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Friday, 19 April 2024

Botswana firms ICC support amid arrest warrant for Russian President

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The Parliament is set to discuss proposed amendments to the laws related to the International Court Court (ICC). This development coincides with reports that the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for his alleged role in the conflict in Ukraine.

It is not clear if this is a coincidence. For the fourth time, last year Botswana voted against Russia during the UN General Assembly’s condemnation of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

The country’s continued support for the ICC is expected to irk other African countries that are still questioning the credibility of the ICC and those have also sworn alligence to Russia.

It has been reported that the Minister of Justice, Ronald Shamukuni, is expected to table the Bill regarding the amendments to the laws concerning the ICC in the Parliament soon.

The Bill seeks to criminalize various international crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and aggression. It also proposes to repeal and replace the 2017 Rome Statute of the ICC with amendments.

The latest Government Gazette indicated that the 2017 Act has some legal and constitutional implications. The proposed amendments seek to address these issues.Therefore, the Bill seeks to replace the 2017 Act with a new statute that will retain some of the provisions that do not conflict with Botswana’s Constitution.

The Bill aims to ensure that the obligations of Botswana as a State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC do not conflict with the country’s Constitution.

The proposed Act will include addition of the crime of aggression which was not there in the 2017 Act. The proposed Act will remove clauses that conflict with Botswana’s Constitution such as article 17 of the Rome Statute of the ICC which provides that official capacity as Head of State shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility under the ICC Statute.

The import of this provision (which the new law seeks to repeal) is that Botswana Courts will be constrained by section 41 of the Constitution to try a sitting President but the International Criminal Court will not be so constrained.

The proposed Act will also result in the amendment to the extradition Act which will provide for instances where Botswana is unable to extradite, for the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to instead prosecute on behalf of the foreign country (ICC) where it is determined that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute and sharing of suspected proceeds of crime and confiscated property with other countries.

“In this regard, the amendment to the Mutual Assistant in Criminal Matters Act empowers the DPP to enter into agreements for the reciprocal sharing of with a competent authority in a foreign country,” reads the note in part.

The Bill also includes a clause dealing with conspiracy which provides that a person who conspires in Botswana to commit an offence, in or outside the territory of Botswana, or who conspires outside Botswana to commit an offence in Botswana commits an offence and is liable to the same penalty as the penalty for the actual offence.

Other provisions of the Bill include those relating to superior orders not being a defence as well as the responsibilities of commanders and other supervisors. Furthermore, the Bill deals with issues such as jurisdiction which allows for proceedings to be instituted against a person under certain circumstances, where an act of constituting an offence under the Bill is committed by any person outside the territory of Botswana.

The Bill also provides that the limitations on certain criminal offences will not be applicable to the offences under the Bill. This means that the Prescriptions Act and other statutory limitations will not be applicable to the offences under the Bill. Other provisions of the Bill include the establishment of regulations and the powers of the Minister to make amendments to laws.

The latest developments involving the ICC have raised concerns about Botswana’s continued support for the court. Some of the countries that are critical of the court include Uganda and Kenya. They believe that the court only targets African countries for its alleged involvement in war crimes. In 2016, South Africa decided to withdraw from the ICC. South Africa was the second African nation to withdraw from the court after Burundi.

The decision by South Africa followed a controversy in 2015 when Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir was invited to the country despite an ICC warrant for his arrest. Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan President, at that time commended South Africa for its decision to withdraw from the court.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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