Leader of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and Botswana National Front (BNF) Duma Boko has criticised President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s interventions put in place to curb the contagious and deadly COVID-19.
In 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, president Masisi imposed the state of emergency to fight the plague. Initially, the state of emergency was to take six months, but in September parliament voted to extend the state of emergency.
The move passed through despite objection by opposition parties. The extension meant that president Masisi continued to rule by decree until March 2021, a full year since the pandemic hit the African continent. Masisi told special parliament that it was necessary to extend state of emergency. It was extended again in March this year, by another six months.
President Masisi said the state of emergency will be used solely for the purpose of fighting the spread of COVID-19. “It is my considered view that the extension of the state of emergency provides a better option to safeguard the lives of Botswana, while containing and controlling the disease,” Masisi said earlier this year.
MASISI ABUSED SOE POWERS
Boko has given Masisi’s notorious state of emergency (SoE) the third digit, saying that it hasn’t served its anticipated purposes. He claimed that it has resulted in the wide scale impoverishment of citizens.
“State of Emergency has resulted in runaway levels of corruption because of the over-centralization of decision making and award of tenders. It has basically given us a president who constitutionally has a wide power, but now under the SoE, operates in an untendered manner. Masisi is running loose in every sector, he is the single decision maker. So this has effectively suspended democratic decision making in the country,” Boko held.
Quizzed on which options president Masisi had on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, Boko said it is crucial to descent to specifics so as to design together a means ends calculus.
“Having determined what the goals are, then we could have asked ourselves what the best means of achieving our goals are. Are the available legislative options not enough? If they are not, what manner can we orpiment them in order to achieve the goals that we want to achieve as a country. The public Health Act has a wide range of powers and instruments that can be used. and even where it would have determined that a SoE was required, it should have been precise in terms of what it is that will be suspended, operate and we would have narrowed down considerably and curb in the powers of the president. We did not do that so the result is an omnibus granted of powers to a single individual,” Boko said in an interview with the media.
UDC leader claims that president Masisi has entirely abused the state of emergency and the powers it granted him. Boko underscored that when one takes over all decision making, they end up making centralized decisions.
BOKO ON VACCINE ROLLOUT
On government’s effort to vaccine the population, Boko noted that initially, a large-scale COVID-19 rollout was to get the country back to its feet. He however said the country did not start off in a manner that it should have in rolling out the vaccine.
“The systemic challenges that are faced in relation to acquisition of vaccines are some of the elements that puts Botswana in a bad space as much as vaccination is concerned. African countries including Botswana are lacking radically behind in vaccinating populations. Just recently, Botswana was at just 2.9% and the rest of the countries are much lower than this scale. Even that, we will flatter to deceive because if you look at the levels of how many people have been vaccinated, you will realise that it’s a very low number. We needed to have had ourselves roll out on a large scale vaccination programme and that we still have to do.”
BOKO ON THE ECONOMY
The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) organizations which have been at the forefront of the pandemic, held that only fully vaccinated population will be able to emerge from the pandemic. Boko shared that the future economically looks bleak because vaccination in the country is near to the ground.
“If we are vaccinating at the rate that we are doing now, we are looking at quite a long time to vaccinate the entire population. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of waiting that long. We need to get this economy ticking as soon as possible. Government needs to establish a coordinated and properly structured rollout of vaccines in the country and to acquire the vaccines. Has the state of emergency helped us roll out the vaccine? No it has not. This is something it should have at least achieved.”
MASISI ADDRESS ON TUESDAY
Meanwhile, president Masisi is expected to give a national address on Tuesday next week. This past week Masisi, in accordance with the emergency powers suspended with immediate effect the sale of alcohol.
The suspension of the sale of alcohol was attributed to the escalating COVID-19 cases and risks that come along with the virus. However, the country’s largest alcohol brewer Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) is challenging this decision by government to ban alcohol in court.
Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Review of the Constitution held a meeting in Serowe this week. The meeting was to accord Bangwato, just like other tribes, a platform to give their opinions, contributions and what they think is the horse power and limitations of the current Constitution of Botswana.
Bangwato Regent, Kgosi Serogola Seretse said, he is of the understanding that the Commission has not come for anything apart from getting their opinions on how things could be made better. His contribution was that he solely knows of only two social positions in the world; Dikgosi and Pastors. He said other positions are just benedictions. He further urged that, Batswana should respect God’s ordained protocols such as Dikgosi and Pastors.
Seretse pointed out the importance of acknowledging and appreciating Dikgosi as nation builders. He cautioned and warned that, the Commission should ensure that their dealing with Dikgosi is harmonious. He called for an amendment to be made on the ‘National Order of Precedence’ noting that Dikgosi are put at number 11, but should at least be taken a little higher to number 7.
One resident, Tshepo Moloi while giving his contribution said there must be provisions of Social Justice that ensure equal distribution of resources to all citizens. He said this provision should entail an obligation that all citizen have equal opportunities to different Government Initiatives. Moloi substantiated that, all ‘Presidential Commissions’ be engraved on the Constitution
Alfred Thogolwane who is as well a resident of the biggest village in the Central District, pointed out the need for preservation of the country and resources thereof, saying “it must dawn onto all that, the calabash that fetches water for the family cannot fixed once its broken.” Another resident, Keikantsemang Sebedi advocated for Polygamous marriage, saying that men should marry as many wives as they please. She said there is no need for any socioeconomic assessment done on men who wish to marry more than one wife.
She advised that, the country should benchmark from the Zezuru culture that does it, with no complexities. On the other hand, Sebedi said that, there must be considerations done on the Old Age Pension. She said people who earned P4000 should not receive the old Age Pension upon their fullness of age. Forshia Koloi called for amendments on Section 77 and all the provisions that speaks to the subject of Bogosi and the powers infested in them. He said they should be made more detailed and avoid ambiguity in clauses.
Mr Tlhaodi said there must be Land Audits done in the country. Citing an example of the Tati Land as one that should be thoroughly audited. He further advised that, Election Day be put on the Calendar. He said, if it happens that the day be a Saturday, there should be some special dispensation for the 7th Day Adventist Church members to take part in voting without compromising on their day of worship. Tlhaodi added that there must be People’s Complaint Commission in the country.
Speakers emphasized the need for the country to review the exercise of ‘Political Party Funding’. They articulated that lack of funding political parties’ results in political parties resorting to finding funds for themselves. They reiterated that sometimes going to the extent of getting funds through illegal means. Bangwato agreed in one accord that they want the President be tried whilst in office if suspected of any criminal offences. This was revealed in their contributions. They pointed out that, the law should not to wait until the end of their tenure.
For his part, the Deputy Chairperson of the Commission Johnson Motshwarakgole expressed gratitude to the residents of Serowe. He applauded women for their kindness saying it is only them, who always take responsibility for doing things amicably in the society.
Parliament has revealed that it plans to rollout a Community Score Card (CSC) exercise as part of sweeping reforms to its role and mandate among others.
The planed shakeup, along with the rollout of CSC will see creation of new Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health, HIV&AIDS, Education and Skills Development, Trade and Economic Development, Agriculture, Lands and Housing and Local Governance and Social Welfare. Parliament informed government ministries and departments that the CSC is a participatory, community based monitoring and evaluation tool that enables citizens to assess the quality of public services and interact with services providers to express their concerns.
According to Parliament, the CSC will assist to inform community members about available services and their entitlements and to solicit their opinions about the accessibility and quality of certain services related to the portfolio committees mentioned. It said the main objective is for Parliament through identified oversight committees is to conduct a participatory monitoring and evaluating process that puts ownership and responsibility for delivery of services in the hands of both the Government and the service recipients.
“Through scorecards developed around identified sectors and services, communities and implementing departments remain in touch with progress made through the programme delivery cycle and are able to respond timely to bottlenecks,” the National Assembly said. Some of the measurements and expected outcomes for the rolling out of the CSC include among others, improved monitoring and economic evaluation, to determine the impact of spending, so as to be able to direct resources from where they having the least benefit to those projects and programmes where they will have a larger positive impact.
The National Assembly explained further that this could result in a willingness to close down ineffective programmes and institutions and not to implement projects that do not deliver adequate returns, improved productivity in the public services, especially given the substantial pay increases.
The National Assembly believes that the rolling out of CSC is also expected to result in efficiency savings: many public services and programmes could be delivered more effectively at lower costs, by improving management and accountability, and making use of e-services. “This would yield financial savings that could be used for development programmes or reducing the deficit,” the National Assembly said.
The exercise is also expected to result in “Careful scrutiny of subsidy schemes and termination of those that do not address market failure or assist truly needy Batswana.” The National Assembly revealed that proposed Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Wellness has been established in accordance with the Standing of National Assembly of Botswana. It explained that the mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Health and HIV/AIDS.
“There is need to identify reasons for inefficiency and poor outcomes and ensure that health system reform improve productivity and value for money. Key areas of focus for scorecard, availability of drugs, staffing ratios, accessibility of health services, speciality care and services and sexual reproductively health,” the National Assembly said.
Another proposed Committee is on Local Governance and Social Welfare. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary Oversight and Scrutiny over Government Ministries. Departments and Agencies with Portfolio responsibilities in respect of Local Governance and Social Welfare.
“Strategies under NDP 11 to improve outcomes of social uplifment include; diversiﬁcation of rural economies, development and support of small businesses, provision of social safety nets, eradication of absolute poverty, provision of quality and equitable education and harmonisation of social protection programmes,” said the National Assembly. It said social nets need to be improved so as to target these most in need (at present some social safety nets benefit many people who are not the most needy, but also miss out some of those who are needy).
“Some social development policies more broadly should also aim to reduce household vulnerability to shocks such as those arising from fluctuations in agriculture, climate change, incomes and employment and improve their ability to handle shocks, thereby building household resilience,” the National Assembly said.
Another Committee established is on Agriculture, Lands and Housing. The mandate of the Committee is mainly to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over Government Institutions, Departments and Agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Agriculture, Lands and Housing.
The National Assembly said the average growth rate of the agricultural sector since the beginning of National Development Plan 11 (NDP11) (i.e. during the 2017/2018 and 2018/19 financial years) was 2.5 percent, making it the slowest growing sector of the economy, in line with its historical performance.
“Over the same period, its share of GDP has been stagnant at around 2 percent. The sector also contributes job opportunities for about 80 000 adults. Food security has become paramount since the onset of the corona virus pandemic,” the National Assembly said. The National Assembly said the Government realises the need to increase food production for products in which Botswana has a cooperative advantage such as beef, grains and other horticulture products.
The Committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Development has also been established. One of the mandates of Committee would be to exercise Parliamentary oversight and scrutiny over government ministries, departments and agencies with portfolio responsibilities in respect of Finance, Development, Trade and Industry.
“The sector is at the core of industrialisation aspirations and strategies for economic development in Botswana. Manufacturing in particular can be the driver of economic growth through technological improvements and innovation,” the National Assembly said. Hence, it said, the development of the sector could also foster export diversification and export led-growth in Botswana while benefitting from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA).
Two senior members of Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) have threatened legal action against Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), it has transpired. The threat is contained in an answering affidavit of Director General of DCEC, Tymon Katlholo in which he is seeking an interdiction from High Court to stop the DIS from accessing investigation files at his office.
After the DIS detained DCEC officials Joao Salbany and Tsholofelo Bareetsi on December 16, 2021, they filed an official complaint against DIS and some officials. They complained about abuse of office by DIS and five officers. Salbany and Bareetsi also complained about unlawful detention by DIS and unlawful dissemination of classified information contrary to Section 44 of Corruption and Economic Crime Act. “The DIS interviews were premised on information divulged during the course of official DCEC work product, that is the Monday media brief meeting,” they wrote.
They further requested leave to institute a civil suit against the DIS and its officers, and invariably the State for inhuman and degrading treatment they suffered and unlawful detention. They also pondered a declaratory seeking a sanction against the DIS and Botswana Police Service (BPS) and clarification of the role of BPS officers seconded to DIS.
“The envisaged suit against BPS and DIS officers and the DIS will inevitably centre on investigations done by the DCEC and the scope of the protection availed to DCEC officers for conduct done in the course and scope of DCEC official duties.” The duo said it was self-evident from the conduct of the DIS officers that there was nothing urgent about the information required by the DIS, justifying their detention at its Sebele facility from 08:30 hours on December 16, 2021 until 02:00 hours on December 17, 2021.
They reasoned that the information required by the DIS could have been obtained by a simple request to DCEC Director General. “What the DIS did was to seek to intimidate officers of the DCEC whom they knew were carrying out investigations against some of the DIS officers who were part of their investigation team. This turn of events has a chilling effect not only on the functioning of the DCEC but also on the official conduct of officers of the DCEC as to how they conduct their official duties.”
They concluded by stating that in the event the request is granted, they would further request to be advised as to the provision of legal representation as the unalwful detention and the degrading and inhuman treatment by the DIS was in relation to matters conducted by and on behalf of the DCEC.