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Nasha says Khama held MPs at ransom


Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Margaret Nasha is not happy with the treatment she got from President Lt Gen Ian Khama ahead of Parliament’s election of Speaker, a position she lost to Gladys Kokorwe on Wednesday.


Speaking at a Press conference at Gaborone sun hotel in the capital city on Thursday morning, Nasha who lost the Speaker race to Gladys Kokorwe the previous day, testified that the ruling party members of Parliament were held at ransom and left with no option but to vote for the President’s desired candidate.


“Their actions at least to me were a clear indication of the insignificant length and breaths that the BDP leadership will go, to hold democratically elected Members of Parliament (MP) at ransom. This ladies and gentlemen is a red flag. Make no mistake about it. I am very much aware that the BDP MPs who had previously vouched to support my candidacy found themselves in a very difficult situation,” Nasha pointed out.


President Ian Khama Seretse Khama, who was sworn in for his second term in office a fortnight ago, is alleged to have this week held the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members of Parliament at ransom and demanded that they vote for his choice of Speaker or he calls for fresh elections.


The MPs who are mostly new comers to the house and have won the October 24th general elections with very slim margins could therefore not risk a re-run and allegedly had to do what was demanded from them.
“I was thoroughly disappointed to learn that my party the BDP went to extreme measures to undermine the merits of a secret ballot by intimidating and whipping their members of Parliament into submission, to vote in a prescribed manner,” Nasha pointed out.


Khama is said to have made the move, after he lost a court case in which his party and the Attorney general attempted to manipulate the standing orders. According to Nasha, the BDP legal counsel, Collins and Newman sent her a letter on the eve of elections in which she was requested to bend the Parliament standing orders. According to Nasha, the letter threatened a legal suit in case Nasha refused to manipulate the standing orders.


During the eleventh parliament which ended last Month, Nasha advocated for the independence of Parliament and even facilitated the drafting of the bills which sought to reduce the Presidential powers in as far as the control of Parliament is concerned.


The bills which are yet to be tabled seek Parliament to be responsible for recruitment and dismissal of its staff including the clerk and deputy clerk. The bill would further require the clerk to directly report to the Speaker not the President as it is the case to date.


The standing orders which were challenged in court this week were introduced to Parliament last year as part of the process of delivering Parliament from the control and the manipulation of the President and Nasha admits that, were they successful in tabling the bills which were blocked by the Executive towards the closure of the tenth Parliament, her mission in Parliament would have been accomplished.


“We needed to bring bills to Parliament. We have prepared the bills. They are there in the shelves of Parliament and they were to go to the eleventh Parliament. That was the last brick before the roofing was completed,” Nasha pointed out.
Her hope is however that some of the backbenchers who were in the previous Parliament would carry on the baton.


“Let it be known that it is the duty of Parliament to hold the Executive to account. And our Parliament should not be an exception to this rule,” Nasha added.


But most MPs who backed Nasha on her quests to make Parliament Independent of the Office of the Presidents were defeated during the general elections and the few that remained have now been absorbed into Cabinet positions which would make it very difficult for them to make a move that could offend the President.


“If the eleventh Parliament changes the standing orders, I would not be there, but it would come as a shock. What bothered me was that decisions taken under my leadership were under threat,” Nasha explained further.
Her last hope is that her successor, Gladys Kokorwe who had been a deputy Speaker before would see to it that the spirit of making Parliament totally independent is realised.


 “I hope that she will do all that is best for the nation in keeping Parliament free from intimidation and the grasp of the Executive who during the tenth Parliament have shown resentment to the philosophy of the independence of Parliament viewing it as obstructive and interfering with their mandate,” Nasha could only hope.


Meanwhile it appears President Khama still has steep hills to climb as he need to restore public confidence following all this drama.  He also faces stronger opposition and resentment from some ousted party grassroots who are currently in Nashal’s camp.


Nasha who joined the BDP in 1979 says she has no intention of contesting for party positions at the next congress but promises to “fixing things” from within.


“As you know when one door closes many other doors open so I am going to new doors. I have many things to do. When I joined the BDP I did so voluntarily and I was not recruited by anybody. I joined the BDP of my own volition in 1979 and there is nothing that would make me desert the party for now. I believe in fixing things from inside. You never know what the future holds,” Nasha maintained.
 

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

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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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