The High Court has declared that the Constitution does not require show of hands when electing Speaker, and Deputy Speaker and endorsement of Vice President. The judges found that the National Assembly has been delegated powers to regulate its own procedures by the Constitution. Secret ballot is hallmark of democracy because it gives effect to freedom of expression. Judge Leburu dismissed the application with costs.
The High Court in Gaborone was filled to capacity on Thursday when the matter was heard before three judges. Multitudes came to listen to the legal proceedings of this constitutional matter, in which the Attorney General had instituted the legal proceedings to determine the constitutionality of the National Assembly standing orders relating to the election of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Endorsement of the Vice President.
The Attorney General (AG) had taken three political parties, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) to court to set aside standing orders regulating the election of the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Deputy Speaker and endorsement of the Vice President. Each party decided to rope in its own legal representatives.
Parks Tafa appeared for ruling BDP, Dick Bayford and Mboki Chilisa represented the UDC while Leburu and Martin Dingake appeared for the BCP. Tafa of Collins and Newman who represented the BDP argued that the standing orders were unconstitutional. Despite his client being cited as a respondent, Tafa supported the Attorney General’s application. He argued that standing orders allowing for a secret ballot should be set aside. The AG advocated for the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker to be done by show of hand.
Dick Bayford for the UDC and attorney Leburu for the BCP argued that the application by the AG should be dismissed because voting by secret ballot promotes democracy and freedom of expression. They argued that the secret ballot safeguards against intimidation and victimisation.
WHAT THEY SAID The leader of the UDC, Duma Boko said the decision of the High Court was victory for democracy. He called on the Attorney General to resign from her position because going forward she could not be trusted.
The President of the BCP, Dumelang Saleshando was equally pleased with the judgement. He said it was a great day for democracy because the judiciary was at fore to resolve differences between the Parliament and the Executive. He thanked lawyers who represented the opposition parties in court for the efforts to preserve the country’s democracy. “It is not the Attorney General who has lost ,it is Khama, the attorney General is just a tool,” he charged.
For her part, Margaret Nasha said for the past 16 days she has been a prisoner of conscience. She indicated that she could not believe that the strange developments happening before her eyes where happening in her country of birth.
“I wish to make it known that I refused to withdraw or set aside the standing orders as demanded by the Attorney General before the matter was brought before the courts,” she said.
Nasha said she informed the Attorney General that she did not have any powers of attorney to undo or change resolutions of Parliament. She said no Speaker has those powers even in the most rogue of states.
No Speaker has power to change resolution of parliament without its consent, Nasha observed. The former legislator has been at the head to ensure that she liberates Botswana Parliament following numerous studies that had established that the Botswana Parliament was not independent.
PARLIAMENT TO CONVENE Following the conclusion of this case Parliament will convene to elect the Speaker and deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and also endorse the Vice President. It remains to be seen if Members of Parliament will appreciate Nasha’s efforts to preserve the independence of Parliament by retaining her Speaker.
It is evident that BDP Members of Parliament will be bound by caucus decisions unless they go against the norm of the party and vote according to their conscience. Nasha will slug it out against Gladys Kokorwe who is the preferred candidate in the BDP hierarchy. Meanwhile the opposition has made it clear it will root for Nasha with Abram Kesupile as her deputy.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.