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SONA 2017: Did Khama deliver on democracy?

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

When His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama presented this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), his last SONA since he is retiring on 31st March 2017, many Batswana had high expectations.

Some Batswana expected that since President Khama, right at the beginning of his tenure, identified ‘Democracy’ as one his Five “Ds” he would give an account of his achievements with respect to entrenching the democratic fundamentals. But, President Khama did not give a detailed account of his achievements in the area of democracy. Rather, he put emphasis on such areas as the economy, education and health. Before we discuss Botswana’s performance with respect to democracy, it is apposite that we give its performance with respect to these areas.

The basis for this account is the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Index, an index conducted by the Legatum Institute on such areas as Economic Quality, Business Environment, Education, Health, Natural Environment, Governance, Safety and Security, Personal Freedom and Social Capital.      

In relation to Economic Quality, Botswana ranked position 99 out of 149 countries. This sub-index touches on such aspects as openness of a country, macroeconomic indicators, foundations for growth, economic opportunity and financial sector efficiency. This performance is poor. It is even worse considering that comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -14.37. This cannot be good news for a country whose unemployment rate is 17.60.

With respect to Business Environment, Botswana ranked position 70 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures a country’s entrepreneurial environment, its business infrastructure, barriers to innovation and labour market flexibility. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -4.69. This is underperformance for a country whose Foreign Exchange Reserves stood at about 7578 USD Million in August 2017.
 

As regards Education, Botswana ranked position 78 out of 149 countries. This sub-index included such indicators as access to education, quality of education and human capital. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -15.50. This is underperformance for a country whose 2016 average inflation rate amounted to about 2.81 percent compared to the previous year.


Health is another sub-index under which Botswana did not perform well. It was ranked at position 84 out of 140 countries. This sub-index touched on such aspects as basic physical and mental health, health infrastructure and preventative care. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -4.52. This is underperformance for a country whose GDP per capita for 2016 was USD 6,788.04.

Botswana did relatively well in relation to the Natural Environment sub-index. It attained position 51 out of 140 countries when measured in consideration of such aspects as quality of the natural environment, environmental pressures and preservation efforts. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -5.27. This is underperformance for a country whose youth unemployment rate stands at about 29.4.
 

According to the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Index, in the Governance sub-index, Botswana ranked position 30 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures such aspects as effective governance, democracy, political participation and the rule of law. This performance is under par. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a negative prosperity gap of -16.44. This is underperformance for a country whose women unemployment rate stands at about 21.4.

In relation to the Safety and Security sub-index Botswana ranked position 110 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures such aspects as national security and personal security. For a country that has not suffered a civil war this is indeed a very poor performance. This performance is reasonably good. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a positive prosperity growth of 5.78. This matches our Foreign Exchange Reserves which stood at about 7578 USD Million in August 2017.

There is no doubt that the allegations of the brutality of the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), including the extra-judicial killing of the late John Kalafatis, and the alleged assassination of the late Gomolemo Motswaledi played a role in the lowering of Botswana’s rating in this sub-index.

The same applies to the general state of fear that was induced upon some people, especially opposition political activists in the run-up to the 2014 general elections, who believed that the security services, especially the DISS, were being used to intimidate them from contesting the general elections.
 

As regards Personal freedom, the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Index ranked Botswana at position 51 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures a country’s progress towards basic legal rights, individual freedoms and social tolerance. This performance is reasonably good. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a positive prosperity growth of 8.47. This matches our GDP per capita which stood at USD 6,788.04 in 2016.

Though there is still room for improvement, this is a good performance indeed. It confirms that the high rankings that Botswana has always attained as a peaceful and secure country have been earned. It is, however, my suspicion that Botswana lost marks in this area because of the immigrants that President Khama declared as Prohibited Immigrants as well as those non-citizens (for instance, Julius Malema of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF)) who were put under the list of those required to apply for a Visa when visiting Botswana.   

With respect to Social Capital, Botswana was ranked at position 41 out of 149 countries. This sub-index measures the strengths of personal relationships, social network support, social norms and civic participation. This performance is reasonably good. Comparing Botswana’s economic prosperity to its wealth the result is a positive prosperity growth of 4.50. This matches our GDP per capita which stood at USD 6,788.04 in 2016.

That, on the whole, Botswana ranked position 54 out of 149 countries is no doubt a positive not only for President Khama, but also for his predecessors and Batswana in general. Yet, such incidents as the hasty enactment of the Bill establishing the DISS and the hasty enactment of the Bill introducing Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) happened under President Khama’s watch.

President Khama has also presided over the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)’s refusal to introduce such reforms as political party funding; direct presidential elections and abolition of Specially Elected Members of Parliament and Specially Nominated Councillors. He has also presided over the ruling BDP’s refusal to enact the Freedom of Information Act; the BDP’s unfair coverage by such government media as Botswana Television, Radio Botswana and Daily Newspaper.

It was also under President Khama’s rule that the relations between government and the media and trade unions fell to their all-time low. These, no doubt, tainted our democratic credentials. Of course, Botswana has done a lot better than many countries, especially African countries.

But, we could have done much better had it not been for these lapses which if not addressed can lead to an infraction of other tenets of our democracy as we have recently witnessed with the acrimony between some members of the judiciary and the executive, something which can compromise our judicial independence. Throughout his tenure, President Khama has emphasized such of his 5Ds as Delivery, Discipline and Dignity, not Democracy. This is perhaps the reason why he has not performed admirably in the promotion of democracy.

No wonder that none of President Khama’s ‘initiatives’ were in direct promotion of democracy. For instance, despite Batswana’s calls for an enhancement of the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) he did nothing in that regard. Batswana’s calls for the strengthening of such institutions promoting our democracy as the Ombudsman and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) were not heeded to or at least subjected to a referendum. 

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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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