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.
COVID-19 has been identified as a burning factor fuelling the use of force to prevent journalists from working in Africa. This was said by Reporters without Borders in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index, indicating that although there was less deterioration in Africa’s “Abuses” score, it continues to be the most violent continent for journalists.
The 2021 Index shows that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is completely or partly blocked in 73% of the 180 countries ranked by the organisation. The data reflects a dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage, further showing that journalists are finding it increasingly hard to investigate and report sensitive stories, especially in Africa, Asia and Europe.
After a wave of liberalisation in the 1990s in Senegal, Eritrea and Djibouti, press freedom violations are now only too common. They include arbitrary censorship, especially on the internet (by means of ad hoc internet cuts in some countries), arrests of journalists on the ground of combatting cybercrime, fake news or terrorism, and acts of violence against media personnel that usually go completely unpublished.
Reporters without Borders say respect for press freedom is still largely dependent on the political and financial influence that undermines their independence. For the most part, it says, State-owned media still tend to be governmental mouthpieces or propaganda tools and have a long way to go before they become independent public service media reflecting a wide range of opinion.
On the pretext of combatting disinformation and hate speech, many countries in Africa have adopted new laws in recent years with vague and draconian provisions that can easily be used to gag journalists.
It has been said that an increase in online attacks is another disturbing phenomenon making Africa a bad space for journalists in this era. These attacks are often by trolls close or directly linked to the government that are designed to discredit or intimidate journalists.
The report by Reporters without Borders show that African journalists were hit hard by the Coronavirus in 2020, suffering three times as many attacks and arrests from 15 March to 15 May as during the same period the year before.
Ranked number 38 globally, Botswana’s press freedom violations are said to have declined since President Mokgweetsi Masisi took over. Masisi, according to Reporters without Borders, has given at least frequent press conferences, unlike Ian Khama, who gave none.
Nonetheless, there is still no law on access to information, which journalists have long been demanding. The few privately-owned newspapers depend on advertising that they may or may not receive from the State.
Three years after taking office, Masisi has yet to keep his promise to revise draconian laws such as the 2008 Media Practitioners Act, which restricts their freedom to inform, journalists say, and the law on access to information.
In 2020, Botswana saw journalists being arrested and detained at holding cells by State security spies while on duty. The said journalists were interrogated, and their gadgets confiscated. Prior to that, one female journalist was ambushed by security officers at her home.
Even though Namibia has been doing well in protecting and giving journalists freedom since 2019, in 2020 several reporters were briefly arrested and some given warnings after putting a question to the President, and many media outlets were barred from government press conferences about the Coronavirus crisis.
It was against this background that a Namibian journalists’ union was formed in 2021, the first since the country became independent. Namibia is ranked number 23 in this year’s Press Freedom Index, becoming one of the countries in Africa doing well in respecting journalists.
In Ghana, a group of investigative journalists had to spend part of 2018 in hiding after producing a documentary about corruption in Ghanaian soccer. A ruling party parliamentarian who had been named in the documentary publicly threatened one of the journalists without ever being arrested or questioned.
According to Reporters without Borders, the journalist was shot dead in the street a few months later. Investigative reporters are often threatened even though journalists are rarely arrested. It was reported that, most cases of police aggression against journalists go unpublished but timid attempts have been made to combat this impunity.
South Africa’s 1996 constitution protects press freedom, but the State security agency spies on some journalists and taps their phones. Others are harassed and subjected to intimidation campaigns if they try to cover certain subjects involving the ruling African National Congress (ANC), government finances, the redistribution of land to the black population or corruption.
The opposition party in South Africa, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema was given a high court warning in 2019 because of its invective and hate speech against journalists. In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis did not spare journalism in South Africa.
Rubber bullets were fired at a reporter covering compliance with lockdown measures and a community newspaper editor even had to flee abroad after being threatened by the police for covering a lockdown-related story, RWB said.
The Djibouti 1992 Freedom of Communication Law is itself is an obstacle to free speech and media pluralism. It provides for jail terms for media offences and imposes age and nationality restrictions on those who can create a media outlet. In terms of media freedom, Djibouti is ranked 176th, 5th position from the lowest bottom.
Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) last week, during Labour Day, put forward sturdy demands to President Mokgweetsi Masisi and calling for government to act upon them promptly.
Following these celebrations over the weekend, BFTU presented demands for decent work and sustainable development to government.
In fact, the Union is advocating for a new social contract in which employee’s welfare, rights and social protection as well as the need for inclusion occupy centre space.
“On behalf of the labour movement in general, factors in our own midst which still inhibit taking everyone along, include the absence in our country, of a mandatory and genuinely national tripartite framework where both employer organizations and trade unions along with government can ventilate their concerns and any apparent demands for a better life for their members and improved working environment.”
Against this background, BFTU submitted that workers cannot be said to be represented when their view is not considered mandatory. Thus, BFTU argues, existing structures such as the Labour Advisory Board, NEMIC and HLCC are merely volitional in effect.
Consequent to the practice of acting alone many employers, probably emulating government are bent on frustrating transparency and good faith engagement in the workplace, BFTU said. In most cases employees still find it hard to form and belong to trade unions without fear of reprisal by employers nor are employers keen to grant the institutionalization of Work or Industrial Councils in order to freely share and exchange information for amicable resolution of disputes.
“It must be mandatory for employers to disclose to employee representatives all the relevant information including financial, which would assist employees in their bargaining with the employers. In spite of this we are aware of many unscrupulous employers who withhold such critical information under different pretexts.”
BFTU further indicated that the Department of Labour and Social Security remains seriously under resourced to dispose labour disputes lodged with them, and to ensure regular labour inspections and compliance with relevant labour laws.
Furthermore, the absence of an integrated national social security policy with many and scattered policy administrators goes to show how far Botswana is in meeting those deserving of the social protection assistance despite trade union’s shared pledge not to leave anyone behind, BFTU said at the commemoration of May Day.
The Union, urged government to consider introducing the National Occupation Pension Fund so as to assist those employees who find themselves in the lurch because of automation or other unforeseen factors resulting in job loss.
“We further demand a reviewing of laws and provisions relating to insolvency and or liquidation to protect employees. It is the Federations considered view that social dialogue in the present dispensation is merely cosmetic and incapable of fully aiding the implementation of the SDGs and ensuring we leave no one behind.”
“We therefore propose that a National Tripartite Council Policy Forum be set up which will involve government, employer organizations and trade unions to duly reflect on the social and economic challenges affecting the nation and accordingly make recommendations.”
BFTU expressed satisfaction in the reassurance by President Mokgweetsi Masisi that a Constitutional Review is forthcoming.
“Critical among the issues that come to mind speaking of the review is the autonomy of Parliament especially the amendment of section 90 and 91 which relate to the ability of Parliament managing its own affairs and the power to dissolve parliament which is currently vested in the person of the President.”
Ten years ago, Botswana rose to an awakening when 90 000 public sector employees took to the streets after negotiations with their employer, government, reached hard point and collapsed. The effect was a strike that was to impact on the industrial relations landscape in a manner that was unprecedented.
BFTU says the strike knocked some sense in those who underrated the power of workers’ unity and the effectiveness of industrial action as tools for bargaining with employers and the powers that be. Learning at a cost, BFTU acknowledges that consultation and workers’ education including on the processes of the strike are very critical.
Hell broke loose back in 2018 when Botswana Television (Btv) Broadcasting Officer, Gaolaolwe Ralotsia, son to former cabinet Minister, Patrick Ralotsia, started to make sound statements and reported the rampant corruption happening at the National Broadcaster spearheaded by a cabal of procurement officers.
Ralotsia’s actions have put him in trouble with the mob which is working in cohorts with intelligence agents in covert operations, according to information gathered by this publication.
Tragic or coincidence, fast forward 2018, Ralotsia’s workstation computer, a government Central Processing Unit (CPU) black in colour went missing in what is alleged to be the work of Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) covert operations.
The computer was reported at Gaborone West Police Station and WeekendPost is in possession of an abstract from the police record involving burglary and theft and or loss dated 09/10/2018. Up to date there has never been any arrest and the case is still under investigations at least according to the document.
This is despite the fact that Ralotsia who has now become DIS ‘prey’ has his life under illegal surveillance.
Early last year, the National Health Lab in Gaborone through a report which was sanctioned by the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) confirmed his worst fears that there were attempts to poison him.
Two samples being a supposedly PET coke bottled and a plastic bag containing apparently home baked scones were presented. The scope was to attempt to determine if there is a case for worry of malicious or criminal poisoning.
In view of these suspicions, samples were treated as potentially hazardous and handled with utmost care. A series of microbiological and chemical rudimentary tests was devised since there is no cheap and widely available method.
According to the report, due to the nature of the work, the work is being done in utmost confidentiality and this reduces the progress and hampers the sourcing of some needed materials without suspicion. Thus progress was and is extremely slow.
In conclusion the report in view of the results from the spectrophotometry and the refractometer reading, they are convinced to a large extent that the supplied specimens were deliberately contaminated with ethylene glycol or related compounds, also called glycol which is the main ingredient of a vehicle anti- freeze. It is fairly common and not scent and therefore makes sense as a poison tool in sweet foods or drink.
Glycol mode of poisoning is to induce oxalate crystals in the kidneys leading to irreversible renal failure and ultimately death.
WeekendPost is also in possession of a complaint letter which Ralotsia wrote to The Intelligence and Security Tribunal through the Register of the High Court of Botswana this week. The letter references complaint to grievances by an officer of the Directorate- Peter Magosi.
The letter is addressed to the Chairperson of the Tribunal as detailed in Section 32 (2) of the Intelligence and Security Service Act Chapter 23:02. This according to the author follows months of investigations owing to illegal surveillance, unauthorised access to computer systems and invasion of privacy.
“The DIS has used access previously granted to investigate myself to carry out an illegal systematic monitoring and tapping of my phone calls, communication and general surveillance for personal gain as directed by the Director General Peter Magosi since mid-2018 to date,” the letter said.
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Ralotsia also wrote that the intelligence unit has on several occasions analysed troves of data to form an intimate picture of his life, relationships and movements. He reports that on three occasions, the DIS illegally submitted data gleamed from his personal communications to The Voice newspaper for publication.
“Graphics to that effect had already been prepared,” he stated.
According to Ralotsia, there has been attempts by the DIS to also incriminate him. He says on or around the 16th February 2020, the DIS with the help of some members of Botswana Police Services (BPS) attempted to lure him into a sexual trap and frame him for rape using a certain woman, very close to him who is also their agent.
This came a few months after they tried to plant drugs on him on his trip to Francistown in order to incriminate him.
A divorcé now, Ralotsia also submit that the DIS instigated a feud in his family that ended in his divorce.
“Throughout 2019, the DIS has shared with my ex-wife while still married incriminating sensitive personal data, some of it more than a decade old. A female agent named X (names withheld) was the link. The aftermath subsequently led to our divorce. The DIS continued to use my ex-wife to attempt to entrap me in some form of wrong doing. As such, I have not seen my children in over a year,” he said.
Ralotsia said on or around the end of March 2020, he became aware of successful attempts to clone his sim card by the then his ex-wife with the help of the DIS and an employee of Orange Botswana based in Jwaneng (names withheld).
The man constantly on the run said the DIS also recruited a human resource officer from the Department of Broadcasting Services to copy and deliver to them his file under her custody as an HR officer.
He reports that officers from the spy agency have on numerous occasions gained access to his place of residence, taken pictures, intimidated and at one point kidnapped and threatened the occupants.
“In one incident, four men wielding guns arrived in a white VW Amarok pickup truck. Their threats revolved around my feud with them and an open letter I had written to the President,” he said.
“The DIS mostly uses my mobile devices to keep track of my movements. On the 17th April 2021, I had left all my devices in the boot of a vehicle in Kanye. I had then driven back to Gaborone and stayed indoors. On Tuesday 20th April, just after 1530hrs, my companion was about to leave the house when Peter Magosi driving a silver Jeep registration B 660 AYP arrived at the gate. This was consistent with their modus operandi. She called me out and that is when Peter Magosi panicked and recklessly sped away. There is a picture of his vehicle to that effect.”
Ralotsia also reported Magosi for abuse of office and failure to carry out crime busting duties.
He said on 14th February 2020, he met with Peter Magosi at around 1100hrs. This was just a follow up meeting after numerous telephone communications.
The objective was to brief him about the disappearance of the CPU, the various attempts to cause harm or incriminate him by some of his agents and to report to him in person, the rampant corruption happening at the Mass Media Complex spear headed by one officer (names withheld).
He alleges that after the meeting Magosi used the information he got from him that he is onto them.
“I later discovered that the DIS is nothing but a cess pool of corruption, offering protection to the corrupt elite.”
According to Ralotsia, it is now common for cases involving the DIS not to be dealt with or unfairly dealt with because they have capabilities and willing partners being the BPS to make everything disappear.
“I am however under no illusion that the tribunal will do what is necessary to end this greed of thieving and rule bending by members of the DIS and their friends. I am however prepared to go public with the full details if necessary,” ends the letter.
WeekendPost is also in possession of copies of WhatsApp messages between a DIS agent only known as Jerry and a female known as Phatsimo who is a well-known informant.
The woman asked Jerry about her payment after doing a job for them to incriminate Ralotsia. In one of the messages Jerry is quoted saying, “Hey gorgeous, I will push for your payment. Am on leave but will link you up with someone at the office. Anyways, I still need more information on your guy, these days he seems to have covered his tracks very well, I can’t make a breakthrough on that issue you mentioned, we tried everything even with his computer we couldn’t find anything to prove that” (sic).
In her response Phatsimo wrote; “What more do you need, this has been dragging for too long and am not getting the money I was promised, but I had budgeted for that. Mme kana gone jaana it’s the perfect time to get to him, he just divorced, he is messed up and spends most of the time going to the farm, they are doing all they can to cover up for their motokwane thing. You guys are just too slow, he must be way too ahead of you, that one is too intelligent. But don’t worry I will use my charm to get to him, just tell me what to do and it will be done, hes got soft spot for me remember. I just want to get over and done with him, I want to see him go down. Oh, here are his other numbers that you can tap on ……” (sic).
In his response Jerry, “One of our guys at work was helping the wife to track his whereabouts and she was paying him so well, looked like the wife had everything under control. And one of your home girls is also helping us with baiting him, looks like Ralotsia is trying to try his luck on the lady, so she should also be able to help” (sic).