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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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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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