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Kgosi Sebele II (Part 17): Protest Begats Persecution

JEFF RAMSAY

BUILDERS OF BOTSWANA

In our last episode we observed that the initial protests of Dikgosi Bathoen II and Tshekedi Khama, along with the emergence of rising BoSebele agitation within Kweneng convinced Rey that Kgari should be quickly enthroned as a full Chief. Thus it was that on the 1st of September 1931 Kebohula placed a leopard skin on Kgari's shoulders in ceremony designed to signify his assumption of bogosi.


Even the British, however, continued to have doubts about Kgari's legal status as Chief given his appointment as Acting Chief coupled with the fact that Sebele had been banished but not legally charged much less deposed. In an ill-conceived effort to bolster Kgari's wavering authority further, Rey decided to raid the Bakwena Tribal Fund in order to build his Kgosi a new house between Ntsweng and Borakalalo, the two sometimes rival sub-villages of Molepolole. It was hoped that members of the fractured morafe would move toward the new royal residence, thus bringing the village together.


Neale wrote "until the whole scheme is complete we cannot consider that the Bakwena troubles have been satisfactorily dealt with." But, for several years thereafter, the Chief's only neighbours were his tax collector, Martinus Seboni, and the tribal police. While Kgari worried about installing his veranda, the BoSebele were actively appealing ''that the British tradition of fair play and justice be observed." Their efforts culminated in the "Great Petition" of March 6, 1933, a document which contained 1,407 signatures representing most of Molepolole's family heads.  


The size of the petition, along with another one containing 516 signatures, which had been submitted the previous year, was unprecedented. In contrast, the petitions that had been filed against Sebele in the past had never included more than 25 names. Both documents, which were legally drafted, denied the legitimacy of Sebele’s removal and Kgari's "election," calling for their Kgosi to be either returned or tried in a court. The petitioners had benefited from the continuing support of Bathoen and Tshekedi, who also managed to get the question of Sebele's detention brought before the British House of Commons. But, their efforts to raise the issue at the local Native Advisory Council were overruled.


Sebele's cause was also loudly taken up at international as well as regional level by the Communist Party of South Africa. Locally the BoSebele scored a symbolic victory by holding up renegotiation of mining concessions until the exiled Sebele was formally consulted. Having committed themselves at Kgari's investiture, the British nevertheless felt obliged to uphold his authority (to the point of extra-judicially quashing a charge of attempted rape against him), despite their increasing misgivings about his character. As the local British magistrate reported:


''As far as I can see his principal hobbies are motor cars and cogitating as to how he can increase his income with the least trouble to himself; if he ever gave a thought to tribal interests it must have been a long time ago and he has solved how to rule a tribe, to his complete satisfaction, by doing nothing.”


Without local legitimacy there was in fact probably little that Kgari could accomplish. When not dependent on the coercive power of the colonial state, bogosi ultimately had to function according to a moral consensus forged within the makgotla. During the early years of Kgari's reign junior makgotla, for the most part, simply disregarded Kgosing's role as the ultimate arbiter of their disputes.


Ignoring the Great Petition, Rey's men pressured Kgari to take a firm stand against all opposed to his rule. Leading BoSebele were threatened and fined. Some teachers, including Kgari's younger brother Kwanyangkwanyang lost their jobs. As repression grew others, not directly part of the movement, also suffered. At Gabane, Kgari's deposition of the local ruler, Sebele's ally Masokwane, began a cycle of strife that was to last for decades. In the Kweneng-Kgalagadi the Chief's implementation of Rey's Native Administration and Justice Proclamations resulted in the Bakgalagadi communities being placed under generally unpopular Bakwena overseers.


Political persecution reached a crescendo in 1937. In that year nine members of the Church of God, an independent Pentecostal movement, were given prison sentences of two months each with hard labour for their refusal to abandon their faith. Others were fined and in some cases imprisoned for attending the first of many underground bogwera  and bojale  schools.


But the greatest single act of repression inflicted during the sad year was the forced removal of both the Ntsweng and Borakalalo sections of Molepolole to the area around Kgari's house. Six years of effort to make the people move through the "persistent application of pacific pressure" had failed. Besides being an embarrassment, the continued isolation of the Chief's residence made it easy to ignore his authority.


In November1933 Rey also adopted as an additional goal residential race segregation. Sebele had clashed with the British and members of the European Advisory Council over his insistence that Sekwena law "applies to all, European and Non-European."  As readers may recall during the 1920s official South African, as well as British, concern about race relations in Molepolole had been further excited by the periodic appearance of newspaper articles bearing such headlines as "Black Chief's White Slaves."

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Economic Resurgence Options: Is Export-Led Growth Tenable For Botswana?

22nd September 2020

The world in which we live is a criminally unequal one. In his iconic 1945 allegorical novella,  Animal Farm, a satire on the facetiousness  of the then Soviet Empire’s crackbrained experiment with a command economy, the legendary George Orwell in my view hit the nail squarely on the head when he said all animals were equal but some animals were more equal than others.

That’s the never-ending dichotomy of the so-called First World and its polar opposite, the so-called Third World as Orwell’s cleverly-couched diatribe applies as much to the tread-of-the-mill laissez faire economics of our day as it did to Marxist-Leninist Russia a generation back.

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Victory is Won

22nd September 2020

Israelites take Canaan under General Joshua

Even as the Nation of Israeli braced to militarily take possession of the Promised Land, General, its top three senior citizens, namely Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, were not destined to share in this god-conferred bequest. All three died before the lottery was won.

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Finance Bills: What are they about?

22nd September 2020

Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020 and Accountants (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were expeditiously passed by parliament on Thursday.

What are these two Bills really about?  The Bills are essentially about professional values that are applicable to auditors and accountants in their practice. The Bills seeks to basically enhance existing laws to ensure more uprightness, fairness, professional proficiency, due care, expertise and or professional technical standards.

The Financial Reporting Act, 2010 (FRA) establishes the Botswana Accountancy Oversight Authority (BAOA), as the country’s independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession. BAOA is responsible for the oversight and registration of audit firms and certified auditors of public interest entities.

In the same vein, there is the Accountants Act, 2010 establishing the Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) which is responsible for the registration and regulation of the accounting and auditing profession. This consequently infers that some auditors have to register first with BICA as certified auditors, and also with BAOA as certified auditors of public bodies. So, the Bills sought to avert the duplication.

According to Minister Matsheka, the duplication of efforts in the regulation of auditors, which is done by both BICA and BAOA, creates a substantial gap on oversight of certified auditors in Botswana, as the two entities have different review procedures. He contends that the enforcement of sanctions becomes problematic and, thus, leads to offenders going Scot-Free, and audit quality standards also continue to plunge.

The Financial Reporting (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in the view of the Minister, brings the oversight and regulation of all auditors in Botswana under the jurisdiction of the Accountancy Oversight Authority and that Bringing all auditors within one roof, under the supervision of BAOA would therefore reinforce their oversight and significantly enhance accountability.

He also pointed that the Bill broadens the current mandate of the Authority by redefining public interest entities to include public bodies, defined as boards, tribunals, commissions, councils, committees, other body corporate or unincorporated established under any enactment.

This covers any company in which government has an equity shareholding. In order to enable the process of instituting fitting sanctions against violation of its provisions, the Bill clearly lays down acts and lapses that constitute professional misconduct.

This Bill further strengthens the sanctions for breach of the Act by public interest entities, officers, firms, and certified auditors. Reinforcing the law with respect to such sanctions will act as an effective deterrent for breach of the Act.

The Accountants Bill also strengthens the current mandate of the Institute by making it obligatory for those who provide accountancy services in Botswana to register with the Institute, and for all employers to hire accountants who are registered with the Institute.

The Minister reasons that in line with the spirit of citizen empowerment, this Bill proposes reservation of at least 50% of the Council membership for citizens. This, he says, is to empower citizens and ensure that citizenries play an active role in the affairs of the Institute, and ultimately in the development of the accounting profession in Botswana.

The Bills come at a point when Botswana’s financial sector is in a quagmire. The country has been blacklisted by the European Union. Its international rankings on Corruption Perception Index have slightly reduced.  According to recent reports by Afro Barometer survey, perceptions of corruption in the public service have soured and so is mistrust in public institutions.

Rating agencies, Standard Poor’s and Moody’s have downgraded Botswana, albeit slightly. The reasons are that there continues to be corruption, fiscal and revenue crimes such as money laundering and general unethical governance in the country. There are still loopholes in many laws despite the enactments and amendments of more than thirty laws in the last two years.

One of the most critical aspect of enhancing transparency and accountability and general good governance, is to have a strong auditing and accounting systems. Therefore, such professions must be properly regulated to ensure that public monies are protected against white color crime. It is well known that some audit firms are highly unprincipled.

They are responsible for tax avoidance and tax evasions of some major companies. Some are responsible for fraud that has been committed. They are more loyal to money paid by clients than to ethical professional standards. They shield clients against accountability. Some companies and parastatals have collapsed or have been ruined financially despite complementary reports by auditors.

In some cases, we have seen audit firms auditing parastatals several times to almost becoming resident auditors. This is bad practice which is undesirable. Some auditors who were appointed liquidators of big companies have committee heinous crimes of corruption, imprudent management, fraud and outright recklessness without serious consequences.

There is also a need to protect whistleblowers as they have been victimized for blowing the whistle on impropriety. In fact, in some cases, audit firms have exonerated culprits who are usually corrupt corporate executives.

The accounting and auditing professions have been dominated by foreigners for a very long time. Most major auditing firms used by state entities and big private sector companies are owned by foreigners. There has to be a deliberate plan to have Batswana in this profession.

While there are many Batswana who are accountants, less are chartered accountants. There must be deliberate steps to wrestle the profession from foreigners by making citizens to be chartered.  It is also important to strengthen the Auditor General. The office is created by the constitution.

The security of tenure is clearly secured in the constitution. However, this security of tenure was undermined by the appointing authority in many instances whereby the Auditor General was appointed on a short-term contract. The office is part of the civil service and is not independent at all.

The Auditor General is placed, in terms of scale, at Permanent Secretary level and is looked at as a peer by others who think they can’t be instructed by their equivalent to comply. Some have failed to submit books of accounts for audits, e.g. for special funds without fear or respect of the office. There is need to relook this office by making it more independent and place it higher than Permanent Secretaries.

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