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.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month
Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.
Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.
To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.
“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.
Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.
“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).