The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has taken a firm stance against the constitutional review process initiated by President Mokgweetsi Masisi, asserting that the establishment of the commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Act was ill-advised. In a position paper released by the society, they express deep reservations about the flawed manner in which the Constitutional Review Commission was set up and the process it followed.
The LSB argues that the Commission of Inquiry Act was not an appropriate instrument for such a crucial task as the review of the constitution. They believe that this process should be inclusive, open to the public, and involve legal practitioners. By appointing commissioners without engaging the legal practitioners’ professional body, the President undermined the importance of legal expertise in the review process.
The lack of broad consultation in the selection of commissioners further raises concerns about the legitimacy of the review process. The Law Society believes that an Act of Parliament should have been the appropriate means to drive the constitutional review process. They also emphasize the need for a comprehensive public education campaign to precede the review process, ensuring that citizens have a better understanding of the constitution’s purpose and importance.
In response to the Commission’s recommendations, the Law Society outlines its positions in five main areas: the Bill of Rights, the Executive, the Judiciary, Parliament, and Independent Institutions supporting democracy. They emphasize the need to align Botswana’s laws with international human rights instruments and entrench socio-economic rights in the constitution to address wealth disparities.
The Law Society also calls for reforms in the Executive branch, advocating for the direct election of the President by the electorate and separating the executive and legislative branches. They propose introducing mechanisms for Parliament to remove the President through a vote of no confidence, ensuring greater accountability.
In the legislature, the Law Society recommends doing away with Specially Elected Members of Parliament and abolishing the Ntlo ya Dikgosi, an advisory body with limited influence. They argue that both entities add no value to the legislative process and that the Ntlo ya Dikgosi symbolizes historical tribal inequality and discrimination.
Regarding the Judiciary, the society advocates for secure tenure for Judges of Appeal and transparency in the appointment processes of the Judicial Service Commission. They believe that these measures will enhance the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
The Law Society also proposes the establishment of an independent anti-corruption institution separate from the executive, with binding authority. They call for reforms in the Independent Electoral Commission and administrative accountability to Parliament, ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process.
In their position paper, the Law Society of Botswana demonstrates their commitment to an open, inclusive, and focused constitutional review process that serves the best interests of the nation. They highlight the flaws in the current process and provide concrete recommendations for reform. By rejecting the flawed constitutional review process, the Law Society aims to protect the integrity of Botswana’s constitution and ensure that it reflects the values and aspirations of its citizens.
LIMITATIONS TO REMOVE PRESIDENT: ADDRESSING WORRIES RAISED BY LSB
The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) has recently released a position paper highlighting concerns regarding the limitations placed on the legislature’s ability to remove a sitting president. The provisions in place discourage Parliament from effectively censuring the president for actions they disapprove of. This essay will discuss the worries raised by the LSB and propose potential solutions to address these limitations.
One of the main concerns raised by the LSB is the provision that triggers the dissolution of Parliament and necessitates a fresh election if a vote of no confidence in the president succeeds. This provision discourages Parliament from effectively censuring the president, as it poses the risk of dissolution. To address this issue, the LSB recommends that Parliament should have the ability to remove the president through a vote of no confidence without the risk of dissolution. This would allow for a more effective check on the president’s actions and ensure accountability.
Another worry raised by the LSB is the lack of a clear code of conduct for the president regarding the receipt of gifts and conducting private business while holding office. The society advocates for the introduction of clear guidelines in this regard to ensure the highest standards of ethical conduct for the presidency. This would help prevent any potential conflicts of interest and maintain the integrity of the office.
The election of the president in Botswana is another area of concern. Currently, the president is not directly elected by the electorate but is appointed by Parliament. The LSB believes that given the significant powers vested in the presidency, direct election by the people is essential. This would allow for a more democratic and responsive government, as the president would be directly accountable to the electorate.
The Law Society also asserts that Botswana’s democracy would be better served by permitting the president to appoint cabinet members from outside Parliament. Currently, the executive and legislative branches share numerous members, which hinders accountability and affects service delivery. Allowing the president to appoint cabinet members from outside Parliament would ensure a more diverse and independent executive, leading to better governance.
Additionally, the Law Society recommends the prohibition of the president receiving gifts in a personal capacity while in office. This practice can lead to corruption and compromises the integrity of the presidency. The office of the president demands the full attention of the incumbent, and any engagement in private business while in office should be prohibited to ensure undivided focus on serving the nation.
The role of the Speaker of the National Assembly is another area of concern raised by the Law Society. Historically, the Speaker has typically been an active member of the majority party, raising concerns about impartiality. To address this issue, the Law Society suggests considering appointing the Speaker from among individuals who are not politically active. This would ensure a more neutral and unbiased approach in parliamentary proceedings.
The LSB also welcomes the recommendation made by the Commission to introduce political party funding. This step can help ensure that political parties have adequate resources to operate effectively while minimizing the influence of undisclosed, potentially corrupt financing. It would promote transparency and fairness in the political process.
Lastly, the independence of the legislature is of utmost importance. The constitution should guarantee that the legislature has its own resources and should not solely rely on budgetary appropriations made by the executive branch of government. This would safeguard the independence of the legislature and ensure its ability to effectively carry out its duties.
In conclusion, the limitations placed on the legislature’s ability to remove a sitting president in Botswana have raised concerns by the LSB. These worries include the risk of dissolution, lack of a clear code of conduct, indirect election of the president, shared members between the executive and legislative branches, receipt of gifts, impartiality of the Speaker, and the independence of the legislature. Addressing these limitations through reforms such as allowing a vote of no confidence without dissolution, introducing clear guidelines, direct election of the president, independent cabinet appointments, prohibition of personal gifts, neutral Speaker selection, political party funding, and safeguarding the independence of the legislature would strengthen Botswana’s democracy and ensure effective checks and balances on the presidency.
FaR Property Company (FPC) Limited, a property investment company listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has recently announced its exceptional financial results for the year 2023. The company’s property asset value has risen to P1.47 billion, up from P1.42 billion in the previous year.
FPC has a diverse portfolio of properties, including retail, commercial, industrial, and residential properties in Botswana, South Africa, and Zambia. The company owns a total of 186 properties, generating rental revenues from various sectors. In 2023, the company recorded rental revenues of P11 million from residential properties, P62 million from industrial properties, and P89 million from commercial properties. Overall, the company’s total revenues increased by 9% to P153 million, while profit before tax increased by 22% to P136 million, and operating profit increased by 11% to P139 million.
One notable achievement for FPC is the low vacancy rate across its properties, which stands at only 6%. This is particularly impressive considering the challenging trading environment. The company attributes this success to effective lease management and the leasing of previously vacant properties in South Africa. FPC’s management expressed satisfaction with the results, highlighting the resilience of the company in the face of ongoing macroeconomic challenges.
The increase in profit before tax can be attributed to both an increase in income and effective control of operating expenses. FPC managed to achieve these results with fewer employees, demonstrating the company’s efficiency. The headline earnings per linked unit also saw an improvement, reaching 26.92 thebe, higher than the previous year.
Looking ahead, FPC remains confident in its competitiveness and growth prospects. The company possesses a substantial land bank, which it plans to develop strategically as opportunities arise. FPC aims for managed growth, focusing on consumer-driven developments and ensuring the presence of supportive tenants. By maintaining this approach, the company believes it can sustainably grow its property portfolio and remain competitive in the market.
In terms of the macroeconomic environment, FPC noted that inflation rates are decreasing towards the 3% to 6% range approved by the Bank of Botswana. This is positive news for the company, as it hopes for further decreases in interest rates. However, the fluctuating fuel prices, influenced by global events such as the war in Ukraine and oil output reductions by Russia and other Middle Eastern countries, continue to impact businesses, including some of FPC’s tenants.
FPC’s property portfolio includes notable assets such as a shopping mall in Francistown with Choppies Hyper as the anchor tenant, Borogo Mall located on the A33 main road near the Kazungula ferry crossing, and various industrial and commercial properties in Gaborone leased to Choppies, Senn Foods, and Clover Botswana. The company also owns a shopping mall in Mafikeng and Rustenburg in South Africa.
The majority of FPC’s properties, 85%, are located in Botswana, followed by 12% in South Africa and 3% in Zambia. With its strong financial performance, competitive position, and strategic land bank, FPC is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the property market.
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.
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.