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Civic groups welcome seminal citizenship judgment

Civil groups have applauded another groundbreaking citizenship judgment in which a bench of three High Court Judges declared some sections of the Citizenship Act inconsistent with the Constitution.

This was in the case involving Sithabile Mathe, Jonas Mathe, Sunniva Mathe, Edward Egner and Megan Kelosiwang had challenged the legality of forcing their children to choose between the citizenship of either parent before they are adults. In an unanimous judgment, delivered by Justices Professor Bugalo Maripe, Michael Leburu and Ookeditse Maphakwane declared sections 15 (1) and 15 (4) of the Citizenship Act No. 8 of 1998 which deal with dual nationality, inconsistent with and ultra vires the Constitution; and ordered both Sections struck down.

This week the Universal Periodic Review Non-Governmental Organisations (UPR NGO) Working Group congratulated the High Court on its recent re-affirmation of its protection of fundamental rights and freedoms; protection of freedom of assembly and association; protection of freedom of movement; and protection from discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, race, tribe, and colour – as enshrined in our Constitution.

The order of the High Court protects both the right to citizenship and equal protection of the law of those children born to a Botswana citizen and a non-Botswana citizen. We, the UPR NGO Working Group noted with concern that the Attorney General urged the court not to issue an order which would be inimical to the spirit of having pure citizens as Head of State and Vice President. The High Court also noted that the Attorney General had implicitly appealed to notions of purity of ethnicity in relation to ascendance to the high political office of President and Vice President, the working group noted.

It continued to say this justification itself risks undermining the Constitution itself, which protects against discrimination on the basis of race, tribe and colour. We urge our government to ensure that the spirit of non-racism – a hallmark of Botswanas multilateralism and historic opposition to apartheid and racism be protected both in the Constitutional protection against discrimination; and in government policies and practices.

The UPR NGO Working Group comprises the Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO), DITSHWANELO The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Rainbow Identity Association (RIA), the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and Letloa Trust.

In his introductory remarks, Justice Maripe noted that the essence of this matter has been described by lead counsel for the applicants, Gosego Lekgowe in his opening address as the second constitutional attack on the Citizenship Act since the case of Attorney General versus Unity Dow. The much talked about Dow case concerned a challenge on the constitutionality of Sections 4 and 5 of Citizenship Act as it stood then, on the basis that they constituted discrimination on the basis of sex and therefore in contravention of equality provisions of the Constitution.

At the heart of this dispute is the issue of citizenship. The applicants are aggrieved that their children will at some point be required by law to denounce, thus lose their citizenship of either Botswana or the other countries of which they are citizens. The importance of citizenship, at a personal level, need not be over-emphasized. However, I shall, restate it here in order to bring the context around which the dispute arises and to put it in its proper perspective, and to lay the basis for determination of the issues that arise in this case to the extent that it is alleged that the requirement for renunciation constitutes a deprivation on the part of the children affected, Justice Maripe said.

The learned Judge said in wider scheme of things, the importance of ones citizenship to their chosen country cannot be overemphasized. Choosing one country over others as the one to which they owe allegiance is a significant decision, for it imports notions of an exclusive symbiotic relationship between the individual and the State in terms of the rights and obligations that flow between the two.

To sever this bond, he said, must perforce bring some feeling of deprivation on the part of those affected, especially on the part of the individual, for the State, as physical and legal construct, without personal feelings associated with those of a human being, such as emotional, familial and other notions of personal attachment, would not be similarly affected.

Thus the requirement of renunciation would, on a general scale, affect the individual more than it affects the State. On the other hand the Attorney General who was the respondent in the matter denied that there is any violation of the applicants right as alleged. He argued that the question of citizenship is a matter solely within the preserve of a State in the exercise of its sovereign powers. In the exercise thereof, he argues a State is at large to determine who its citizens should be, and that there is nothing untoward about Citizenship Act.

The counsel for the respondent also contended that in addition that should applicants children renounce Botswana citizenship, contrary to the sense of deprivation that the applicants alleged they will suffer, the children will be eligible to acquire the Botswana Blue Card (BBC) which confers upon the holder certain privileges that non-citizens do not enjoy. He also questioned the applicants motives and submitted that the application is in pursuit of self-interest over those of the country as a whole.

He argued that in fact the law as it stands places the applicants children in a position of advantage and privilege over other children who have no choice but to comply with law as is. In extrapolation, it is said that the applicants children have a choice to make, and that choice is said to be an advantage, any such law that presents that choice cannot be said to be discriminatory, Justice Maripe said. The Judge took the view that familial bond existing between parent and children does not change by reason only that the child has matured into an adult. He said association between family members persists notwithstanding that the children would have turned 21 years of age when restrictions begin to apply.

He added that a determination of Mathes childrens citizenship status on renunciation will negatively affect the childrens freedom of movement and association with either their father or mother, owing to immigration restrictions either into Norway or Botswana as the case may be, depending on the election the elections will ultimately make. The position taken, by the respondent, the Judge said, underplayed the deprivation that is occasioned by the requirement to renounce. In conclusion, the three Judges unanimously ruled in favour of the applicants.

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FaR property assets value clock P1.47 billion

6th December 2023

FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.

FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.

One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.

The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.

Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.

In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.

FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.

The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy

4th December 2023

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has taken a significant step towards diversifying its energy mix by signing a power purchase agreement with Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village. This agreement marks a major milestone for the energy sector in Botswana as the country transitions from a coal-fired power generation system to a new energy mix comprising coal, gas, solar, and wind.

The CEO of BPC, David Kgoboko, explained that the Power Purchase Agreement is for a 6MW coal bed methane proof of concept project to be developed around Mmashoro village. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy in the energy mix. The use of coal bed methane for power generation is an exciting development as it provides a hybrid solution with non-dispatchable sources of generation like solar PV. Without flexible base-load generation, the deployment of non-dispatchable solar PV generation would be limited.

Kgoboko emphasized that BPC is committed to enabling the development of a gas supply industry in Botswana. Sekaname Energy, along with other players in the coal bed methane exploration business, is a key and strategic partner for BPC. The successful development of a gas supply industry will enable the realization of a secure and sustainable energy mix for the country.

The Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Moagi, expressed his support for the initiative by the private sector to develop a gas industry in Botswana. The country has abundant coal reserves, and the government fully supports the commercial extraction of coal bed methane gas for power generation. The government guarantees that BPC will purchase the generated electricity at reasonable tariffs, providing cash flow to the developers and enabling them to raise equity and debt funding for gas extraction development.

Moagi highlighted the benefits of developing a gas supply industry, including diversified primary energy sources, economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. He commended Sekaname Energy for undertaking a pilot project to prove the commercial viability of extracting coal bed methane for power generation. If successful, this initiative would unlock the potential of a gas production industry in Botswana.

Sekaname Energy CEO, Peter Mmusi, emphasized the multiple uses of natural gas and its potential to uplift Botswana’s economy. In addition to power generation, natural gas can be used for gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas, and fertilizer production. Mmusi revealed that Sekaname has already invested $57 million in exploration and infrastructure throughout its resource area. The company plans to spend another $10-15 million for the initial 6MW project and aims to invest over $500 million in the future for a 90MW power plant. Sekaname’s goal is to assist BPC in becoming a net exporter of power within the region and to contribute to Botswana’s transition to cleaner energy production.

In conclusion, the power purchase agreement between BPC and Sekaname Energy for the production of power from coal bed methane in Mmashoro village is a significant step towards diversifying Botswana’s energy mix. This project aligns with BPC’s strategic initiatives to increase the proportion of low-carbon power generation sources and renewable energy. The government’s support for the development of a gas supply industry and the commercial extraction of coal bed methane will bring numerous benefits to the country, including economic diversification, import substitution, and employment creation. With the potential to become a net exporter of power and a cleaner energy producer, Botswana is poised to make significant strides in its energy sector.

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UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet  

4th December 2023

It is not clear as to when, but before taking a festive break in few weeks’ time UDC leaders would have convened to address the ongoing deadlock surrounding constituency allocation in the negotiations for the 2024 elections. The leaders, Duma Boko of the UDC, Mephato Reggie Reatile of the BPF, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the AP, are expected to meet and discuss critical matters and engage in dialogue regarding the contested constituencies.

The negotiations hit a stalemate when it came to allocating constituencies, prompting the need for the leaders to intervene. Representatives from the UDC, AP, and BPF were tasked with negotiating the allocation, with Dr. Patrick Molotsi and Dr. Philip Bulawa representing the UDC, and Dr. Phenyo Butale and Wynter Mmolotsi representing the AP.

The leaders’ meeting is crucial in resolving the contentious issue of constituency allocation, which has caused tension among UDC members and potential candidates for the 2024 elections. After reaching an agreement, the leaders will engage with the members of each constituency to gauge their opinions and ensure that the decisions made are favored by the rank and file. This approach aims to avoid unnecessary costs and conflicts during the general elections.

One of the main points of contention is the allocation of Molepolole South, which the BNF is adamant about obtaining. In the 2019 elections, the UDC was the runner-up in Molepolole South, securing the second position in seven out of eight wards. Other contested constituencies include Metsimotlhabe, Kgatleng East and West, Mmadinare, Francistown East, Shashe West, Boteti East, and Lerala Maunatlala.

The criteria used for constituency allocation have also become a point of dispute among the UDC member parties. The issue of incumbency is particularly contentious, as the criterion for constituency allocation suggests that current holders of UDC’s council and parliamentary seats should be given priority for re-election without undergoing primary elections. Disadvantaged parties argue that this approach limits democratic competition and hinders the emergence of potentially more capable candidates.

Another disputed criterion is the allocation based on the strength and popularity of a party in specific areas. Parties argue that this is a subjective criterion that leads to disputes and favoritism, as clear metrics for strength and visibility cannot be defined. The BNF, in particular, questions the demands of the new entrants, the BPF and AP, as they lack a traceable track record to support their high expectations.

The unity and cohesion of the UDC are at stake, with the BPF and AP expressing dissatisfaction and considering withdrawing from the negotiations. Therefore, it is crucial for the leaders to expedite their meeting and find a resolution to these disputes.

In the midst of these negotiations, the BNF has already secured 15 constituencies within the UDC coalition. While the negotiations are still ongoing, BNF Chairman Dr. Molotsi revealed that they have traditionally held these constituencies and are expecting to add more to their tally. The constituencies include Gantsi North, Gantsi South, Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Good Hope – Mmathethe, Kanye North, Kanye South, Lobatse, Molepolole North, Gaborone South, Gaborone North, Gaborone Bonnignton North, Takatokwane, Letlhakeng, and Tlokweng.

The resolution of the contested constituencies will test the ability of the UDC to present a united front in the 2024 National Elections will depend on the decisions made by the three leaders. It is essential for them to demonstrate maturity and astuteness in resolving the constituency allocation deadlock and ensuring the cohesion of the UDC.

 

 

 

 

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