The US State Department this week released a strong and critical report on human rights in Botswana in 2021. The department said in its 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that members of the security forces committed some abuses.
According to the report, “there were reports the DISS had developed capabilities for online surveillance” adding that “the main opposition party accused DISS of using spyware technology to eavesdrop on opposition politicians and union leaders.”
It says the Committee to Protect Journalists accused the Botswana Police Service (BPS) of using digital forensic equipment to reveal journalists’ communications and sources in previous years. “The BPS also used online surveillance of social media as part of COVID-19 state of emergency measures,” the report says.
The report also cited an incident in which police used force to disperse protesters outside a Gaborone police station where a pastor was held on charges of holding a political demonstration without a permit. “Officers used whips to break up the peaceful group. Press photos showed persons with deep bruises and cuts, reportedly resulting from police actions. There was no evidence police investigated the uses of force,” the report says.
According to the report, significant human rights issues included credible reports of: arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including an unjustified arrest or prosecution of journalists and the existence of criminal slander and libel laws; substantial interference with freedom of association; serious acts of government corruption; and the existence of the worst forms of child labour, including commercial sexual exploitation of children and forced child labour.
Regarding corruption, the report says during the year there were numerous reports of government corruption, including allegations tied to tenders issued by local governments for COVID-19 projects, such as renovating public facilities so that they complied with virus prevention measures, as well as in the acquisition of personal protective equipment.
The report says a 2019 poll by Transparency International found that 7 percent of those polled had paid bribes to government officials, an increase from the 1 percent who reported paying bribes in a 2015 poll. In July 2020 former permanent secretary to presidents Khama and Masisi, Carter Morupisi, and his wife stood trial on charges of abuse of office, money laundering, and receiving bribes. A decision remained pending at year’s end.
The report says an embezzlement case against the former chief of DISS, Isaac Kgosi, ended in November 2020 when the Gaborone High Court dismissed the case for lack of evidence. “On August 23, a court also dismissed a case against Welheminah Mphoeng Maswabi, a former DISS agent accused of facilitating a $10 billion theft of bonds from the Bank of Botswana by Kgosi and former president Ian Khama,” the report says.
It says neither was charged in the case, although government court filings in the agent’s case implicated the pair; Khama responded by filing a formal complaint in April against government investigators, alleging they committed perjury by naming him in the agent’s case.
The report says in July 2020 the National Assembly suspended the leader of the opposition (an officially designated position), Dumelang Saleshando, for one week for accusing members of President Masisi’s family of improperly manipulating the government tendering process.
“The Speaker of the National Assembly, who was appointed by the President, called for the suspension vote. In August the High Court ruled that the speaker’s actions were irrational and unprocedural because he violated Saleshando’s constitutional rights to freedom of expression and speech as a duly elected representative of the people,” says the report.
It says the only BDP Member of Parliament to vote against Saleshando’s suspension during the year left the party to join the opposition. The report notes that deputy opposition whip, Pono Moatlhodi, was charged in 2020 with assault for allegedly setting a dog on a boy age 12 he suspected of stealing mangoes.
The lawmaker offered the boy 40,000 pula ($3,480) in compensation, but government prosecutors rejected the offer and pursued an assault case against him. The case began May, but there was no verdict as of the end of the year, it says.
The report further notes that in 2019 member of parliament Polson Majaga was charged with defilement of a minor and was subsequently suspended by the BDP from party activities but retained his seat in the legislature. In March Majaga was acquitted of defilement.
Regarding the 2019 general elections, the report says that while outside observers generally considered the vote credible; opposition parties challenged some of the election results in court, citing primarily irregularities with voter registrations. “The Court of Appeals dismissed all claims and ordered the opposition parties and petitioners to pay court costs. Some losing opposition candidates had to sell personal property to cover court fees,” says the report.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katholo has revealed why he took a decision to engage private lawyers against the State. The DCEC boss engaged Monthe and Marumo Attorneys in his application to interdict the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing files and dockets in the custody of the corruption busting agency.
In his affidavit, Katholo says that by virtue of my appointment as the Director General of the DCEC, he is obliged to defend the administration and operational activities of the DCEC. He added that, “I have however been advised about a provision in the State Proceedings Act which grants the authority of public institution to undertake legal proceedings to the Attorney General.” Katholo contends that the provision is not absolute and the High Court may in the exercise of its original jurisdiction permit such, like in this circumstance authorise such proceedings to be instituted by the DCEC or its Director General.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has gone through transformation over the years, with new faces coming and going, but some figures have become part and parcel of the furniture at Tsholetsa House. From founding in 1962, BDP has seen five leaders changing the baton during the party’s 60 years of existence. The party has successfully contested 12 general elections, albeit the outcome of the last polls were disputed in court.
While party splits were not synonymous with the BDP for the better part of its existence, the party suffered two splits in the last 12 years; the first in 2010 when a Barataphathi faction broke ranks to found the now defunct Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). The Barataphathi faction was in the main protesting the ill-treatment of then recently elected party secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi, who had been suspended ostensibly for challenging the authority of then president, Ian Khama.
Mr Abdoola has known Mr. Uzair Razi for many years from the time he was a young boy. Uzair’s father, Mr Razi Ahmed, was the head of BCCI Bank in Botswana and “a very good man,” his close associates say.
Uzair and his wife went to settle in Dubai, the latter’s birthplace. He stayed in touch and was working for a real estate company owned by Mr. Sameer Lakhani. “Our understanding is that Uzair approached Mr. Abdoola to utilize their services for any property-related interests in Dubai. He did some work for Mr.Abdoola and others in the Botswana business community,” narrates a friend of Mr Abdoola.