The Botswana Defence Force (BDF) has closed its 15 year old Welfare Fund to comply with the new standards set by the Financial Intelligence and Regulatory Authority (FIA) and the Non-Bank Financial Institutions (NBFIRA).
The BDF has now transitioned its operations to a Dikwata SACCOS, which is licensed by the FIA. The main objective of the Trust Fund was to provide its members with financial assistance and to improve the welfare of its members. It was also established to allow its members to save money. The organization also wanted to utilize the funds to improve the welfare of its members.
In 2018, Parliament enacted the Trust Property Control Act, which made it mandatory for all existing trusts to re-register with the High Court. The BDF Welfare Trust Fund was one of the first organizations to submit its application for re-registration. Following the assessment of its application, the High Court agreed that the Trust Fund should be transitioned to comply with the Act.
According to Colonel Ramhitshana, in line with the Notarial Deed of Trust, the Trust Fund is set up for the benefit of the beneficiaries and imposes obligations on the beneficiaries to contribute to the Trust. According to the Act, beneficiaries are not obliged to contribute to the Trust.
This now suggested a major shift from the fundamental objectives of the collective and any deviation would have meant that the Trust Fund should immediately be dissolved. “In his reading of the Notarial Deed the Master was of the opinion that the Trustees are obliged to provide a Bond of Security,” says Ramhitshana.
The Master’s interpretation of the Notarial Deed meant that the members would have to provide a bond of security in order to retain their elected trustees. This would have meant that no one would be willing to take on the role of trustees without having to put up a bond.
“Because of the aforementioned, the Trust Fund could not continue to exist under that model. Without the much needed contributions, the Trust Fund would cease to operate. It therefore called for the Board of Trustees to embark on a countrywide consultation with members to share with them the challenges faced and seek advice on the way forward.
During these engagements, it was clear that members strongly believed in the continuation of the spirit of togetherness that has been exhibited by the collective that has served them so well over the years. During these interactions, members were very amenable to the idea of forming a Co-Operative Society in order to be compliant with the law.
On this note, the process to register Dikwata SACCOS was conceived as it was deemed to be the right type of model that would continue representing the interests of members.” Following the formation of Dikwata SACCOS, it is expected that the members’ assets will be transferred to the Co-Operative Society, in order to continue representing the interests of its members.
These include the members’ savings, loans, and collective education. Colonel Ramhitshana also noted that the members would continue to be engaged with the Co-Operative Society to learn more about its operations. The Trust Fund has already outsourced its administrative services to a company known as Minet Botswana, which is a professional fund administrator.
The Trust Fund is also regularly audited by Grant Thornton, as required by its Notarial Deed. The annual general meetings of the members are also held as per the Notarial Deed. The BDF Welfare Trust Fund was registered in the Deeds Office of Botswana in 2007 by members of the Botswana Defence Force.
The founding members consisted of members in Active Service, Non-Uniformed members and Retired personnel in their personal/private capacity. Since its inception, the Trust Fund has been operating under a Board of Trustees elected by its members in accordance with the Notarial Deed of Trust, which has been the governing document for the Trust Fund. The Trust Fund was registered with the Non-Bank Financial Regulatory authority.
Following their loss to the Duma Boko-led lobby in the Botswana National Front (BNF)’s national congress last month, some members of the party are reportedly considering forming a new political party.
According to members, the new party will be formed after they receive a tip-off that the BNF will do all it can to ensure that the aggrieved members do not participate in the 2024 national elections. This will reportedly done through a carefully orchestrated primary elections elimination campaign.
Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.
Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.
She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”
Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.
On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.
“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.
One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.
The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”
The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.
Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.
Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.