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UDC needs a rebirth!

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

There is no doubt that this year’s electoral results in terms of which the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) lost four seats in Parliament, with its leader, Advocate Duma Boko, losing his seat, calls for its rebirth.

This, because Botswana, like all democracies, need a strong opposition if the ruling party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), is to be put on check, lest it becomes complacent to the detriment of our democracy. When the UDC was born just before the 2014 general elections, it raised hope among hundreds of thousands of Batswana who voted for it in large numbers, giving it 17 seats in Parliament. In fact, as some opine, were it not for the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), which selfishly decided to contest outside the UDC, the UDC would have won the elections or at least caused a hung Parliament.

So real was the possibility of the UDC attaining state power that the BDP developed strategies which included endearing itself to trade unions and the media, especially after His Excellency the President, Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi, came to office. It was because of the UDC’s potency that the BDP itself went through a rebirth, something which paid dividends because were it not for the formation of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), the BDP would have won forty-one of the fifty-seven Parliamentary seats on offer.

On the contrary, the UDC dug its own grave, something which was bound to result in the dismal performance it suffered at the hands of the BDP this year. The UDC failed to timeously intervene in the conflicts bedeviling its member, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), claiming that it had no right to intervene since the BMD is a separate legal entity. For about three years, the UDC did nothing when the BMD was self-destructing, the result being the infamous Bobonong congresses, whose bloody confrontations resulted in a split which resulted in the formation of the Alliance for Progressives (AP).

Even after this, the BMD continued to be marred by conflict, but the UDC stood idle only to act decisively in 2018 by expelling the BMD. But, it was too late for then began a protracted mudslinging battle from which the UDC never recovered. The court case which ensued from BMD’s expulsion did not help the situation for it created in many Batswana’s minds the impression that the UDC is an unstable political party which can not be trusted with state power.

This is perhaps the reason why the Botswana Federation of Public Service Organizations (BOFEPUSU) did not endorse it this year, something which was read by some as a vote of no confidence. Meanwhile, the BDP under H.E Dr. Masisi was on the rise with its new found ‘CAVA’ brand and charm offensive on trade unions, public servants, the media, et cetera unparalleled.

H.E Dr. Masisi’s public relations machinery, both at Tsholetsa house and at Government enclave, presented him as though he was the progenitor of consultation or therisano. This worked in the minds of many Batswana who were yearning for that after ten years of what many regard as autocratic rule by former president Lieutenant General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

On the eve of the elections, a debate for political party presidential candidates, which was expected by many to boost the UDC’s prospects of winning the elections, turned into a nightmare for the UDC when there was an outcry at the verbal and non-verbal communication used by Advocate Boko, which many regarded as uncouth. When, on 24th October, the electoral results were announced, not only did the UDC emerge as the greatest loser, its leader, Advocate Boko, lost his seat. So too did the leader of the AP, Ndaba Gaolathe.

Of course, the UDC cried foul, claiming there was wide spread electoral fraud and rigging by the BDP. If this is true, it is yet to be proven before the courts of law. Almost immediately after the results, some voices of dissent began emerging from the UDC and the Botswana National Front (BNF). One such was Advocate Boko’s deputy at the BNF, Reverend Dr. Prince Dibeela, who blamed Advocate Boko for UDC’s loss.

This is understandable considering the extent to which the BNF lost Parliamentary seats compared to its coalition partner, the BCP. While the BNF won a mere five seats, the BCP won a whopping eleven seats. This is impressive for a party which won only three seats in 2014.  Also, to add salt to injury for the BNF, its leader, Advocate Boko, who has been the Leader of the Opposition (LoO) in Parliament, lost his Parliamentary seat. On the other hand, the BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando, won his seat and is likely to be the LoO in Parliament when this Parliament resumes business.  

Among the allegations Rev. Dr. Dibeela levelled against Advocate Boko are that he neglected his own party, the BNF, resulting in the collapse of its structures, hence its dismal performance compared to the BCP. Rev. Dr. Dibeela also blamed Advocate Boko for being an authoritarian who makes decisions to the exclusion of the party and coalition’s leadership and/or overrules the majority’s decisions as he pleases. He gave Advocate Boko’s refusal to expel Advocate Sidney Pilane from the BMD, something which resulted in the BMD debacle getting out of hand.   

You would recall that long before the elections, the BNF Veterans’ League expressed misgivings about Advocate Boko’s leadership, citing almost the same reasons as the ones proffered by Rev. Dr. Dibeela. There was a time when there were rumors that the UDC leadership, including Advocate Boko’s deputy at the UDC, who is also BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando, were not privy to the coalition’s funding sources. While one may not ascertain the allegations against Advocate Boko, it is clear that the UDC needs a rebirth.

If it is true that Advocate Boko has acted as he is alleged to have acted, there is something wrong with the UDC and the BNF. It is not understandable how one person can run the show and lead the whole movement to such an abyss? Is it not because the rank and file abdicated their constitutional responsibilities? For instance, one wonders where such vanguards of the movement as the Youth League and the Women’s League were when the movement lost direction, allegedly because of one man.

As a coalition of leftist political parties who believe in democratic centralism, one would have expected the UDC and BNF to prevail on Advocate Boko and bring him to line in as far as the bottom-up approach to leadership is concerned. Perhaps one lesson the UDC and the BNF need to learn is that personality cultism in terms of which the leader is treated like a deity and becomes bigger than the collective is to be shunned at all costs because it invariably produces autocrats.

Fundamental to such leftist movements as the UDC and the BNF is the concept of self-criticism and self-correction. Clearly, this virtue has been relegated to obscurity. Without suggesting that the African National Congress (ANC) has done better in that regard, one may nevertheless urge the UDC and the BNF to borrow a leaf from the ANC’s ‘Through the Eye of the Needle’ pamphlet for if it did it would have self-corrected in time to avoid the abyss it fell into.

Self-correction would have enabled the UDC and the BNF to deal with the BMD saga and the Advocate Boko issue in time to avoid costing the whole movement as it just did. In order to facilitate its rebirth, the UDC needs to convene a National Congress as soon as possible whereat self-criticism would prevail, the preferred result being a change in not only the movement’s strategy and tactics, but also in the movement’s leadership.

Perhaps one reason why the UDC performed so badly this year is that since it was formed it has never conducted a democratic election of its leadership. The leadership positions were attained and/or assigned by compromise. In my view, Advocate Boko has to take a dignified bow from the leadership of both the UDC and the BNF. By so doing, he would give way to someone who may give a breath of fresh air to the movements, thereby strategically placing them for the 2024 elections.

No doubt, from an intellectual point of view Advocate Boko has what it takes to take any movement to the greatest of heights, but he has lost too much political credibility and capital that he can only remain at the movements’ helm at the masses’ expense. The leadership of the Youth League and Women’s League too have to take a bow for they failed to play their vanguard role when the leadership led the movement astray. The UDC and the BNF also have to revert to the situation where the party is mainly funded by the members, not by anonymous individuals and/or organizations who often high jack the leadership in order to further their own interest.

 

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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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