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Ministers, Judges, MPs escape jail

Members of Parliament (MPs) for the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), acting in cahoots with opposing political parties legislators, on Tuesday circumvented the wheels of justice by changing the recently passed law on Declaration of Assets and Liabilities in order to avoid facing imprisonment.

The deadline to have declared was this week on the 20th February 2020 and contravention of the Act attracts a fine of P20 000 or an imprisonment term of two (2) years or both. However, following signal from government top officials, the MPs on Wednesday moved swiftly to amend the law at the 11th hour – two days before deadline as prescribed by the law – to avoid a fine of failure to declare assets. The new amendments have provided a relief not only to MPs but to Judges and other high ranking government officials.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi assented to the law on 22d October 2019 when it commenced into law – a day before the hotly contested 2019 General Elections. The Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act was brought to parliament in a strange manner and enacted on the 2nd of September 2019. The hurried manner was largely seen as luring voters to elect the ruling BDP by way of rewarding it for having brought the crucial law which has been on the cards since 1999, when it was first tabled in parliament by former Minister of Health, Joy Phumaphi.

When the law finally passed last year, the implementation meant that Ministers, Judges, MP’s and top government officers (at E band and above) are now mandated to declare their assets and failure means defiance of the law. Before amending the law, Section 8 (1) as read with section 7 (5) of the Act, provided that a person subject to the Act shall make a declaration in the prescribed form within 60 days after – a) the coming into operation of this Act; b) his or her appointment or assumption of office or; c) the taking and subscribing before the National Assembly, of an oath of allegiance.

After amending the Act this week, Clause 2 of the Bill was amended by inserting, immediately after section 8 (which provides for when declarations are to be made), a new section; being section 8a) now provides “for an extension of time by the Minister.”The section now provides that “the Minister may, by order, extend the time provided therein (60 days), by any period that he or she considers necessary or expedient, provided that such period of extension shall not exceed twelve months.”

Minister of Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration, Kabo Morwaeng thanked all the MP’s from across the political aisle to having agreed with the amendment and passed the law. “Let me thank you MPs for agreeing with this Bill wholeheartedly. We did this both as the ruling party legislators together with the opposition. We were all in agreement.  Let me also point out that we are doing this in the interest of the whole nation and not for the selected few,” he said this from the floor of Parliament.

Meanwhile, when presenting the Bill, Morwaeng said the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act of 2019 was intended to complement existing legislation by regulating declaration of assets and liabilities of MPs, Senior government officials, Judiciary and officers employed by public bodies and private enterprises – “to monitor their assets and liabilities for purposes of detecting corruption, money laundering and acquisition of property from proceeds of crime.”

He was at pains in explaining that although the Act came into effect on the 22nd of October 2019, MPs, Ministers and Judges failed to declare not once but on two occasions.  “The Act came into effect on the 22nd of October 2019. As a result declarations should have been submitted by 22nd of December 2019. But due to ‘administration challenges’ however, the declaration form was only prescribed on the 20th December 2019,” he stated.

He also attributed the breaking of the law to the late prescription of the form and the declaration which only, at the time of presenting this amendments, had about 2 days before the lapse of the declaration period. “Even assuming that 60 days declaration period should be reckoned from the time that the form was prescribed, only about a day is left before the period expires [20th February],” he added. 

Morwaeng justified that though the focus currently is building the necessary administrative capacity to ensure effective implementation of the provisions of the Act, “there exists some level of discomfort among potential declarants that the penalties for the late submission of the declaration could be levied on them”.

BDP and Opposition MP’s show support for the controversial amendments

On his part, UDC legislator for Okavango, Kenny Kapinga told Parliament that he is in full support of the amendments as put forward by the Minister.  “Personally, I don’t think we should be delaying with this issue. All that the Minister is asking for is to be authorised to extend the period as he has prescribed in the proposed amendment. I don’t think there is any reasons to oppose such a proposal. So I stand to support the proposed amendment and think we can minimise the debate on this issue by just passing this thing,” he said.

Mmusi Kgafela, Mochudi West BDP legislator also had this to say, “As MPs we make laws for peace building and harmony and enhance the smooth running of the country. If we don’t give the Minister permission to extend the period of declaration, many of us will be criminals, tomorrow. This will extinguish the peace that has been reigning in the country.” In addition Paulson Majaga who is Nata/Gweta BDP MP also agreed with Morwaeng’s amendments.

“We are the law makers and so it is upon us to pass and review all laws as we see fit. So that whatever law we do, for today and the next generation, and for the nation they must be happy. Law must be carefully passed because they take long to be amended. We have always agreed that there is need for such declared law,” he said. According to another BDP law maker, Ignatius Moswaane, the issue is not about MPs changing the law to benefit them per se.

He explained: “the main reason is, in which I support you Minister, is that this is not intended to benefit only MPs but also others like Judiciary, Ministers and top government officials which they are supposed to declare. But we are looking at the loopholes of the law which is unsettling – to avoid jailing the whole nation. One of them include that some assets include having valued them which may be a challenge for some because of lack of sufficient money. So others must not be jailed because of this even if they have good intentions.”

Moswaane further said that this law was not made for elections as some want to posit. “It was necessary as the nation has been waiting for it for years. It is what Batswana wanted,” he stressed. Meanwhile Leader of Opposition (LOO) and UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando also was in agreement with the amendments; “I support the request by the Minister.” He however pointed out his reservations pertaining to the law: ‘‘but I want to just state a few reservations,’’ he said.

“I am not a fan of Bills that come here on urgency. You were appointed Minister early November. You should have anticipated some of these things. Clearly within the Ministry someone slept on the job and now we have to mop up what is essentially a mess not of our doing,” he highlighted. The Maun West MP explained that the law making process in Botswana has a number of safe guards to make sure that MPs do not find themselves in the situation they found themselves in on Tuesday, indicating that, “one of those is that after a Bill has been passed by the house, the President is allowed some time to reflect and consult further before he assents to it.”

He added: “but you know this particular one was one of those laws that were rushed in the race to the General Elections. And it doesn’t surprise us that it was actually only assented to on the 22nd October, a day before elections. There was a rush for the law to assist with campaigns. Now we are here in a mess.” Saleshando said he hopes that in future, they do not take pride in saying that Parliament passed a whole number of Acts in one night and claim that it is good for productivity because if they do that, they will end up in such scenario.

He continued: “One gets the impression that the only difficulty with the law is the looming deadline. I think you [Minister Morwaeng] need to be more open to the public and the nation and let the nation know that there are essentially clauses in the law that require of us to look them again. Nothing to do with the deadline. But because it’s simply not implementable.” The Leader of Opposition further highlighted that if Morwaeng does not state that when he comes back to Parliament, even if its six months later with a set of new proposals to amend, he is going to raise suspicions about the real motive.

“Was it just the deadline? If it was the deadline we got the extension, where is the desire to amend now coming from? So I think it will be better in your response Minister, that you disclose to the nation that it’s much more than the deadline because also that you plan to amend because some of the clauses make it almost impossible for the law to become operational,” he said. 

“I want to state it upfront that when it gets to that point where the law or where you will be presenting the amendments, we, from our side we suggest that the Bill to amend be committed to a Special Select Committee that will engage with the larger public about what should go into the law or [what] should not be part of it.”

For Saleshando, it is critical because to be honest they are an interested party and essentially they are conflicted.  “If you do not want to be seen by the public, which is highly suspicious of politicians about the assets they have and their willingness to disclose, it will be very critical that the amendments be subjected to a Special Select Committee which will consult more broadly on the law,” Saleshando emphasised. 

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ILO Launches Media Toolkit on Reporting on Labour Migration

5th July 2024

Cape Town: The International Labour Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration, launched the Southern African Migration Management Project (SAMM) media toolkit on reporting on labour migration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region last week. This toolkit is designed to guide journalists and media professionals in balanced and factual reporting on labour migration, thereby enhancing the quality and media coverage of migration issues within the SADC region.

Furthermore, the toolkit aims to advocate for behavioural changes among migrant workers, employer organizations, trade unions, civil society organizations, governments, and policymakers to improve conditions for migrants and reduce exploitative practices.

At the official launch, Gloria Moreno Fontes, SAMM Project Manager, stated that the toolkit aims to support the United Nations’ “Together, Respect, Security, and Dignity for All Refugees and Migrants” campaign, launched in 2016 by the UN Secretary-General. According to Fontes, the UN Together campaign seeks to promote global action against non-discrimination and address the rising problem of xenophobia against migrants and refugees. TOGETHER is a growing coalition of Member States, private sector entities, civil society representatives, and individuals committed to combating hate speech, changing negative narratives on migration, and strengthening social cohesion between host communities and refugees and migrants.

“Worldwide, migrants are still too often victims of racist, discriminatory, and xenophobic attacks. The media often promotes a toxic public narrative on migration and reinforces stigmatization through the inclusion of xenophobic and discriminatory messages,” Fontes highlighted.

She further noted that the press often portrays migrants as criminals, illegals, and as “stealing jobs from national workers.” She emphasized that migrants frequently become scapegoats during economic recessions, making it essential to change negative perceptions and attitudes through evidence- or fact-based journalism that helps eliminate public misconceptions.

Discussing the importance of balanced reporting and combating hate speech, United Nations Information Center (UNIC) Director Masimba Tafirenyika remarked that journalists hold the power to shape public opinion and influence societal norms. He continued, noting that the practice not only ensures a well-informed public but also upholds the democratic values of fairness and justice.

“Alongside balanced reporting, the rise of hate speech, especially on digital platforms, presents a growing threat to social cohesion and democratic values. Hate speech undermines social harmony and can incite violence, discrimination, and prejudice,” Tafirenyika noted.

According to the UNIC Director, balanced reporting builds public trust in the media as audiences perceive journalists as fair and unbiased, thus making them more likely to trust the information presented. He added that this trust is crucial for the media to uphold democracy, as it empowers citizens to engage in informed debate and hold their leaders accountable.

However, Tafirenyika pointed out that the media landscape in Southern Africa, with a few exceptions, is often marred by political interference, economic pressures, and, in some cases, self-censorship. “These factors can lead to biased reporting, where certain voices are amplified while others are marginalized. When media outlets become mouthpieces for political agendas, the public’s trust in journalism is eroded, and the democratic process is undermined. Therefore, it is essential for journalists and media organizations to adhere to ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, and impartiality,” the UNIC Director noted.

He further highlighted that hate speech poses a significant threat to social cohesion and stability, especially in Southern Africa. “The digital age has amplified the reach and impact of hate speech. Social media platforms, while offering opportunities for free expression and civic engagement, also provide a breeding ground for hate speech,” Tafirenyika concluded.

 

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CEO Africa Roundtable: Mnangagwa advocates for technological embrace

17th June 2024

The CEO Africa Roundtable has emerged as a pivotal platform for shaping national, regional, and international development dialogues through public-private engagements. At the annual CEO Africa Roundtable event held in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa exhorted business leaders to embrace technology and leverage indigenous solutions to stimulate Africa’s economic growth.

Mnangagwa highlighted that the presence of delegates from across the continent signifies the business community’s confidence in Zimbabwe’s trade and investment environment, as well as in the broader regional (SADC) and continental markets.

Addressing the theme, “The Future of Africa: Modernize, Reshape, and Grow,” President Mnangagwa asserted that this theme aligns with Africa’s developmental aspirations, emphasizing the need “to innovate in order to increase production and productivity, as espoused in the African Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.”

He remarked that the Roundtable provides its members with a valuable platform for networking, gaining expert insights, sharing experiences regarding the local business environment, and proposing policy recommendations aimed at enhancing the business operating environment.

The President lauded the CEO Africa Roundtable and its partners for organizing focused discussions, dialogue sessions, and innovative platforms tailored to various key economic sectors as part of the event.

“Innovation and the use of information communication technology are critical enablers as we traverse the journey towards modernizing and reshaping the African continent’s economic landscape,” Mnangagwa stated.

According to Mnangagwa, the world is on the cusp of a technological revolution that is transforming how “we work and relate to one another.” He noted that this shift involves a fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

This technological disruption is affecting every industry, hence Mnangagwa urged business leaders and policymakers to capitalize on the fourth industrial revolution, which holds the potential to elevate global income levels and enhance the quality of life for populations worldwide.

President Mnangagwa challenged African business leaders to be innovative, embrace their identities, and devise homegrown solutions. He asserted that Africans possess the platform and intelligence to elevate the continent’s economy to greater heights.

Earlier, CEO Africa Roundtable Chairman Oswell Binha indicated that the platform is expanding across Africa. He welcomed the addition of three new chapters in Botswana, Malawi, and Zambia. He further noted that more chapters will be introduced as part of efforts to foster collaboration among African businesses, harnessing the principles of the Africa Free Trade Area and regional integration. Over 300 delegates from across Africa attended the CEO Roundtable event in Victoria Falls.

 

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BOTSWANA PARTICIPATES IN CEO AFRICA ROUNDTABLE SUMMIT

16th June 2024

At the prestigious CEO Africa Roundtable Summit held in Victoria Falls, Botswana was represented by the Chairperson of the CEO Africa Roundtable Botswana Chapter, Tryphinah Dongwana-Kenalemang, and her deputy, Aubrey Lute. This annual convergence, themed “The Future of Africa: Modernize, Reshape, and Grow,” drew luminaries from across the continent.

Over 300 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and business Executives attended the Summit.

Dongwana-Kenalemang elaborated on the significance of Botswana’s attendance, emphasizing that it served as a benchmarking exercise in preparation for hosting a similar event in Botswana. She underscored the imperative for African nations to collaborate and exchange trade insights, thereby unlocking a wealth of opportunities.

The CEO Africa Roundtable is dedicated to fostering economic growth and sustainable development across the continent. Its objectives include promoting intra-African trade, driving innovation, and forging strategic partnerships. The platform enables business leaders to share knowledge, engage in high-level dialogue, and influence policy-making.

The genesis of the Botswana Chapter’s relationship with the CEO Africa Roundtable dates back to their initial encounter at the US-Africa Business Summit in July 2023, held in Gaborone. This seminal meeting laid the groundwork for ongoing collaboration and mutual support in advancing Africa’s economic future.

 

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