Botswana may wish to consider amending the constitution to provide for the election of the president by popular vote. It further says that although this will add to the cost of the electoral process and will increase the workload of the IEC, it is worth exploring. IEC says that the proposal requires a political decision as it is peripheral to the IEC mandate.


Under section 32 of the Constitution of Botswana, “whenever parliament is dissolved, an election of the office of the president shall be held in such a manner as is prescribed by this section…or under an Act of parliament.”


Political party funding
The report suggests that Botswana should consider introducing state funding for political parties. It says: “the failure to do so imposes serious constraints on the consolidation of competitive politics in the country. Countries in the region which make provision for such funding include Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.”


The IEC is of the view that, similar to the debate on which electoral system is best for Botswana (first-past-the-post, proportional representation, or a mixed system) or the issue of whether or not Botswana should have direct presidential elections – party funding called for a political decision and was therefore beyond the mandate of the IEC.


However the IEC resolved to request cabinet to give serious consideration to the recommendations made by stakeholders on public funding of political parties.


The report observes the importance of political party funding on the basis of the agitation for party funding by small political parties and their candidates. It also argues against the current set up which encourages unfairness promoted by incumbency.


Specially elected members
Stakeholders have recommended that the country should explore the formula for nomination of specially elected representatives (i.e who qualifies for nomination, appointing authority, criterion of candidate selection and participation other stakeholders) to make it more inclusive and representative of the country’s political landscape.


Section 58 (2) (b) of the constitution states that specially elected members shall be elected in accordance with the first schedule if the constitution and subject there to in accordance with the provisions of any Act of parliament.


Appointment of Secretary
The Secretary to the IEC is appointed by the President under section 66 (2) of the constitution. They argue in the report that since the appointment is not subject to any vetting by an independent authority, there are no checks to ensure that the Secretary will be independent from the appointing authority.


As such the stakeholders recommended that the constitution should be amended to provide for the appointment of the Secretary to the Commission by the IEC. IEC also supports the review of the manner in which the Secretary is appointed, “it should be done in a transparent manner,” they say.


Appointment by the Commissioners
Report further states that IEC Commissioners must be appointed by and be accountable to parliament and their appointment being an inclusive and consultative process, taking into account the diverse political interest in Botswana. It says this will enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process.


Section 65A (4) of the constitution states that: “…appointments of the chairman and members of the commission shall be made at the last dissolution of every two successive lives of parliament.” This means that, just before every second general election, a new IEC is appointed. The new IEC is then responsible for conducting the general election.

Penalties for voter traffickers
Various stakeholders who helped compile the report are of the view that electoral law should adequately provide for stiff penalties for politicians and people who perpetrate illegal voter registration in a similar way as it does with voters who illegally register for elections.


The report further states that the electoral Act should be amended to accommodate voting by prisoners; and also says there is a need for a provision in the electoral law on media coverage to enforce equitable and balanced media coverage of election camapaigns.


Meanwhile sources at the IEC also believe that if the executive takes the recommendations seriously they can take the matter to parliament and given the ruling party’s numerical strength, they are likely to pass them into law, if there is the political will – and the IEC will be more empowered by the law to deliver on its mandate.


Meanwhile the evaluation of the 2014 general elections is still underway and another report is expected to be released soon.

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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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BDF killings of Namibians: Court unable to rule on missing gun

24th January 2022
BDF

The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.

Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.”  She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.

“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.

The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.

She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.

She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon.
“The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.

Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.

“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.

Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section.  “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”

She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”

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