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AP will probably rival the UDC in 2019

Ndulamo Anthony Morima

In the past two weeks I deliberated on a series the object of which was to discuss the pitfalls that the newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP), as a political party and not as an alliance of political parties, is likely to face.

These pitfalls included failure to adhere to one of the basic tenets of democracy, consultation; propagation of personality cultism within the party; control of the party’s affairs by such third parties as trade unions; and a constitution that disempowers the party president. The other pitfall I identified is the possibility that the AP would contest the 2019 general elections outside the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

This would be a pitfall because many Batswana have bought into the concept of Opposition coalition politics so much that any opposition political party that contests the elections alone would be regarded as betraying the struggle to oust the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) from power like the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) did in 2014. As the BCP learnt in 2014, this would most certainly result in a backlash by the voters, the result of which may be an abysmal performance at the polls. In my view, the AP would not be immune from such if it contests the elections outside the UDC.

Not even the fact that the AP appears to have the support of a significant section of the Botswana Federation of Public Service Unions (BOFEPUSU) and Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) is enough. Initially, I regarded the eventuality of the AP contesting the elections outside the UDC as a mere possibility. Today, considering the statements made by the AP itself and the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), I no longer regard the eventuality as a possibility, but as a probability. It is in this regard that, in this article, I consider whether or not the AP will rival the UDC in 2019. Put differently, I consider the prospect of the AP contesting the 2019 general elections outside the Opposition coalition, the UDC.

Firstly, I consider the AP’s name, ‘Alliance for Progressives’. Usually, a political party, unlike a coalition, uses such words as ‘party’ and ‘front.’ On the contrary, a coalition uses such words as ‘coalition’, ‘umbrella’, and ‘alliance.’ It, therefore, deserves consideration why the AP chose to use the word ‘alliance’. You will recall that one entity that has used such a name is Lepetu Setshwaelo’s Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM) which has since been subsumed under the BCP.

Though BAM never really functioned as an alliance, it is clear that its founder, Lepetu Setshwaelo, had a dream to see opposition political parties united under an alliance party. When that failed he pushed for BAM to enter into an alliance with the BCP. Later, Themba Joina’s Marx, Angeles, Lenin and Stalin (MELS) movement and the Socialist Party joined the BCP. Then came the era of electoral pacts which ultimately gave way to the formation of the UDC.

When asked about the use of the word ‘alliance’, AP’s leader, Honourable Ndaba Gaolathe, has ascribed it simply to signify that the party will bring together progressives from various spheres, for instance, individuals, Academics,  Civil Society Organisations, etc. In my view, the choice of the word ‘alliance’ was meant for a far greater political purpose. That purpose, in my view, is for it to be a coalition of political parties which, if circumstances permit, will rival the UDC in 2019. Secondly, I consider the AP’s statements. In a recent interview with the Voice newspaper, Honourable Gaolathe stated that it will take about a year for the AP to commence negotiations with the UDC.

Of course, he gave the reason for such a delay as the fact that they are yet to launch the AP after which they have to establish the party’s structures, convene Congresses and get the mandate from the members on the kind of relationship the party should have with the UDC. A year from now will be October 2018, a mere one year before the 2019 general elections. Honourable Gaolathe knows better that one year cannot be enough to enter into meaningful coalition talks, especially at the eve of what is likely to go down in history as Botswana’s most contested general election.

In my view, this may just be a tactic to make Batswana believe that the AP is interested in a coalition with the UDC when the AP, in fact, knows that it has no such intention, but intends to function as a coalition itself. In any event, it is not a secret that the AP’s leadership has lost confidence in the UDC’s leadership, especially its leader, Advocate Duma Boko, because of the way the UDC handled the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) conflicts.

Such confidence was further eroded when the UDC decided on a power sharing model as the way to reconcile the two BMD factions following the election of two National Executive Committees (NECs) at the infamous Bobonong Congresses. Thirdly, I consider the BPP’s recent Leadership Forum resolution in terms of which it is reported to have resolved to continue under the UDC provided it remains the ‘Old UDC’ without the BCP. The BPP knows full well that there is no way the UDC can expel the BCP simply because of its demands. It is demanding the impossible knowing full well that the UDC cannot deliver on that so that when it leaves the UDC people will ascribe its departure to the UDC’s failure to deliver on its demand.

Needless to state that just like the AP leadership, the BPP leadership has lost confidence in the UDC leadership not only because of its reticence in handling the BMD conflict, but also because of the way the BCP was admitted into the fold and what it considered as favoritism for the BCP in the allocation of constituencies. Before the AP’s formation rumour had it that the BPP was involved in the formation of a new party. Absurd as it was, some even opined that the BPP would disband and be part of the new political party. But, today it appears more likely that the BPP will leave the UDC and join the AP.

In view of the aforegoing, therefore, one can safely conclude that, undesirable as it may be, the AP will probably rival the UDC in 2019. I am aware that some have pondered over the possibility of the AP entering into a coalition with the BDP. While in politics everything is possible, I believe that it is improbable for the AP to enter into a coalition with the BDP, at least for the 2019 general elections. If not for anything else the AP leadership is likely to be deterred by the fact that such action may lead them to be regarded as sellouts of the worst order.   

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

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.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

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.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

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.

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