Tantrums, incongruities on the agenda by the most senior National Executive Committee (NEC) members and exchange of blows and kicks were the order of the day at the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) NEC meeting this past Monday.
And for the second time in a row, acting President Caroline Lesang and Secretary General Tshekedi Khama clashed again. The meeting was set to discuss serious party issues ahead of its National Elective Congress billed for October at Tati-Siding. “We were looking at the state of the party, among other issues discussed were different activities that we would be having as a party and briefing on the status of Butale and few others,” Party Spokesperson Lawrence Ookeditse told this publication.
However, WeekendPost has it in good authority that the Monday meeting was off to a fiery start as both Lesang and Khama locked horns over the two agenda items on the tables. Impeccable sources have told WeekendPost that Lesang lashed at Tshekedi for his failure to communicate with other NEC members as the SG but rather deciding to engage the lower structures, something which the acting President found inappropriate.
“But then they managed to reach a consensus, which was a telephonic conversation in which TK apologized for his non-communication. He then agreed with acting President Lesang to go ahead and file her agenda item,” said a source.
All hell then broke loose when some NEC members sympathizing with the Presidential candidate Moiseraela Goya and TK disrupted the meeting after Lesang rejected TK’s agenda to discuss the membership status of BPF Youth League President Fox Segwai. The faction allegedly led by Dr. Malefo and Deputy Secretary General Vuyo Notha argued that Segwai has long resigned from the party many months back and as a result not a BPFYL President let alone a member.
“That’s where everything started as Dr. Malefo and Notha started disrupting the meeting and Lesang threatened to chase them out, and they continued with the harassment. Ford Moiteela then also started to threaten to lift Malefo out of the room, and all turned into a ring of blows and kicks, some members climbing tables to kick others. The meeting was adjourned for an hour to let tempers cool down,” a highly placed source said.
As is, the BPF NEC is said to be deeply divided with other faction anchored by TK/Goya while the other one is led by Guma. The two axis are currently at war over some critical decisions taken last month, which includes the co-opting of Baemedi Kudumane as the party Chairman. It is said the TK/Goya faction wanted the Jwaneng-Mabutsane MP Reggie Reatile to take the position.
Ookeditse, on the other hand, told this publication that the Monday meeting was very cordial. “I wouldn’t say there is any disunity between the SG and acting President, the meeting went well, it was very cordial, and I think the NEC was in agreement with a lot of things that were there.
As for the altercation between the NEC members at the meeting I don’t know what that would mean, at every meeting there will be disagreements and agreements, we will speak loudly when we have strong positions and speak softly when we don’t, so there was nothing out of the ordinary, it was just a meeting.”
The differences between TK, SG and the acting President Lesang are colossal. In a letter dated the 23rd of June 2022, TK reminded structures to stay vigilant and jealously guard their party and added that; “We note with concern that the party letter head has found its way into the wrong hands, hence the need to abide by the constitution and channel all party communication through the Secretary General office,” he highlighted.
TK has typed and slapped the acting President Caroline Lesang with another letter nullifying the decision and resolution from the meeting. “Madam Acting President, it is my hope that we will do everything in our power to uphold our party constitution and abide by it, and you as a party spokesperson will lead in that endeavour.”
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.