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Friday, 19 April 2024

I took Parliament to Court – Molokomme

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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.

 

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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