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LSB petitions JSC, CJ on ‘political’ cases

The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has petitioned the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Chief Justice Terence Rannowane over what they describe as a troubled judiciary undergoing rapid deterioration.

The judiciary has of late been under the spotlight following the registration of high profile personalities’ cases and the involvement of a controversial and sensitive institution – The Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) with the courts.

The Law Society says the judiciary has disappointed in these cases and many other issues under its ambit: “We write herein to express our grave concern about the current state of our judiciary and the rule of law in the country. A series of recent occurrences indicate to the Council of the Law Society of Botswana that all is not well, and there seems to be a rapid deterioration. We address you in your dual capacity as the head of the judiciary and the chairperson of the Judicial Service Commission,” the LSB explained its position to the Chief Justice, Rannowane.

The Constitution establishes the judiciary as the only branch of government that is genuinely independent and hermetically sealed from other branches of government. The judiciary should not only be independent but must be perceived by the public as such.

The letter continued: “There are recent incidents that have so greatly undermined the confidence of the public and the legal profession as regards the independence of the judiciary. These incidents pertain to both the allocation of matters and the way in which they are adjudicated. We have noted with concern that legal disputes initiated by certain prominent personalities of the previous administration of Dr Seretse Khama all seem to be getting allocated to Dr Justice Kebonang. We do not believe that this is a coincidence.

We have also noted with concern that in the recent matter concerning the issuance of search warrants against former President Khama, and the former head of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services, Dr Isaac Kgosi, was allocated to Justice Gabanagae even though he was not the urgent applicants’ vacation judge. The urgent application duty judges were Justice Motlhabi and Justice Busang.”

According to LSB, “the above seems to suggest that there is a hand behind the allocation of cases, and also conveys the impression that judges are not there to serve the public and the interest of justice, rather like many political appointments our judges are simply cadre deployments looking after partisan interests.”

LSB used the dramatic former DIS director-general Isaac Kgosi’s arrest to highlight the trouble in the judiciary, saying: “In order for the independence of judges to be fully realized, they require a healthy intellect. The recent decisions made in the matter concerning Dr Issac Kgosi and the State were full of ambiguity and indecision and, in the process, undermined confidence in the judiciary. In a reasoned ruling, the Magistrate Court’s admitted Mr Kgosi to bail on 2 November 2021. Subsequent to the Magistrate’s ruling, an urgent review application was filed. Justice Motlhabi reviewed and set aside the decision of the Magistrate.”

The judgement of the High Court left the parties in dispute as to whether the effect of setting aside the Magistrate decided that Mr Kgosi should be arrested. When approached for clarity in the face of two different interpretations of his order, and following of a writ issued by the Registrar on his understanding of the judgement, Justice Motlhabi inexplicably dismissed an application for the interpretation of his judgement, saying it is clear that he never intended to have Mr Kgosi remanded. He failed to revoke the writ issued by the Registrar pursuant to his judgement, maintaining that he was functus officio. The learned judge’s resort to fence-sitting and legal sophistry when a citizen has been incarcerated based on an incorrect reading of his judgement is a cause of great concern.”

According to the LSB, unless the process of appointment of judges becomes more transparent and political acceptability ceases to be the main criteria for appointment to judicial office in the country, confidence in the judiciary will continue to wane.

“We continue to call for reform of the process of appointment of judges to make it more transparent. The Constitution does not prohibit transparency in the appointment of judges; it follows that there is nothing that stands in the way of the JSC opening up its interview process. Transparency will aid in the identification of judges with integrity, the right work ethic; fidelity to the Constitution; sense of fairness and an acceptable level of knowledge of the law,” stated LSB in their letter.


ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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