The country’s long time rulling party, Botswana Democratic Party is expected to win the upcoming general elections albeit without an outright majority. This is according to a fresh report coming from Africa’s leading bank by assets, Standard Bank.
The report, which covers politics and economics of countries where the banking group has operations such as Botswana, was made public last week. BDP, which has ruled the landlocked country since independence more than 50 years ago, is likely to enter the general elections a highly divided lot. This is largely due to the standoff between President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi and his predecessor, Dr Ian Khama. A former army commander, Khama is backing Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi for the BDP Presidency ahead of the party’s elective congress expected in July.
“Despite the dispute between Ian Khama and Masisi, we still expect BDP to win the general elections in October 19, though perhaps not by an outright majority. “Chances of the UDC (Umbrella for Democratic Change) coalition strengthening before the 2019 general elections are slim, not while tensions about the constituencies persist,” said the report titled African Markets Revealed. BDP won 37 of the total 57 constituencies in the last general elections held in October 2014. Following the results of the 2014 general election the BDP leadership was concerned by its declining popular vote as the party only managed 47 per cent of the popular vote, the party’s weakest performance since 1966.
The report further noted that, ‘lack of cooperation between the main opposition parties may provide some safe haven for the ruling party’. ‘Hence, if UDC coalition was to unite amid BDP weakness, it may lead to the ruling party losing the general election to UDC’. However, it appears the opposition parties are also divided post the 2014 general election where they made inroads into BDP constituencies. Botswana Guardian last month reported that Alliance for Progressives, a splinter party from Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), has outrightly rejected advances from UDC to join them ahead of the highly anticipated elections.
AP is led by Ndaba Gaolathe, son to former finance minister, Baledzi Gaolathe, who was a BDP member. Previously, there were reports that BDP is courting Gaolathe junior. Meanwhile, Standard Bank which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange has made it clear the current political turbulence as impermanent. “We view the current political turmoil as temporary; we expect no significant deviation from the current economic policy, even if the BDP lost the election,” said the report in part.
Government’s recent decision to accede to Africa Peer Review Mechanism has been applauded, as a potential catapult for the economy to surge. Local entrepreneur Sethebe Manake, Director at Vantage Properties said the development is an indication that the country is committed to good governance and best practice.
“Looking at the peers that have already signed up, Botswana stands accountable to others and them to Botswana, opening a great channel for the leading countries in the continent in many respects to share ideas and ideals for progress and development,” said Manake. She said the development can also improve business confidence, with the expectation that government will uphold good governance and apply best practice to its dealings with industry.
“As the review mechanism kicks in Botswana is able to have its progress measured from its base year and over the periods that reviews are conducted,” said Manake, adding that the country will also be able to quantify progress and the speed at which we are moving especially with the peers that have similar environments. “I’m particularly excited by the presence of Rwanda, and would take it as a challenge to arrive at that level of intra-government accountability. If we do get it right the business environment will likely improve significantly.”
Last week, President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Peer Review Mechanism paving way for Botswana to join the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), as the 39th country on the continent to sign up the instrument.
The signing took place at the African Union High Level Dialogue, during the 28th Summit of the APR Forum of Heads of State & Government.
Introduced in 2003, the APRM is a mutually agreed instrument to which member nations of the African Union voluntarily sign up for as a self-monitoring mechanism to encourage conformity with political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards, among member countries. Some of the AU’s 36 members that signed up to the MOU establishing the APRM are Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Ethiopia, Algeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Malawi, Mauritius, Sierra Leone and Tanzania among others.
The upbeat Manake said the development has potential to lure investors to the country’s shores. “I cannot speak with authority on the country’s efforts to attract FDI, however it is a notable step that indicates to investors that we are working on being the best,” said Manake. Manake added that Botswana has signed and made a lot of commitments recently towards Africa to Africa co-operations and trade.“We are a real participant in global conversations as one would have seen with the World Economic Forum this year in Davos. This is a clear indication that we are serious about FDI, development, our intention to being a high income country and these are definitely steps in the right direction,” said Manake.
The Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) could be caught off guard come July, as regulations expected to steer implementation of the new Income Tax Act of 2018 are yet to be approved by cabinet. Four months before amendments to the income tax kick off; government has not yet approved regulations to accompany the new transfer pricing section in the Act.
“We do not have the regulations at the moment. We are pushing hard to have the regulations covering documentation and guidelines published,” said William Nkitseng acting BURS Commissioner. He was addressing participants at a transfer-pricing seminar in Gaborone, this week. Nkitseng allayed fears that the delays will open up an opportunity for some multinational companies to siphon funds out of the country. Tax guru Omphemetse Chimbombi of TPExperts Training and Advisory said the country’s decision to introduce transfer pricing is in line with globalisation trends.
“The country is now realising that globalisation is at a high level,” said Chimbombi adding that multinational companies can abuse Botswana’s system to shift profits to other countries. Chimbombi said the transfer pricing will close gaps on the local tax system in relations to multinationals operating in the country. “The revenue that is supposed to be taxed in Botswana will be taxed in Botswana,” said Chimbombi. Last week, finance minister Kenneth Matambo said government is making efforts to shake-off perceptions that Botswana ‘could be a tax haven’ through amendments to legislation.
The minister said government has since reviewed the Botswana International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) tax regime and amended the Income Tax Act. “The amended regime has since been assessed by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in January 2019, which declared it not harmful,” said Matambo. The minister said the amendment also introduced transfer pricing rules and thin capitalisation provisions. “Transfer pricing rules guard against attempts by multinational corporations to minimise their tax liability by transferring profits to low tax jurisdictions in order to pay less tax,” said Matambo.
Meanwhile TXExperts has plans to roll out more transfer pricing seminars across the country to enlighten companies on the new tax requirements and will next month be in the northern part of the country. BURS is also expected to start awareness campaigns to educate companies on the new tax regime.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Botswana Power Corporation Dr. Stefan Schwarzfischer has offered to resign from his role at the corporation; Botswana Guardian has been reliably informed.
The offer must now be considered by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale; the appointing authority. It is alleged that Schwarzfischer will leave around March which is the financial year so that he can assist with the audit as the accounting officer. Reports reaching this publication indicate that the hunt for Schwarzfischer’s replacement has already started to enable a smooth transition.The German national Schwarzfischer’s contract runs until October 2021. It is not yet known why the CEO is terminating his lucrative contract.
Sources say he allegedly approached the Board sometimes in January and proposed to part ways with the BPC, a state-owned company for electrical power generation, transmission and distribution. Board chairman Bonny Thebenyane declined to comment on the matter but Botswana Guardian understands that the board has already passed Schwarzfischer’s request to minister Molale to make the final determination. Minister Molale claimed ignorance of the matter. He told this publication, “I have not been briefed. I am not aware.” “If there is something of that sort the board still has to brief me about it if indeed it is true,” Molale said Wednesday evening.
Schwarzfischer becomes the second member of the executive management to leave the company folowing the alleged forced resignation a fortnight ago of general manager for Human Resources, Kamogelo Chiusiwa. Schwarzfischer’s management will be remembered for the roadmap it set for itself to transform BPC into a profitable and leading power utility in the region by 2020 under the strategy known as Masa 2020. To achieve this management started with an internal restructuring exercise in 2015 to improve efficiency and productivity.
Last year Schwarzfischer announced that BPC has made its first profit in ten years highlighting that they have performed above expectation. BPC’s financial report indicated that the corporation’s operating income grew by 34 percent which stood at P138 604 million in the 2018 financial year against P103 544 million recorded in 2017.
President Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi has promised that the time to tell the nation the whole truth pertaining to the standoff between his government and his predecessor Lt. Gen. Dr. Ian Khama will come and “is not too far”.
Masisi was responding to a question on Tuesday evening during a press conference he addressed at the airport on his return from the African Union general assembly that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Masisi was asked whether it was by design or a coincidence that Carter Morupisi, the permanent secretary to the president engages in a heated exchage of words with Khama every time Masisi is out of the country. To this, Masisi said he has just arrived and has not heard of anything during his absence about Morupisi and Khama exchanging heated words.
But then he added: “But you know to address the issue more broadly, time will come, and it is not too far where we need to settle all this. “Settling it is just telling the whole truth and nothing else but the truth and sharing with you the public of Botswana the whole truth so that we can decide on who is and what you know”. Among some of the biggest challenges he said is the interpretation of the law of the benefits given to retired presidents. For example, what the Act means when it says that a former president is entitled to use air transportation on a case by case basis as approved by the president.
“We need help with that. I will tell you what I interpret that to mean as president and others can interpret it in other ways and everything else will follow. “Le gone ga go tsewa ga di maids can be fully explained in a non-emotional manner so that we can finish with all those things and get on the business of finding jobs for you and other citizens. That should be what we are concerned about”.
African Peer Review Mechanism
As to what informed Botswana’s accession to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) which former President Festus Mogae had been against - Masisi said he could not answer for Mogae because at that time he was not even in government.
However, he said his government was motivated by the fact that Botswana’s record as demonstrated by the indicators and public pledges of commitment to good governance “had no parallel in Africa”. He emphasised that Botswana is a member of the African Union and that the African Peer Review Mechanism offers members an opportunity to share their developmental challenges and opportunities and to be reviewed by peers.
“I do not see why if we are a responsible government and member of the AU, we cannot offer that of ourselves. It should be mutually beneficial of-course there maybe teething problems, but you do not let the problems of the strategy deny you the opportunity of exploring that opportunity”. He said by so doing Botswana is also helping to develop Africa just as Africa is helping to develop us. “There are some extremely good people in countries that we may assume to be far less privileged than our own, extremely smart people. So Botswana must be open to become part of the continent,” Dr. Masisi said.
AU and SADC
On Zimbabwe Dr. Masisi said the AU and SADC are not trying to interfere in Zimbabwe but are trying to give support to the country to be orderly and peaceful. But in order to do so, he said one needs to fully appreciate the historical dynamics of Zimbabwe. “It is a very complex situation in Zimbabwe, it is not easy and the call that we made which is the view of Botswana as, difficult as it might be, is that there must be a full respect for the rule of law, there must be a commitment to peace, commitment to protecting the rights (of citizens) as enshrined in Zimbabwe constitution”.
He said they engaged President Emerson Mnangagwa in Addis Ababa and that he gave them a progress report of the loss of lives; destruction of property; rape; beatings and shootings that happened during the protests in Zimbabwe.
He said they took comfort in Mnangagwa’s assurance that his government had enlisted faith-based organisations to receive reports of rape, beating and shooting allegedly committed by police and monitor them.
Lift sanctions on Zimbabwe
Masisi said that SADC was preparing a communiqué, which Botswana fully ascribes to, urging the rest of the world to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe. “If you are denied access to credit, participation in the finance system of the world, it is extremely difficult to operate a model economy.
“You cannot pay for your imports. You would not have ability to trade with others in a manner that brings confidence to them. You will not be able to pay, to buy machinery, technology and then hold them to account as all of us are responsible for our behaviours. “It is only fair for Zimbabwe that sanctions get lifted and I support that entirely because a prosperous and stable Zimbabwe is good for Botswana, because we too get affected”.
Dr. Masisi recalled that in the past Botswana citizens sent their children to study in Zimbabwean schools at very affordable prices. “We got extremely good education that is good for us, that is trading education, but you know because of the hardships, those are limited, you cannot do it as easily as before,” he said.
Nominated sub-contractors working in the constrction of the P270 million Police Forensic Science Laboratory at old Village Police College snubbed Minister Vincent Seretse’s recent site vist, presumably to avoid an awkward encounter. The lab construction project, which was awarded to main contractor - China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd - at a contract sum of P267 627 546.94 - commenced on January 2017 instead of the initial October 2016.
It is being undertaken by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development and is expected to be completed by July 2019 from the initial February 28, 2019 date. Although Minister Vincent Seretse is aware of the delay of the project, he is comfortable with the work the main contractor - China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd - is doing so far, save for other players. During his site visit, Seretse was confronted with issues concerning the delays caused by nominated sub-contractors including, electrical and mechanical engineers. Among the reasons for their delay was shortage of manpower.
“I’m happy with the main contractor so far, but cannot say the same thing for key professionals who have been sub-contracted and are delaying the project because of their own peculiar challenges,” Seretse said, adding that such behaviour determines the extent to which such professionals commit to the project. In fact, his permanent secretary, Dikagiso Mokotedi was to have a follow-up meeting with all stakeholders involved in the project last week to get explanations from sub-contractors who could not honour the minister’s tour of the facility. Consultants are also expected to produce a report on challenges and make recommendations of action to be taken against those involved.
“These are appointed to do government work, and they need to take it seriously,” Seretse said, adding that things will change as his ministry is working on a structure that will enable them to move from the old way of doing things to ensure that everyone involved is accountable. Seretse said the delay was further exarcebated by the fact that at the beginning of the project, the contractor had to stop work as a result of some investigations that had to be done on site by Heritage specialists at the Department of National Monument and Art Gallery. The delayed supply of some critical roofing materials and other client-initiated variations to the project were also contributing factors.
However, Cui Wanglin of China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd told Botswana Guardian in an interview that although there have been delays, he does not anticipate any cost overruns but is confident that the project will be completed within budget. Wanglin added that they have had to cooperate with the engineers on the designs and constant changes to satisfy the requirements of the client.
“The engineers cannot catch up with us, but we will however cooperate with them so that we are able to hand over the project to the client by July this year,” Wanglin said. The scope of works in the project comprises; the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB), Forensic Science Laboratory and Pathology lab which also houses mortuary, ancillary buildings and related external works.
The facility will also house the latest model of the clinical waste disposal equipment which uses microwave technology to burn waste, which makes it environmentally friendly, compared to the conventional incinerators. Meanwhile, Mokotedi confrmed that the ministry was disbanding the Department of Building and Engineering Services (DBES) and creating a new leaner structure that will achieve efficient and more effective ways of delivering infrastrucre developments.
DBES is responsible for government building development projects, associated infrastructure, engineering services and maintenance of buildings, electrical and mechanical stock. The decision to restructure DBES has also been influenced by common challenges associated with infrastructure developments like delays, cost overruns and poor workmanship.
The new structure, which is part in place, will be separated into two separate areas that involve; infrastructure planning, where pre-contract activities and services will be done on site, and the development department where actual construction processes will be managed, according to Mokotedi. “In the next two to three months we will be working to formalising the details,” Mokotedi said, explaining that it is no longer effective to combine all functions involved in infrastructure development into one single department.
“We want contractors to be able to deliver while on site,” Mokotedi added.
Women are gaining ground in politics around the world. Last year, the so-called “pink wave” saw a record number of women elected to Congress in the US’s mid-term elections. There are signs of progress in Africa, too.
Last October, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was praised for his “transformative leadership” after appointing a new set of ministers – half of whom were women. Earlier in February, Egyptian lawmakers proposed amending the constitution to guarantee women 25 percent of the seats in the national parliament. If it’s approved, this change will significantly increase the political representation of Egyptian women. At present they make up just 15 percent of the legislature.
There’s a huge amount of variation in women’s political representation across Africa, a fact shown by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women’s map of Women in Politics. In some countries, including Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, they make up a substantial portion of the legislature. However, women remain poorly represented in many others.
Some question whether the increased political representation of women is necessarily a good thing, particularly in the context of Africa. They argue that it’s not entirely coincidental that many of the countries making the greatest progress in including women in politics are making far less progress in terms of democracy.
As others have argued, high profile efforts to promote women’s rights can help authoritarian leaders to present themselves as modernisers. This, they hope, will attract the interest of both investors and lenders. Including more women in positions of power can also be useful domestically. It allows leaders with authoritarian leanings, or dubious democratic credentials, to expand their support base and bolster political stability. The recent reforms in both Ethiopia and Egypt could well be the product of such strategies, rather than a genuine commitment to promoting gender equality. Does this mean that there’s nothing to be gained by including more women in politics? There may be no guarantee it promotes democracy. But there are reasons to believe it might pay off in terms of development.
Impact on development
It’s often said that opening up positions of political power to women will lead to development policies that are more effective and better implemented. Now, we’re starting to see evidence that this is in fact the case.
For example, several recent studies show that improving the representation of women in parliament has a positive impact on the health sector. Political scientists Amanda Clayton and Pär Zetterberg have shown that “quota shocks” – large increases in women’s parliamentary representation after the introduction of a gender quota – tend to be followed by rises in government spending on public health.
Other researchers have shown that an increase in the number of women in parliament is associated with a variety of positive health outcomes. These include improvement in women’s life expectancy and reductions in both maternal and infant mortality. These positive impacts are notable, and make sense. There’s plenty of debate about exactly what constitutes a “women’s issue”, but there’s good reason to put health in that category. Surveys from sub-Saharan Africa show that both women citizens, and women parliamentarians, are more likely to identify health as a priority issue than their male counterparts.
Moreover, this “gender gap” in priorities is greater between male and female legislators than between male and female citizens. In short, if expanding the political representation of women is to have an effect anywhere, it ought to be in the health sector (and, of course, in women’s rights).
There is, however, some bad news. It’s still not clear exactly how these positive impacts on development come about. In the case of research showing the link between “quota shocks” and health spending, for instance, there is a correlation – but claims about causal effects remain questionable.
New research is desperately needed that untangles exactly how women in politics make a difference. This is important to help justify the continuing campaign to increase women’s political representation around the world. It will also allow international donors to help women in politics make a positive difference. It’s hard to help someone achieve their goals if you don’t understand the tactics they have at their disposal. With this in mind, an ongoing collaboration between the University of Birmingham and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy – supported by the Institute for Global Innovation – has started to ask some important questions about women in African parliaments. These include whether women in parliament have an impact even where they lack “critical mass” and, if so, what strategies and tactics they employ to overcome their lack of numbers.
Our ongoing research suggests that parliamentary institutions – including parliamentary committees and women’s caucuses – play an important role in helping female politicians in Africa to shape development outcomes. At the moment, we’re looking into how women in Malawi used these institutions to push for some important changes to the HIV and AIDS Act. Generating the knowledge needed will require a lot more research, including research by experts within Africa. Some of this knowledge already exists within the region. Putting African experts at the forefront of new research will help the international community to develop programmes that go beyond “just adding women” to politics. It will also help female politicians in Africa to make a difference against the odds (The Conversation)
Moscow supports the willingness of African countries to have a permanent representation in the United Nations Security Council, Russian Ambassador to Botswana, Victor Sibilev has said. Speaking last week Friday at his residence in Gaborone’s Extension 11 during the commemoration of Russia’s Diplomacy Day, Ambassador Sibilev, who also doubles as the Dean of the local diplomatic corps, said that Russia has demonstrated this by its interest in forging close foreign policy coordination with its African partners in the UN and other multilateral venues.
He said that Africa is an important partner for Russia, an active participant in the emerging polycentric architecture of the world order, adding that Russia supports the principle, “to African problems - African solutions” according to which African countries themselves should find solutions to their problems.” In an aside interview with Botswana Guardian, he condemned machinations being employed by France which seek to acquiesce to Germany’s aspirations for a permanent seat in the Security Council, which were patently manifested by the signing of the Aachen Treaty January 22 this year.
He said that Europe is “overpopulated” in the UN Security Council unlike Africa, Asia and Latin America, which despite hosting the third of the world’s population do not have a seat in the Security Council of the world governing body. Addressing his guests, Ambassador Sibilev enthused that Russia maintains regular contacts with African countries at the highest levels citing the tour of five African countries - Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia - last year March 5-9 by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well as the visits this year January 23-26 to the Maghreb countries, including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
Further, on May 25, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the Central African Republic’s (CAR) President F.Touadera on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, while Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited Russia this year January 14-16 for talks with Putin. Ambassador Sibilev mentioned the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Southern African Development Community on Basic Principles of Relations and Cooperation on October 23, 2018 by Minister S.Lavrov and Executive Secretary of SADC Dr. S.Tax to mark a “new page in our bilateral relations”.
Ambassador Sibilev continued that Russian diplomats rely on the accumulated experience of productive cooperation, in their pursuit for a consistent policy for deepening the range of Russia-Africa relations, based on the principles of international law, equality, and respect for the mutual interests. He said the Russian Federation attaches great importance to strengthening peace and security in Africa which is the most important component in ensuring the sustainable and dynamic development of the African states and maintaining global and regional stability.
He explained that during the 10thBRICS summit in Johannesburg on July 25-27, 2018, the BRICS leaders met with the heads of invited African states and regional organisations and focused on further deepening the dialogue between the Group of Five and African countries. On the multilateral front Ambassador Sibilev explained that Russian diplomacy pursues an independent multi directional foreign policy, makes efforts to strengthen the positive trends on the international stage, finds collective solutions based on international law to the problems all countries are facing, and ultimately promotes a fairer and more democratic polycentric world order in keeping with objective modern realities.
“It develops mutually beneficial relations with all interested states, and plays an active role in the activity of the UN, multilateral organisations and forums, including the G20, BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the OSCE, and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation,” he said.To buttress this engagement, he disclosed that two major events - the Russia-Africa Parliamentary Forum, as well as the Russia-Africa Business Forum - will soon take place and will later in the year be followed by Russia-Africa summit which is expected in Ocrober 2019.
Turning to the bilateral relations between Russia and Botswana, Ambassador Sibilev extolled the virtues of friendship and cooperation that subsists between Moscow and Gaborone. He said both capitals were engaged in concerted efforts to deepen their political dialogue and stepping up mutually beneficial ties in the trade, economic, humanitarian and other spheres. Ambassador Sibilev told his guests, among them Dr. Unity Dow, the minister of International Affairs and Cooperation; Gaborone Mayor, Kagiso Thutlwe, former foreign minister Phandu Skelemani and his wife – that both sides have developed top-level political dialogue, promoting inter-parliamentary contacts and expanding cooperation between their foreign ministries.
For example, he cited the visits last year August, September and November by ministers Shaw Kgathi; Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Dikgang Makgalemele to Moscow and St. Petersburg respectively where they participated in various acrivities including the 2nd Eurasian Woman Forum and its Declaration as well as the 7th Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum. On the education and cultural exchanges, Ambassador Sibilev disclosed that over 50 students travel to study in Russian universities every year. He said the Embassy was also doing its best to give young politicians and diplomats an opportunity to establish contacts with their Russian counterparts through the programme, “New Generation”.
Minister Dow expressed Botswana’s gratitude for the friendly relations that exists between the two nations and hailed Russia for recognising the importance of diplomats as important peace builders in international relations. Ambassador Sibilev used the occasion of the Russia Diplomacy Day to also wish Ambassador H.E. Ms. Meltem Büyükkarakaş of Turkey and High Commissioner of Namibia H.E. Mr. Asser Kapare “great success” at their diplomatic activity.
Also present at the commemoration were Alfred Tebelelo Boang from the ministry of international affairs and cooperation, who has since been moved to head the Department of Euorpe and the Americas as Director. Daphne Mlotshwa, now acting director of Public Relations was also present. It was certainly a cheerful occasion that gathered heads of diplomatic missions in Botswana and government officials as well as the press fraternity together.
The Judgement itself depicted BOCRA as an organisation which wants to apply a one-size fits all approach to all its regulated entities despite their diferent classificaion - a matter that stands to scare service providers from making it easy for consumers to receive services.
It equally helped to show that lots of institutions in the country do not challenge the Regulator in terms of seeking interpretations of the regulations and the Act. The institutions seem to believe that the Regulator is always right and what MultiChoice has done twice is in the best interest of the industry because it has provided an opportunity for the courts to interpret the regulations.This is a good thing not only for MultiChoice but also for the industry. An example is that about four companies were invited to come and receive their respective licences, but MultiChoice refused while Starset Botswana, Kwese and others simply received their licences with the same controversial clause, but never bothered to question BOCRA.
These companies were happy to be licensed but had not scrutinised the conditions of the licence whether they are practical or not.At the centre of the controversy of the marathon trial is Clause 13 of Section 90 of the licence which calls for MultiChoice Botswana to submit to BOCRA in writing a proposal, in respect to subscription fees it intends to apply. MultiChoice refused to take the licence arguing that they can only do so after Clause13 has been scrapped off as they are a Subscriptions Management Service (SMS) company and not a Broadcaster.
The case was a repeat of the first one that took place in 2005 under the National Broadcasting Board (NBB) where MultiChoice Botswana advanced the same arguments. During the trial that started in April 2013 it became evidently clear that all BOCRA did was to insert the failed clause on the new Act stating that they are including SMS companies but without going deeper into understanding the relationship between a subscriptions management company and a broadcaster.
This is despite that different industry players are classified or structured differently, but the ruling has now put to bed once and for all the fact that an SMS company is not a broadcaster. The ruling was made in 2005 by Justice Walia; it was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The ruling states that if BOCRA’s intention is to regulate a foreign broadcaster in Botswana, then they will have to find a way of regulating that foreign broadcaster instead of finding an elusive way, as Justice Brand put it. This surely is a big challenge, but what is not disputable based on the judgement is that BOCRA cannot regulate broadcasters by proxy. More concern during the trial was that some of the companies such as Starset are completely independent of the broadcaster, they do not even have a relationship as they are simply agents but are given licences that allows them to pay tariffs .
Justice Motswagole’s judgement was focusing on the relationship between SMS Company and the Broadcaster that they share a common relationship.The question that arose is what if the agent does not have a common shareholder with the broadcaster? The judgment answers this when it shows unequivocally that MultiChoice Botswana is simply an SMS provider and therefore the regulator cannot impose conditions on an SMS provider and at the same time on the broadcaster.
In terms of the high court judgement, companies such as CineMedia who are agents for Netflix were going to be regulated according to what Netflix is charging in Botswana through CineMedia. It is clear that BOCRA was derailed by the fact that MultiChoice Botswana and MultiChoice Africa are sister companies who share common shareholders.
Court of Appeal
In his order Justice Brand who appeared with Justice Walia and Justice Zibani Makhwade set aside the high court order and replaced it with an order reviewing and setting aside Clause 13 of MultiChoice Botswana’s licence, dismissed BOCRA’s counter application and directed them to pay costs of the High Court proceedings, including costs of the two counsels. Justice Brand stated that MultiChoice Botswana’s challenge to the validity of Clause 13 essentially rests on two grounds - firstly that, although BOCRA is authorised in terms of Section 32 (2) of the Act to issue a licence subject to such conditions as it deems necessary, those conditions must pertain to and be appropriate to the conduct and activities actually undertaken by the licensee itself.
MultiChoice Botswana’s licenced activities do not form part of the actual broadcasting activities which are taken by MultiChoice Africa, consequently, MultiChoice Botswana cannot be bound to conditions that pertain to actual broadcasting in which it performs. Justice Brand stated it somewhat differently, that BOCRA is not allowed to regulate the activities of MultiChoice Africa by proxy through imposing conditions on the license of MultiChoice Botswana as it was proposed to do. Brand further confirmed that MultiChoice Botswana has no control and input with regard to tariff rates charged to subscribers nor the content of the programming or composition of the packages or bouquets of channels presented to the subscribers, and therefore cannot comply with section 13, and that BOCRA is not allowed to impose conditions which are impossible in a licence.
Speaking to BG News on what their next step is BOCRA’s Communication Manager, Aaron Nyelesi said that their legal team was constrained to respond to media questions before the Board is briefed on what the case means and what could be the way forward.
“Despite this, the court has held that the licence is still valid without clause 13. Basically MultiChoice should be regulated as an SMS provider. The court views clause 13 as BOCRA’s way of imposing conditions on MultiChoice Africa through MultiChoice Botswana, which is in the opinion of the court, wrong. However, note that they advise against us being quoted before the executive structure has been briefed to advise on the way forward”.
Some 31 in 100 Batswana are overweight - a study by the Ministry of Health and Wellness has found out.It also established that 18 percent smoke, 26 percent drink alcohol; 20 percent do not engage in enough physical activity and about 95 percent do not eat enough servings of fruits and vegetables given in a day.
Speaking during the World Cancer Day commemoration in Mochudi early this week, Dr. Bonolo Mhaladi of the Oncology department at Princess Marina Hospital urged Batswana to join hands in fighting the deadly scourge that Cancer has become. He lamented that studies conducted thus far have failed to identify the cause of the disease but have found out what could increase the chances of getting Cancer, which are collectively known as “risk factors”. A risk factor, he said, is not a cause but it increases the probability of having any form of cancer. They include; cigarette smoking, obesity, Immuno compromised state (HIV, Diabetes etc), advanced age, gender and mamily history of cancer.
He advised that people within this hierarchy should be careful and beware that they have a possibility of getting Cancer at one stage in life, so they should take care of themselves and do thorough checkups whenever they suspect something. He said this could help in treating Cancer while it is still at an early stage. Dr Mhaladi reiterated the importance of taking note of these risk factors for people with Cancer to lead a certain lifestyle.
He said that reducing alcohol consumption especially strong beverages (especially 43 percent), looking out for the body mass index and losing weight, quitting smoking or any contact with cigarrette smoke, watching diet and getting a balanced diet with essential nutrients and exercising are essential in a Cancer patient’s life.Health Minister Dr. Alfred Madigele said it is estimated that 1400 new cases of Cancer are diagnosed annually in Botswana. He said 70 percent are often diagnosed late when there is little chance for cure and treatment is more expensive and uncomfortable for the patients.
As for the top most commonly diagnosed Cancers in Botswana he mentioned Kaposi Sarcoma (Skin cancer), Cervical, Breast, Oesophageal, and Prostate cancers. Dr. Madigele lamented that over the past years, Cancer as a Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) has taken over in Botswana unlike previously when it was common in developed countries. He called on Batswana to ensure that they fight non-communicable diseases such as Cancer, Diabetes. The minister outlined some of the services such as health promotion, disease prevention and treatment services for Cancer and other NCDs that his governent provides for all citizens.
He mentioned the multisectorial national NCD strategy (2018-2023) and the quality health services across the country for prevention, early detection and treatment of various forms of Cancer such as See and Treat, and Pap Smears so that Cancers are detected and treated at an early stage. He said these services are offered in 45 facilities across 26 districts of the country.
Furthermore Dr. Madigele said the turnaround time for pap-smear has been improved to four to six weeks from two months. The ministry is also vaccinating young girls from nine to 13 years against cervical cancer as well as doing awareness campaigns on breast cancer dubbed ‘Itse mabele a gago’. Cancer survivors applauded both the government of Botswana through the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Cancer Association Botswana for being there for them and the efforts that they do to beat this scourge.