Parliament has acceded to President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi’s request to extend a State of Emergency for a period of six months solely for the purposes of addressing the novel coronavirus.
After a heated debate at the Boipuso hall in Gaborone, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had to flex muscles and evoke its majority to suppress the arguments against from the main opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) who were against the proposal.
The BDP had also quashed UDC proposals of a 28 days and three months State of Emergency. The UDC was suspicious of the six months request and argued that there is potential for abuse of power by the sitting President because absolute power corrupts absolutely. On the day of the conclusion of the debates on the State of Emergency request, Government published an amendment to the Guidelines issued by the President.
Part of the amendments suspends for a period of six months provisions of the Trade and Disputes Act which provides for the right to strike and lockouts. Furthermore during the State of Emergency, the Chief Justice may suspend the operation of any of the procedures or timelines laid down in the rules of any court; issue directives relating to the detention, bail or remand of prisoners awaiting arraignment, trial, or appeal.
The amendments further deal with businesses, Where a business is unable to have employees work remotely from home or where a business is unable to pay salaries, the business may cease operations but shall not retrench or dismiss an employee during the state of public emergency.
Earlier when addressing Members of Parliament, President Masisi said, I found it appropriate to invoke Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana, and use the powers vested in me to declare a State of Public Emergency starting from 2nd April 2020 at midnight. The State of Public Emergency is for purposes of taking effective measures to address the spread and transmission of this novel virus.
He reasoned that the said constitutional provision under Section 17 (2b) only provides that such a declaration can be up to 21 days. Considering the gravity of the matter, and in line with the Constitution, I also invoked Section 93 (1) to convene an extra- ordinary meeting of Parliament to have the opportunity to consult you on measures that have been put in place to address the spread and transmission of the virus, after which I will request you to pass a resolution on the legal instruments and regulations governing the period of the state of emergency, and also extend its duration by six (6) months.
President Masisi said the Constitution of a democratic country has in its nucleus a core of entrenched provisions that are not and cannot be subordinated to any other piece of legislation. Such entrenched provisions include the Bill of Rights that guarantees freedoms of movement, gatherings, association and self-expression.
These are the liberties that in our Constitution are so deeply embedded that they can only be legislatively reviewed through the instruments of national referenda. However, the prevailing state of emergency is intended to deal only with the COVID-19 crisis and will not in any way undermine people’s fundamental rights.
According to Masisi, this pandemic is a national security threat that challenges our very existence as a nation state and people. Parliament has, in its last sitting, passed the Appropriation Bill that allocated the national budget. At the time, we did not foresee that the pandemic would reach these alarming rates.
Masisi argued that it became clear from the impact that COVID-19 was having on the global economy that the declaration of a Public Health Emergency was limited in adequately addressing the possible social and economic negative effects it would have on our country.
Therefore on 31st March 2020, on the strong advice of the High Level Task Force and Cabinet, I declared a State of Public Emergency in accordance with Section 17 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana.
The President said during the period of the State of Emergency; all businesses and offices may only continue their business operations by allowing their employees to work remotely from home except employees designated as essential service provider; and All persons employed within the public service, parastatals and any other state owned entity, unless specifically designated as essential service providers, shall work remotely from home.
Responding to fears that he may abuse the powers conferred on him by Parliament, the President declared, â€œI Mokgweertsi Masisi did not seek the Presidency of this country for reasons of ruling by decree; I did not campaign for election as President of this celebrated democracy for me to erode civil liberties upon coming into office; I did not dream of leading this proud and beloved nation, by diminishing its values of freedom and other enshrined rights that have made us the unique nation that we are.
He said he rejoiced over his ascendency to the Presidency of this country with the prescription of a legacy that would â€œenhance our freedoms, develop our country and lead our people beyond the middle income trap towards the first world status of development.â€ Masisi said he intends using the declaration of the State of Emergency, solely for the purpose of protecting our people against the decimating potentials of the Novel COVID-19 virus.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.