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Influx of Tswanas forced Gantsi to terminate Basarwa services

Basarwa case raises tribalism issues at the High Court

Tribalism could have played a part in determining the termination of basic services for Ranyane residents in the Gantsi District, the Gaborone High Court has been told.


When explaining to the court the reasons behind shutting down water and draught relief programmes from Ranyane ahead of the forced resettlement of Basarwa tribes from the area last year, the Gantsi administration authority suggested that it was because the free services which were initially reserved for Basarwa tribes of Ranyane were no longer sustainable due to the influx of Tswana speaking farmers in the area.


The Gantsi District Council revealed to the court that the decision to terminate provision of fuel and maintenance to the engine at Ranyane was taken because of the influx of a lot of Tswana speaking farmers from other settlements. According to the Council the services were exclusively meant to service Basarwa tribes who have lived in the area over a long period of time.


The 115 residents of Ranyane who are demanding the restoration of the services have taken the Council to court. Their attorney, Onalethata Kamabai  has argued that the reason for termination of the services as appears from the Council papers are offensive to the constitution of the country because they suggests that the decisions were taken along tribal discriminatory basis.


For many years, the Gantsi District Council has provided various services to the Ranyane residents including provision and maintenance for the borehole engine which the people depend on for their daily water needs. Various government drought relief schemes have also been provided to the residents for many years by the Council.


However on or around July 2013, the Council announced that it will stop providing several services which it has been providing to the residents. This announcement gave rise to the present suit wherein the residents seek restoration of those services that the Council used to provide. Such services include fuel and maintenance of the borehole engine, mobile clinic and Ipelegeng programme.


The broad issue for determination before court is whether the manner of termination of these services and other benefits which the Council used to provide to Ranyane is lawful.


 “The applicants case centres on legitimate expectation, and to this end the narrow issue for determination is whether the applicants had a legitimate expectation that they will continue to enjoy the services provided by the respondents uninterrupted and that in the event of any decision adversely affecting their enjoyment of the services is taken by the respondent, they were entitled to a hearing before such a decision is taken,” contended Kambai.


THE BOREHOLE ENGINE
The residents have averred in their affidavit that since around 1990s, the Council has been providing them with engine to provide water for domestic use and watering their animals. The engine was used to draw water from the only borehole at Ranyane for residents.


The issue that the Council had since 1995 provided diesel and maintenance for engine to the Ranyane borehole is not disputed. The residents averred that the Council stopped provision of diesel and maintenance for the borehole engine in the first week of December 2011. The engine according to the complainants was removed by the Council employees around that time and was brought back five Months later. The engine has since broken down and the residents had to fend for themselves.


According to them this is a nightmare for them since most of them are unemployed and do not have any source of income as the Council has also terminated the draught relief programme, Ipelegeng which was the only source of income for the majority of Ranyane residents.


The Council’s decision is viewed to be in violation of the international consensus on the right to water by the United Nations General Assembly which declared that the right to safe and clean drinking water is a fundamental human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.


However the Council contends that the Ranyane residents had borrowed the engine and made an undertaking that they will take full responsibility of its maintenance and fuel supply.


TERMINATION OF IPELEGENG PROGRAMME
Around 2009, Ipelegeng was introduced at Ranyane during a kgotla meeting. According to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, this programme was aimed at short term employment support and relief whilst at the same time carrying out essential development projects that have been identified and prioritised through the normal development planning process.

The programme employed forty residents on a rotational basis. The Council’s report for 2012/2013 on Ipelegeng shows that there was deliberate planning and budgeting of the programme at Ranyane.


When the programme was terminated, a certain Council employee was sent to inform the Ranyane Headman of Arbitration that he should inform his people that they should not report for duty on the 4th of July 2013. In the answering affidavit filed at the High Court, the Council contend that the programme was terminated because Ranyane is an unrecognised settlement and therefore there were no projects to implement in the area.


However the residents contend that at the time of the termination of the programme they were engaged in a number of projects including, de-bushing, cluster policing and cleaning the kgotla.


In fact it is through Ipelegeng that a kgotla, flush toilet, standpipe and fencing of the grave yard were constructed in the settlement.


The Council had a difficult time convincing the court as to how public funds were used on these developments which are located on an “unrecognised settlement.”


“The respondent’s reason is palpably untrue and contradictory because by virtue of Annexure “I” the Attorney General at the time acting on behalf of the respondent (Council) reasoned that there is no Ipelegeng in Ranyane.  In annexure “K” the government spokesperson Dr. Jeff Ramsay stated that there was a reassessment regarding the Ipelegeng programme. There has never been any progress report of the alleged reassessment whatsoever to date,” the complainants’ attorney, Onalethata Kambai told the court.


The inconsistent statements regarding the termination of Ipelegeng at Ranyane therefore gave people a reason to conclude that the project was terminated as an extra-judicial measure to starve the residents of Ranyane and compel them to relocate from the place.


When Ipelegeng was introduced in the settlement back in 2009, there was no issue of the place being unrecognised settlement. The programme continued uninterrupted until it was unceremoniously terminated in 2013 following the Council’s failed bid to relocate the residents against their will to the nearby Bere settlement.


MOBILE CLINIC SERVICES
Following the initial case Management conference held at the Gantsi District Council Chambers of record, there was consensus that the mobile clinic matter could amicably be resolved at the hearing. Ranyane is said to be now receiving a couple of mobile clinic services and therefore this one demand was taken down from the list of demand brought in by the residents.


Meanwhile Justice Terrence Rannowane has reserved the judgment on this matter.

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

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.

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Stan Chart halts civil servants property loan facility

26th July 2022
Stan-Chart

Standard Chartered Bank Botswana (SCBB) has informed the government that it will not be accepting new loan applications for the Government Employees Motor Vehicle and Residential Property Advance Scheme (GEMVAS and LAMVAS) facility.

This emerges in a correspondence between Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Boniface Mphetlhe and some government departments. In a letter he wrote recently to government departments informing them of the decision, Mphetlhe indicated that the Ministry received a request from the Bank to consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS agreement.

He said: “In summary SCBB requested the following; Government should consider reviewing GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate from prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%.” The Bank indicated that the review should be both for existing GEMVAS and LAMVAS clients and potential customers going forward.

Mphetlhe said the Bank informed the Ministry that the current GEMVAS and LAMVAS interest rate structure results into them making losses, “as the cost of loa disbursements is higher that their end collections.”

He said it also requested that the loan tenure for the residential property loans to be increased from 20 to 25 years and the loan tenure for new motor vehicles loans to be increased from 60 months to 72 months.

Mphetlhe indicated that the Bank’s request has been duly forwarded to the Directorate of Public Service Management for consideration, since GEMVAS and LAMVAS is a Condition of Service Scheme. He saidthe Bank did also inform the Ministry that if the matter is not resolved by the 6th June, 2022, they would cease receipt of new GEMVAS and LAMVAS loan applications.

“A follow up virtual meeting was held to discuss their resolution and SCB did confirm that they will not be accepting any new loans from GEMVAS and LAMVAS. The decision includes top-up advances,” said Mphetlhe. He advised civil servants to consider applying for loans from other banks.

In a letter addressed to the Ministry, SCBB Chief Executive Officer Mpho Masupe informed theministry that, “Reference is made to your letter dated 18th March 2022 wherein the Ministry had indicated that feedback to our proposal on the above subject is being sought.”

In thesame letter dated 10 May 2022, Masupe stated that the Bank was requesting for an update on the Ministry’s engagements with the relevant stakeholder (Directorate of Public Service Management) and provide an indicative timeline for conclusion.

He said the “SCBB informs the Ministry of its intention to cease issuance of new loans to applicants from 6th June 2022 in absence of any feedback on the matter and closure of the discussions between the two parties.”  Previously, Masupe had also had requested the Ministry to consider a review of clause 3 of the agreement which speaks to the interest rate charged on the facilities.

Masupe indicated in the letter dated 21 December 2021 that although all the Banks in the market had signed a similar agreement, subject to amendments that each may have requested. “We would like to suggest that our review be considered individually as opposed to being an industry position as we are cognisant of the requirements of section 25 of the Competition Act of 2018 which discourages fixing of pricing set for consumers,” he said.

He added that,“In this way,clients would still have the opportunity to shop around for more favourable pricing and the other Banks, may if they wish to, similarly, individually approach your office for a review of their pricing to the extent that they deem suitable for their respective organisations.”

Masupe also stated that: “On the issue of our request for the revision of the Interest Rate, we kindly request for an increase from the current rate of prime plus 0.5% to prime plus 2%, with no other increases during the loan period.” The Bank CEO said the rationale for the request to review pricing is due to the current construct of the GEMVAS scheme which is currently structured in a way that is resulting in the Bank making a loss.

“The greater part of the GEMVAS portfolio is the mortgage boo which constitutes 40% of the Bank’s total mortgage portfolio,” said Masupe. He saidthe losses that the Bank is incurring are as a result of the legacy pricing of prime plus 0% as the 1995 agreement which a slight increase in the August 2018 agreement to prime plus 0.5%.

“With this pricing, the GEMVAS portfolio has not been profitable to the Bank, causing distress and impeding its ability to continue to support government employees to buy houses and cars. The portfolio is currently priced at 5.25%,” he said.  Masupe said the performance of both the GEMVAS home loan and auto loan portfolios in terms of profitability have become unsustainable for the Bank.

Healso said, when the agreement was signed in August 2018, the prime lending rate was 6.75% which made the pricing in effect at the time sufficient from a profitable perspective. “It has since dropped by a total 1.5%. The funds that are loaned to customers are sourced at a high rate, which now leaves the Bank with marginal profits on the portfolio before factoring in other operational expenses associated with administration of the scheme and after sales care of the portfolio,” said the CEO.

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Botswana ranked 129 in female MPs representation

26th July 2022
Minister of Finance & Economic Development Peggy Serame

The Global Gender Gap Index, a report published by the World Economic Forum annually, has indicated that Botswana is among countries that fare badly when it comes to representation of women in legislative bodies.

The latest Global Gender Gap Index, published last week, benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment). It is the longest-standing index which tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006.

This year, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, a subset of 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006, further providing a large constant sample for time series analysis.

Botswana ranks number 66 overall (out of 146 countries), with good rankings in most of the pillars. Botswana ranks 1st in Health and Survival, 7th in the Economic Participation and Opportunity, 22nd in Educational Attainment, and 129th in Political Empowerment.

The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed). The cross-country comparisons aim to support the identification of the most effective policies to close gender gaps.

The Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour-force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income) and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work).

Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).

The Educational Attainment sub-index captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through the enrolment ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of women’s literacy rate to men’s literacy rate.

Health and Survival sub-index provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health using two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in countries with a strong son preference. Second, the index uses the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by accounting for the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition and other factors.
Political Empowerment sub-index measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in ministerial positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, the reported included the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years.

In the last general elections, only three women won elections, compared to 54 males. The three women are; Nnaniki Makwinja (Lentsweletau-Mmopane), Talita Monnakgotla (Kgalagadi North), and Anna Mokgethi (Gaborone Bonnington North). Four women were elected through Specially Elected dispensation; Peggy Serame, Dr Unity Dow, Phildah Kereng and Beauty Manake. All female MPs — save Dow, who resigned — are members of the executive.

Overall, Botswana has 63 seats, all 57 elected by the electorates, and six elected by parliament. Early this year, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secretary general and Gaborone North MP, Mpho Balopi, successfully moved a motion in parliament calling for increment of elective seats from 57 to 61. Balopi contented that population growth demands the country respond by increasing the number of MPs.

In Africa, Botswana play second fiddle to countries like Rwanda, Namibia, South Africa, Burundi, and Zimbabwe who have better representation of women, with Rwanda being the only country with more than 50 percent of women in parliament.

The low number of women in parliament is attributed to Botswana’s current, electoral system, First-Past-the-Post. During the 9th parliament, then MP for Mahalapye East tabled a motion in parliament in which she sort to increase the number of Specially Elected MPs in parliament to augment female representation in the National Assembly.

The motion was opposed famously, by then Specially Elected MP, Botsalo Ntuane, who said the citizens were not in favour of such a move since it dilute democracy, instead suggesting the Botswana should switch to Proportional-Representation-System. Botswana is currently undergoing Constitutional Review process, with the commission, appointed in December, expected to deliver the report to President Mokgweetsi Masisi by September this year.

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