Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) strategists are said to have hatched a grand-plan to frustrate any efforts to have the upcoming meeting of the 12th parliament live on Botswana Television and Radio Botswana, this publication has established.
The past two emergency meetings of parliament held at Ditshupo hall were beamed live by the public broadcaster (BTV and RB). The expectation is, the impending meeting billed for the 27th of July will also be broadcast for Batswana given the fact that the country is still in the State of Public Emergency.
BDP is said to be feeling the pressure and believes opposition members are exposing the ruling party legislators and wants this coming assembly away from the broadcasters. “So the agreement has been made that lack of finances will be used as an excuse not to stream parliament live. Chances are very high Batswana will not watch or listen the proceedings live,” an impeccable source told WeekendPost.
The party schemers according to this publication’s informants believe their members fared badly on those debates and the party should redeem and rebuild the image without cameras and microphones. Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Barbara Dithapo said parliament was previously allocated P3.7 million for scoping and piloting of the project, over P24 million short of the required amount.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi is also said to have come out of an emergency Parliamentary sessions a disappointed man after a poor display by some of his cabinet ministers who suffered humiliation at the hands of Members of Parliament.
After the debates a wide public criticism erupted with political pundits casting aspersions on some of minister’s ability including Vice President Slumber Tsogwane. As the Leader of the House, Tsogwane was at the fore-front in rejecting motions and suggestions by members of opposition.
Live broadcast of Botswana Parliament is a very old issue. Former Member of Parliament for Selebi Phikwe West, Gilson Saleshando tabled a motion in parliament requesting government to do so in the 10th Parliament. A source from the National Assembly has told this publication on Thursday that they are not sure whether the meeting will be live on state broadcasters.
BDP Secretary General Mpho Balopi has denied reports that they could be trying to block the live streaming of proceedings. “We are the ones who were leading the advocacy for the live broadcast in the past two meetings, so there is no how we can block that development. We would like Batswana to see and hear their representatives at the August house.”
Efforts to contact both Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Kabo Morwaeng and his assistant Dumezweni Mthimkhulu who are responsible for the live broadcast were futile.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President, Dumelang Saleshando recently told this publication that by the time he vacates the office of Leader of Opposition (LOO) he would have rumbled many times with the Speaker, Phandu Skelemani, over parliamentary reforms.
“My big assignment is parliamentary live broadcast. We will put pressure to the Speaker that parliamentary proceedings be seen by the public and if he refuses we will ask for an arrangement to have a private live broadcast be it Facebook or anything.”
‘‘All the reasons that parliament cannot be broadcast live are false as proven by the latest development where it was beamed live on BTV,’’ says Saleshando. “In the past we were told that there should be an arrangement on how broadcasting personnel should behave inside the house which is not true, there is nothing like that.
At one point it was an issue of budget, and it shows that they are reluctant to do so. This is a parliamentary reform not the Speaker conducting Kgotla meetings, and I will ensure that it happens.” Another UDC MP, Dithapelo Keorapetse has opined as thus; “If it’s indeed true that it is expensive to broadcast parliament live, what are the other cheaper available options and why are they not utilized.
This is the 21st century, the era of 4th Industrial Revolution; the epoch of social media, internet applications and online private radio station among others. Most media houses have Facebook pages and or online platforms through which Parliament can be covered live. In fact, some media houses have threatened court actions to force live broadcast of Parliament.”
According to the Selibe Phikwe West MP, the reasoning for the delay, besides that BTV is unable to do so or that the idea has far reaching cost implications, has been that Parliament hasn’t provided the guidelines or rules of coverage for its intended live broadcast.
“Whilst the guidelines or rules of coverage are important, they can’t be used as a valid excuse because they are simple to draft and can be expeditiously adopted and if need evolve or change over time. This is what happened in both developing and developed democracies. In the meantime, online publications and Private radios and TV can be allowed to cover Parliament. The guideline must be expedited to realize this,” he added.
Leader of Opposition’s (LOO) Dumelang Saleshando has said the Speaker of the National Assembly, Phandu Skelemani risks losing the moral authority to preside over the house due to the manner in which he handles parliament proceedings.
This week parliament made an unprecedented decision to suspend Saleshando, from parliament for a period of a week. Saleshando is also Member of Parliament for Maun West. Subsequent to Saleshando’s suspension, opposition Members of Parliament boycotted parliamentary proceedings, save for Alliance for Progressives’ Wynter Mmolotsi.
Saleshando was suspended for refusing to withdraw his statement in which he implicated President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s sister in a tender alleged to have been awarded corruptly. While Skelemani has relatively enjoyed respect from opposition parties since the beginning of the 12th parliament, it appears the Tuesday events will turn things around.
“The speaker is risking losing the moral authority to precede over the house. Because we don’t have the numbers but we can’t participate in a match,” Saleshando told media on Wednesday. Saleshando who has since written a letter to the speaker to outline the opposition’s displeasures, pointed out that the Speaker has on many occasions spoke to members of opposition in a disrespectful manner.
One example, according to the Leader of Opposition was during the State of Emergency when the speaker ordered that Oneetse Ramogapi, Member of Parliament for Palapye, to sit down “because matters being discussed are too complex for him to comment on.” Saleshando indicated that some of the jabs being thrown at them undermine themselves as MPs because of use of condescending expressions.
Saleshando further emphasised that his suspension from parliament was not an independent decision made by the Speaker. He also pointed out that his suspension was staged hence Masisi was present on the day. Former BDP MP Tshekedi Khama also expressed his displeasure, further indicating that they stand in solidarity with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
“We already knew that Saleshando was going to be suspended on that day. Skelemani must understand one thing, that he is not the speaker of the Botswana Democratic Party but that of the national assembly,” said Khama. “We are totally disappointed by yesterday’s events, this can only mean one thing. That democracy in Botswana has come to pass.
Secondly we have heard that the three institutions the third being parliament are supposed to be independent but we have seen clearly that Speaker Skelemani is wearing a BDP cap and not his wig.” Moreover, they further indicated that they have observed a very disturbing trend by the Speaker to want to turn parliament into a court of law.
They elaborated that on numerous occasions the Speaker demands that the MPs prove opinions with facts which they point out as unfair on them. “As members pf parliament our role is to raise a suspicion based on what we are observing. We are not supposed to be demanded to prove evidence. That is the duty of other agencies, maybe if we could call the DCEC to explain to Skelemani what constitutes corruption maybe it can be something,” said Ngami MP, Carter Hikuama.
The opposition members said their main concern with the way the Speaker conducts his day to day business is that he might end up losing the authority to control the parliament proceedings altogether. Furthermore, they indicated that the speaker should not stand in the way of attempts by MPs of the opposition to hold the President accountable with fear or favour. Mahalapye East Member of Parliament Yandani Boko said it is surprising how the speaker has elevated himself to the role of a judge in parliament.
Botswana Investment & Trade Centre (BITC), the country‘s intergraded trade & investment promotion agency has reiterated Botswana’s position on the International Finance Services Centre (IFSC), a tax incentive provision for accredited companies.
Speaking at a media engagement session on Tuesday BITC Chief Executive Officer, Keletsositse Olebile underscored that the IFSC is not a breeding vehicle of illicit capital flows but a provision purely crafted as an investment wooing instrument which already has tangible and significant benefits to the country’s economy.
Olebile explained that the provision is a mechanism to attract foreign investment, channel capital into local investment projects, provide additional opportunities for local investors and create sustainable employment opportunities for suitable and qualified Batswana.
Furthermore the BITC Chief added that the IFSC fiscal framework plays a role in the enhancement of skills base for the Botswana workforce, fostering of innovation and sophistication in financial and business services and enhancement of Botswana’s already excellent reputation in the international financial and business community as well as generate tax revenue for Botswana.
BENEFITS TO ACCREDITED COMPANIES
Whilst most companies pay Corporate Tax at 22%, IFSC companies are generally taxed at 15%, Eighth Schedule to Income Tax Act. When deliberating on the provision leading tax consultant Jonathan Hore of Aupracon said because IFSC companies predominantly deal with non-residents, they are taxed 15 % on nonresident proceeds, while paying the normal 22 % for Botswana resident’s proceeds.
“This means that the tax computation of an IFSC company will most likely have two columns, to separate the 15% income from that taxable at 22%, IFSCs can, just like any other taxpayer, also claim withholding tax credits for tax suffered in foreign countries,“ he said. Hore added that such credits cannot exceed the Botswana tax on the foreign income, that is to say BURS cannot refund a taxpayer because the taxpayer paid tax offshore.
An IFSC entity which invests in an offshore entity to the extent of at least 25 % is not taxed on the dividends it earns from such investments. The investments are called Qualifying Foreign Participation (QFP) and are exempt in terms of the Second Schedule to the Income Tax Act, which states that, any dividends received by international financial services Centre Company in respect of a qualifying foreign participation as defined under section 2; shall be exempt from tax to the extent indicated.
The act defines Qualifying Foreign Participation (QFP) as participation held by an international financial services centre company in a company which is not resident in Botswana, where the international financial services centre company controls either directly or indirectly, alone or with connected persons, 25 per cent or more of the share capital including 25 per cent or more of the voting rights of the nonresident company.
IFSC companies also enjoy zero Capital Gains Tax (CGT). CGT is levied on the capital appreciation of any specified assets such as shares, immovable properties etc. Any person who disposes shares must pay the CGT.
However, IFSC companies do not suffer CGT when they dispose of shares held in a Qualifying Foreign Participation, i.e. at least 25% shareholding in nonresident subsidiaries. Secondly, the shareholders in an IFSC company are exempt from CGT.
WHAT ARE BOTSWANA’S BENEFITS?
Jonathan Hore noted that IFSC is an incentive which attracts FDI as foreign dividends are not taxed – “CGT exemption means that investors can set-up holding companies in Botswana and when they want to exit, they don’t have to worry about CGT.
Mauritius doesn’t have CGT at all and this Botswana incentive can only be compared to Mauritius. Most SADC states have CGT for most investors. Botswana is therefore ahead of the pack, together with Mauritius,” he said.
The renowned Tax consultant explained that this helps IFSC entities to obtain the best of non-resident consultants and investors. “Dealing with IFSCs is more business-friendlier as compared with dealing with any other BW entity, which deducts WHT from payments due to non-residents.”
BITC CEO noted that as a consequence of the framework insisting on a physical presence (Office) as opposed to brass plating, indirectly this contributes to business tourism in the form of shuttle services, lodging, dining fees when non-resident directors visit their head offices.
Previously various global economic and financial commentators such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) expressed concerns over Botswana’s tax incentives noting a possibility of the provisions being used as window of tax invasion, raking in all returns, eroding national tax bases and compromising domestic resources mobilization systems.
OEDC observed that tax exemptions such as IFSC fiscal framework if not tightly managed have little impact on investment attraction but only cripple the country‘s revenue collection vehicles. “Under pressure to offer internationally-competitive tax environments, developing countries offer generous tax breaks that undermine their domestic resource mobilization efforts with little demonstrable benefit in terms of increased investment,” said OECD in previous publications in 2018.
“There is limited information on the way in which Botswana’s IFSC is used for illicit and criminal practice, but according to a 2017 evaluation carried out by Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, without developed anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regime the country is at risk of being used as a conduit,” noted the Tax Justice Network in 2017.
THE FRAMEWORK & SUCCESFULLY DUSTING OFF THE ‘TAX HAVEN’ TAG
Botswana as since refined the IFSC fiscal framework in a bid to tighten compliance with international practices. The investment promotion boss who championed Botswana‘s campaign against the tax haven tag in 2014 noted that Botswana has since joined the Inclusive Framework by OECD and G20.
Furthermore Botswana has since complied with resolutions of OECD Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP) by subscribing to Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Standard (BEPS), Substantive Presence, Tax Information Exchange agreements which are requested from time to time.
Olebile reiterated that Botswana is not a tax haven, noting that in conjunction with respective industries regulatory and compliance authorities such as Bank of Botswana, NBFIRA , BURS , IFSC accredited companies are regularly zoomed into check if they living up to promises and comply with the law.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has this week left a number of Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislators disappointed after not gracing the party’s parliamentary caucus, where they expected to slap him with a litany of concerns they encounter within the party.
The Tuesday meeting was the first BDP caucus meeting since the country went into lockdown in March this year. Chronicles of activities within the party leading to this week’s meeting necessitated Masisi to be present at Boipuso Hall held meeting, posit some MPs. Some legislators have been unhappy with how the party leadership and the party in general conduct its business in relation with the backbenchers.