The Attorney General, Dr Athalia Molokomme has released a statement in which she dismisses reports that the application before the High Court challenging the Constitutionality of the Parliamentary Standing Orders was sponsored by President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
According to Molokomme, “the fact of the matter is that the ex parte application has been lodged by the Attorney General, who has the constitutional mandate to do so. It has been duly served upon the three parties who are represented in Parliament: the Botswana Democratic Party, the Botswana Congress Party and the Umbrella for Democratic Change, who are cited as Respondents in view of their interest in the matter.”
The AG is concerned that the perception which has been created by some reports that the President, in his capacity as such, or, alternatively, as the head of his political party, the Botswana Democratic Party, approached the Court through my office is not correct.
“I considered it appropriate, for the avoidance of doubt, and in light of the events and media commentary following the recently held general elections, to communicate with the general public regarding the constitutional application before the High Court with respect to the election of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the endorsement of the Vice President.”
Molokomme explained that following the general elections that were conducted on 24 October 2014, and in my capacity as the Attorney General, on the 29th of October I instituted legal proceedings in the High Court on an urgent basis to determine the constitutionality of certain Standing Orders of the National Assembly relating to the election of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the endorsement of the Vice President.
“The specific remedy being sought in the legal proceedings is for an order declaring Standing Orders 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6, 4.11, 4.14 and 6.1 to be unconstitutional and ultra vires section 89(5) as read with sections 39, 59, and 74 of the Constitution.
As will be expected in such a matter of national interest, the media and the public in general have shown significant interest in this case, specifically, the nature of the legal issues it raises, and its consequences for the operations of the government and Parliament in particular.”
The constitutional milestones following the general election have unfolded as follows:
• Following his swearing in on 28 October 2014, His Excellency the issued a Proclamation under section 90(1) of the Constitution declaring that a session of Parliament be held on 31st October 2014;
• Parliament was indeed convened on 31st October 2014, and all 57 Elected MPs and 4 Specially Elected MPs were sworn in by the Clerk of the National Assembly in accordance with section 71 of the Constitution, as read with section 76(2) of the Constitution and Standing Order 4.2 of the National Assembly. However, the Clerk of the National Assembly did not proceed to elect a Speaker, Deputy Speaker and endorse the Vice President;
• This was on the basis of my advice that in light of the pending court proceedings, no Parliamentary transaction touching upon the standing orders in question should be undertaken, as that would violate the sub judice rule.
• Following the swearing in of the MPs, His Excellency the President appointed the Cabinet under the provisions of Chapter IV, Part II of the Constitution, whose members were announced on 30 October 2014. The Executive Branch of government is therefore fully operational.
• According to the Constitution, ‘no business shall be transacted in the National Assembly (other than an election to the office of Speaker) at any time when the office of Speaker is vacant’. This means that pending the final decision of the Courts, Parliament shall not sit to conduct its business.
• However, an orientation seminar will be held as planned for members of the 11th Parliament on 3rd to 7th November 2014. It is against the foregoing that I appeal to the media and other commentators to exercise caution when reporting on this weighty and complex constitutional matter. Regrettably, some reports have been at best inaccurate, and at worst misleading. Without delving the issues before the Courts, which shall in due course be pronounced upon by the Courts, I must emphasise the following:
“Finally, I wish to reiterate that the Constitution is the supreme law of Botswana, and the Attorney General, like all elected officials and public officers, has sworn allegiance to uphold it. This is the basis upon which the application to the High Court is predicated,” says Dr. Athalia Molokomme.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.