I was one of the many to attend a breakfast event hosted by Americans to celebrate, as the invite described, the process of democracy on the occasion of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections. In attendance were Americans, Batswana and many ex-pats. When I received the invite a week ago I jokingly remarked that I was delighted to accept the opportunity to come and see Donald Trump become the new president, a jokey aside met with corresponding amusement from my American friends.
The night before, most of the guests thought they were going there to welcome in Hillary Clinton as the new president; by 6am, although the final result was not known, the writing was very much on that Mexican wall and the first bricks had been metaphorically laid; for many they had woken up to a nightmare. Someone asked at the breakfast “Do you think I am dreaming and still sleeping?” I said ‘No. The food is too bad and you wouldn’t notice that in a dream.’
Let me tell you, the mood felt somber, people seemed stunned and the feeling of disbelief palpable. What just happened? A week or so ago I questioned how could this racist, rude, arrogant misogynist, Trump even make it to the final scene of what I called America’s finest political soap opera, never mind now being President elect?
A few months ago Donald Trump was accusing Barrack Obama of not having been born in the USA and demanding his birth certificate and today, as I write this, the two are taking tea together at the White House. The past few days radio stations and television shows have been awash with discussions on what happened and why and all it seems to boil down to half of America’s people want change and it doesn’t matter what it looks like.
The way I see it is that you have a whole bunch of people (white working class folks) who are so fed up with their hard knock life, the way Washington is run, immigration, and healthcare and so on that they wanted to send a message. With nothing left to lose I suspect that they won’t really expect Trump to deliver on everything he promised, they most likely just want jobs and if that is all he produces, then it will be enough, for them at least.
But then there are the others …many typified by those Americans at this event, where the Donald Trump win leaves them feeling confused, hurt and depressed. No-one said as much but I suspect that as Trump is now their presumptive new boss (over a million civil servants indirectly report to the President) it would be wise not to verbalize as such. A few hours previously these people were readying for an historic and progressive event where the first woman president of the US would be declared.
They had not bargained for the appointment of a man who had been described as the least qualified in experience and temperament to ever run in a US presidential contest. It was as if they could not fully comprehend what was happening and why; with fear that the progress which had been made under Obama was not only being halted but that the country was regressing on issues of race, sex, civil values and so on.
The conundrum was illustrated as the final results of the nail-biting presidential election rolled in, CNN correspondent Van Jones articulated what many were thinking: A Donald Trump presidency is hard for parents to explain, and scary for immigrants to experience. "People have talked about a miracle. I'm hearing about a nightmare," he said early Wednesday morning. "You tell your kids: Don't be a bully… don't be a bigot… do your homework and be prepared. And then you have this outcome. You have people putting children to bed tonight, and they're afraid of breakfast.
They're afraid of 'How do I explain this to my children?' I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight, 'Should I leave the country?' I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight." He continued, with wet eyes: "This was a rebellion against the elites, true, it was a complete reinvention of politics… but it was also something else. We haven't talked about race but this was a 'white-lash' against a changing country … against a black president in part. And that's the part where the pain comes."
As I write this there are protestors in the streets of major cities with signs saying “Not our president”. Perhaps not but it is your electoral system. I am not sure what the protesters wish to achieve or can achieve. It is clear that Trump has a mandate for 4 years with many pressing problems ahead. I know this is going to be tough. Hillary Clinton herself has appealed to Americans to give him a chance. As the US is a democracy and the people have spoken, they have a responsibility to accept this decision (ironically even though I guess Trump wouldn’t if the tables had been turned).
For me I will be watching with interest. He is unqualified and unsuitable for the job and that in recruitment is a recipe for disaster. But there is also something called a surprise fit and as this is a surprise election result perhaps a surprise will surprise us all. It can’t get any crazier, surely? Only time will tell.
STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw
The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.
The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent. That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.
Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed
Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.
Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.
The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.
In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.
However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.
The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.
The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.
What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.
The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.
Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.
Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.
They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.
There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.
The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.
Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.
Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.
Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.
To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.
The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.