The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is set to move to fully implement its policy that bars candidates with criminal records from participating in the upcoming primary elections and subsequent general elections. While the party aims to maintain the integrity and reputation of its candidates and the party itself, critics argue that this blanket ban discriminates against individuals who may have rehabilitated or paid their dues to society.
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In an interview with this publication, the BDP Secretary General Kavis Kario revealed “the party’s expectations that its branches will meticulously scrutinize potential candidates to ensure that the BDP is represented by individuals in good standing with the public”.
He stated, “What happens is that after the expression of interest, the Branch submits a detailed report to the Central Committee, and it is the Central Committee that makes the final verdict based on that report. So, it is the Central Committee that is empowered to disqualify candidates.”
The BDP branch committee, responsible for evaluating potential candidates, comprises the chairperson and the secretaries of each ward within the branch, six members from each ward chosen during the ward congress prior to the branch congress, chairpersons and secretaries of the branch’s youth committee and women’s wing branch, the Member of Parliament for or assigned to the constituency if they are a party member, party councilors in the branch, and regional chairpersons and secretaries who attend as ex-officio members.
Kario also noted that “under certain circumstances, candidates with criminal records may be required to obtain criminal record waivers from the police to clear their names for consideration”.
MAINTAINING INTEGRITY AND REPUTATION
Insiders have informed this publication that a few individuals who have offended the law in the past have expressed their interest in running for the party. The BDP’s expression of interest window is set to close on November 2, 2023, marking the beginning of the vetting process.
Proponents of the policy argue that political parties must present candidates who have a history of law-abiding behavior and ethical conduct. By excluding candidates with criminal records, parties seek to assure voters that they are fielding individuals who can be trusted to uphold the law and act in the best interests of the public. This approach aims to gain and maintain the trust of the electorate, as candidates with criminal records may face challenges in gaining voter support due to the stigma associated with their past actions.
PRESERVING PUBLIC TRUST
The BDP’s decision to bar candidates with criminal records is driven by the desire to preserve public trust in the party. Individuals who have committed crimes in the past may be seen as untrustworthy or lacking the moral character required for public office. By implementing this policy, the BDP aims to distance itself from candidates who may tarnish the party’s image and create public distrust. This approach aligns with the party’s commitment to presenting candidates who are electable and can appeal to a broad range of voters.
“Parties want to present candidates who are electable and can appeal to a broad range of voters. Candidates with criminal records may face challenges in gaining voter support due to the stigma associated with their past actions. We may argue but these are painful facts in the political space,” added a member of the Central committee in favour of the policy.
REHABILITATION AND PERSONAL GROWTH
Yet the policy seems to be rubbing some the wrong way. Critics argue that such a blanket ban discriminates against individuals who may have made mistakes in the past and have since rehabilitated or paid their dues to society.
Critics argue that the blanket ban on candidates with criminal records fails to consider the potential for rehabilitation and personal growth. They contend that individuals who have made mistakes in the past and have since demonstrated positive changes should be given a fair chance to participate in the democratic process. Rehabilitation efforts should be acknowledged and taken into account when evaluating a candidate’s suitability for political office. Excluding individuals solely based on their criminal records may perpetuate a cycle of stigma and hinder their ability to reintegrate into society.
“Such a move does not take into account rehabilitation efforts and the potential for personal growth and reform. Individuals with criminal records who have shown positive changes should be given a fair chance to participate in the democratic process.
Secondly there might be concerns that this policy could be misused for political purposes, such as selectively disqualifying certain candidates based on their past legal issues. There are always conflicts and question around the transparency and fairness of the vetting process,” advised a high profile BDP member.
TRANSPARENCY AND FAIRNESS
There are concerns that the vetting process for candidates with criminal records may be misused for political purposes. Critics worry that the policy could be selectively applied to disqualify certain candidates based on their past legal issues, raising questions about the transparency and fairness of the process. To address these concerns, it is crucial for the BDP’s Central Committee to ensure that the vetting process is conducted objectively and without bias, with clear guidelines and criteria for evaluating candidates.
Observers say the BDP’s decision to bar candidates with criminal records from participating in elections reflects the party’s commitment to maintaining integrity and preserving public trust. While this policy aims to present candidates with a history of law-abiding behavior, it also raises questions about the potential for rehabilitation and personal growth. Striking a balance between these two perspectives is crucial to ensure fairness and inclusivity in the democratic process. However political scientists argue that the BDP should consider implementing measures that acknowledge rehabilitation efforts and provide opportunities for individuals with criminal records to demonstrate their commitment to public service. By doing so, the party can uphold its integrity while also promoting the principles of rehabilitation and second chances.
BPC Signs PPA with Sekaname Energy
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.
UDC deadlock: Boko, Ndaba, Reatile meet
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.
Repeat flight-risk suspect pays the piper
In Botswana, the Constitution Section 5 (3) (b) provides that conditions of bail are necessary to ensure that an accused appears at a later date for trial or for proceedings preliminary to trial. These conditions may include restrictions on interfering with state witnesses, the payment of a certain amount, the provision of sureties, the submission of travel documents, reporting to the police regularly, and appearing for all court mentions or proceedings. Failure to abide by these conditions can result in the revocation of bail. Robert Seditseng, a murder accused who has been detained since 2016, is currently facing the consequences of not adhering to his bail conditions – therefore paying the piper.
Despite numerous unsuccessful bail applications over the past five years, Gaborone High Court judge Michael Leburu denied Seditseng bail this week. Seditseng had requested to be set free before his trial starts on April 12th, but his freedom will now depend on the verdict. He is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Siscah Mutukee, on June 22nd, 2016, in Charleshill.
Judge Leburu ruled that Seditseng is not a candidate for bail due to being a flight risk, as he has previously absconded from court. Defense lawyer David Ndlovu pleaded with the court to consider the time Seditseng has already spent in prison, but Leburu questioned whether there was any guarantee that Seditseng would not abscond again, given that he had done so twice before.
An affidavit from Investigations officer (IO), Constable Kedibonye Botsalo, supports the view that Seditseng is not a suitable candidate for bail due to his tendency to abscond when granted bail. The affidavit explains that Seditseng was initially denied bail by the magistrate court due to ongoing investigations and the possibility of tampering with evidence. However, a concession was later made by the prosecution, and Seditseng was granted conditional bail by the lower court.
The court documents reveal that Seditseng failed to appear before court on March 7th, 2016, without providing any explanation. As a result, a warrant for his arrest was issued. The case proceeded without him on several occasions until he finally appeared before court on July 13th, 2017. On that day, Seditseng’s bail was revoked due to his inability to provide valid reasons for his absences.
On October 4th, 2017, Seditseng was granted bail for the second time. However, he was once again absent from court on October 31st, 2017, without providing any reasons. He continued to be absent from court on five subsequent occasions until his arrest and appearance before court on August 30th, 2018.
During a period of nine months, Seditseng absconded from court without providing any reasons for his actions. This repeated pattern of absconding demonstrates a clear disregard for the bail conditions and raises concerns about his willingness to appear for trial.
Given Seditseng’s history of absconding and the potential risk of him doing so again, Judge Leburu’s decision to deny him bail is justified. The purpose of bail is to ensure the accused’s presence at trial, and Seditseng has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to fulfilling this obligation. It is crucial to prioritize the safety of the community and the integrity of the justice system by keeping flight-risk suspects like Seditseng in custody until their trial is concluded.
In conclusion, the denial of bail to repeat flight-risk suspect Robert Seditseng is a necessary measure to ensure his appearance at trial. His history of absconding from court and failure to provide valid reasons for his actions demonstrate a disregard for the bail conditions and raise concerns about his willingness to face justice. By denying him bail, the court is prioritizing the safety of the community and upholding the integrity of the justice system.