President Ian Khama has defended his decision to suspend four judges of the High Court. Khama says his decision is final and not reviewable. The president stated this in court papers filed at the Lobatse High Court this week. The four judges are suing him for suspending them pending investigations.

Khama late last month suspended four High Court Judges Justice Key Dingake, Justice Modiri Letsididi, Justice Mercy Garekwe and Justice Ranier Busang for undermining the Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo and bringing the judiciary into disrepute. According to Khama  the judges’ application as it stands is misconceived in so far as it is based on the erroneous assumption that ‘my decision is reviewable’. He stated in the court papers that the applicants have not demonstrated the existence of sound prospects for his decision being set aside at the envisaged review.

“I have been advised that my decision is not susceptible to review by this honourable court, alternatively, should this court find that my said decision is indeed reviewable, that I have a discretion under Section 97 of the Constitution, to suspend the applicants pending the finalisation of the investigation to be carried out by the Tribunal which I have set up in terms of the provisions of the Constitution of this republic. Insofar as the discretion reposed in me is concerned, I respectfully submit, that I exercised that discretion duly, properly and lawfully”, said Khama.  He requested the court to dismiss the application.

The case which was set for hearing on Thursday this week has been postponed to the 28th of September 2015 at the Lobatse High Court. Khama suspended the quartet for challenging Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo's move to report them to the police for receiving housing allowances while staying in official residences.

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President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko has dismissed the Tribunal appointed to investigate the four suspended judges as a “mere formality,” to cover up President Ian Khama’s “corruption” since the judges will be “fired” anyway.

Flanked by his deputy, Ndaba Gaolathe, the UDC leader was addressing a press conference on Wednesday in Francistown. He said the suspension of the four judges is a clear sign of Khama’s corruption. “Justice delayed is justice denied,” he said explaining that a tribunal is to be held for the suspended judges. He added that the justice system is currently in crisis as the workload of the judges has to be shared among the remaining eight. Touching on the utility crisis currently besieging the country, Boko said the water crisis started a long time ago and has been marked by critical instances of corruption by individuals in the current government.

He defended his party’s decision to march and hand a petition to the president of the country over the current crisis saying they will not apologise for marching and will in fact continue to raise alarm even if it is through dance and song. He added that billions of pulas were spent on Morupule A yet it remains a cold power station. “Billions of pulas were pumped into the procurement of these power and water projects and when you are confronted with the mistakes of the past you come up to us and tell us you do not make it rain. Of course you don’t make it rain, you are not God,” said Boko when clarifying the reason why they queried the situation to President Ian Khama.

Khama was quoted as saying he is not a rainmaker when he commissioned the Masama well fields in the Kgatleng district on the same day of the UDC protest march. Boko’s lieutenant, Ndaba Gaolathe said the solution to the water and power crisis lies in acquiring a regulator for utilities in the country, which he said should have been done a long time ago. He added that for investors to find it appealing to invest in the country they must be assured that they will recoup their investments, but if there is no regulator then there is no telling what the future holds citing that nobody can readily tell what the price of water will be in the next year.

The current government is under investing in these vital resources, allocating only P3.5 billion to water and power when in actual fact the government should not be spending any less than P30 billion over a period of five years. Boko added that the bulk of the P54 billion-budget goes towards funding corruption and that the UDC demands that the government must account for the billions-worth of taxes.

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Two major festivities have been organised to celebrate the listing of the Okavango Delta as a World Heritage Site. The first event takes place this Saturday in Shakawe main kgotla where Assistant Minister of Local Governent, Botlogile Tshireletso is expected to officiate.

On August 21st residents of Maun will also have their fair share of celebrations at the main kgotla. The Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama is expected to officiate at the Maun celebrations. According to a press release from the MEWT the celebrations are held to afford the people of Ngamiland the opportunity to celebrate the listing and understand its implications on their daily lives.

The two events come a year after the World Heritage Committee on June 22nd 2014 in Doha, Qatar listed the Okavango Delta as a World Heritage Site for its exceptional beauty and aesthetic importance. “The Delta was also listed for its outstanding ecological biodiversity and hydrological process and for protecting threatened and endangered species,” says the release. The celebrations follow another milestone that was made since the listing of the delta, which saw the Okavango delta World Heritage Site commemorative stamps series being launched in Gaborone by Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

The delta is the 1000th World Heritage Site. Botswana still prides herself over this great achievement and wants to share the beauty of the Okavango Delta with the rest of the world. The stamps showcase the habitat of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site that is one of the aspects of the listing.

Published in Style
Monday, 17 August 2015 10:25

President Khama is new SADC chairperson

The 35th SADC Heads of State and government summit started this morning in Gaborone. Giving her introductory remarks the SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence -Tax paid tribute to the outgoing chairperson, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

Mugabe will hand over the reins to President Ian Khama of Botswana today. Meanwhile security remains tight at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) where the summit is being held. Entrance is strictly by invite or accreditation with members of the law enforcement having cordoned a big area in front of both the hotel and the convention centre.

The security personnel have not left anything to chance. They have armed themselves with all the necessary resources including sniffer dogs. Most of the SADC heads of State are attending the summit.

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Tuesday, 04 August 2015 09:07

Disgruntled soldier sues BDF

A soldier who was allegedly threatened to die like John Kalafatis is suing the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) for just over half a million Pula for denying him the right to education after BDF did not release him to further his studies as an accountant.
John Kalafatis was the son of Greek immigrants who was killed gangland style when soldiers opened fire on him at a shopping complex in Gaborone in May 2009. Three soldiers were subsequently sentenced to an 11-year jail term but President Ian Khama used his executive powers to grant them a pardon and reinstated them in the BDF after serving less than a year of their sentences.

The appellant is Keabetswe Gwafa, a private based at Village Garrison under Corps of Engineers in Gaborone, while the respondents are the BDF and Attorney General. Gwafa is demanding a total of P562 222.58 in the matter which has been set for hearing at Lobatse High Court on August 11, 2015.According to court papers, Gwafa wants P273 000.00 for denying him the right to education, P50 000.00 for trauma and depression and P150 000.00 for denying him the right to justice and protection of life. He states that he believes he is unlawfully employed by the BDF because he has since tendered his resignation to the employer but the resignation was denied. He says he decided to quit the military in January 2009 and wrote a resignation letter which was given to Colonel (now Major) Gabarongwe.

“While awaiting to be released, I then applied for government sponsorship and was admitted to study Certified Accounting Technician at Baisago University College,” he avers. “Since my three months had elapsed and I had not yet been released, I then wrote another resignation letter on the 24th August 2009. On receipt of the new resignation application, Major Gabarongwe apologised for the delay of my first letter and insisted that I take a paid leave and go and start my studies and promised that I will be released with immediate effect.

‘On the 24th of September 2009, Major Gabarongwe advised the Commander to release me with immediate effect as they have delayed releasing me and the situation has already tampered with my future plans. I could have completed my studies in July 2011 and got a job paying me at least P6 500.00 per month.'Gwafa states that due to the misconduct of the BDF, he was arrested for leaving without being properly released and argues that this destroyed his opportunity to study.
“I was detained at Sir Seretse Khama Barracks for 28 days,” he says in court papers. “I started suffering depression and trauma and was referred to Sbrana Mental Hospital in Lobatse to undergo therapy during the months of November and December 2009. I was forced to withdraw the resignation while still in detention, which was quickly approved.”

While still serving as a member of the BDF, Gwafa avers, the BDF put him on trial for drunkenness in November 2011. During the trial, Lt. Colonel Gabarongwe told him that he would die like John Kalafatis, Gwafa stated in his court papers. He reported the matter immediately to the BDF commander and was told that necessary steps would be taken. Gwafa says he was ordered to undergo a military training course for 18 months beginning January 2012. However, during the training course and thereafter, the then investigating officer, Brigadier Anderson Matlho, was transferred and replaced by Lt. Colonel Gabarongwe.

“Fearing for my life as the BDF could not help, I then reported the matter to the Gaborone Central Police Station,” he says. “The police referred the matter to the Office of Ombudsman, who (office of ombudsman) said the matter was out of their jurisdiction. The documents filed by Brigadier Matlho went missing and my house was broken into and all the documents in my possession also went missing.”
Gwafa represents himself while Itumeleng Sharp of Attorney General represents the state.

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Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) held its 6th Annual Excellence Awards this week at Boipuso Hall Fairgrounds. Once again, this year event has seen participation from President Ian Khama and Minister of Education and Skills Development Dr. Unity Dow. The over-riding goal of the Annual Excellence Awards is to encourage good performance during national examinations whereby parents, teachers and students would work hard to produce high flyers.

Speaking at the ceremony, Dr. Dow said “we are proud that you have achieved where you are today as a result of effort and sacrifice”. The minsietr encouraged young people to read and write, to read widely about anything and to write without care about grammar. She believes that read and write are at the heart of creativity. Before giving the Golden Star Award/Presidential Award to Dimpho Gosenyang from Naledi Senior Secondary School, President Khama noted that “It is my sincere wish that they continue to be exemplary in the next phase of their schooling. I call upon parents, teachers, civil society, clubs and associations to commit to building a better future for our children. We further call upon all other stakeholders including the private sector to join hands with Government to achieve national educational and societal goals.”

The success of this event is attributed to the generous contribution of a number of sponsors. Huawei, the Chinese ICT giant, stands out as a foreign company making donations to this event. The company sponsored the category of “Best School/PTA”, donating in total 60,000BWP to the three best schools/best PTAs. Communicating with this newspaper, Abel Deng, the Managing Director of Huawei Botswana, states that “Huawei has been operating in Botswana for 17 years. In those years, Huawei has not only made big business achievements, but also demonstrated itself as a responsible corporate citizen through a number of CSR events. A major focus of Huawei’s CSR is creating opportunities through education. Huawei believes that education is the foundation of a country’s development and that young people are the future of a nation. And hence today’s sponsorship by Huawei for Best Schools and Best PTAs”.

On May 16, the company donated 60 Huawei tablets to three schools in Ghanzi to mark the 2015 World Telecommunications and Information Society Day and to bridge the digital divide in remote areas of Botswana. End of July, Huawei will also be sponsoring University of Botswana for its New Students Orientation program by giving a large number of T-shirts.

“As a foreign company which is committed to its long-term presence and development in Botswana, Huawei will continuously contribute to the development of education in Botswana as well as to other causes of the nation”, said Abel Deng. This is the sixth year since the Excellence Awards were introduced and staged on the 20th May 2010. The Awards have since grown in leaps and bounds with trusted sponsors and partners with the goal of seeing a vibrant Human Resource in tandem with the “Knowledge Based Economy” thrust.

Published in News
Tuesday, 07 July 2015 14:49

Domkrag is sick-DK

Former Botswana Democratic Party Secretary General, Daniel Kwelagobe has delivered a damning verdict on the once mighty Domkrag. According to him, the party which has been in power for the past four decades is now on “slippery ground” and in need of immediate change at leadership level.

The ruling party is heading for its elective congress this weekend in Mmadinare, just a few days after the nation celebrated the BDP and Botswana’s founding president, Sir Seretse Khama’s birthday. Thirty-five (35) years after his passing Seretse is still renowned for building a formidable and united BDP. His firstborn son, Ian Khama will this weekend lead a disjointed party to a congress which political pundits say will test his succession plan. Khama’s anointed successor Mokgweetsi Masisi is contesting the position of party chairman-a contest that will test his own popularity.

He is contesting against Ramadeluka Seretse, Seteng Motalaote, Moemedi Dijeng and Biggie Butale. But Kwelagobe, who holds the record of being the longest serving secretary general for the BDP thinks the once mighty Domokrag is now on a sick bed and has called on party members to stop denying the fact that the BDP is on slippery ground. “A sick person who keeps denying his or her condition cannot recover,” he said, addressing delegates in Francistown in his quest to garner votes for Tebelelo Seretse.

DK, as Kwelagobe is popularly known, served the BDP as secretary general for 27 years and was later voted chairman of the party. The man who served as Member of Parliament under all the four Presidents, including Sir Seretse Khama, threw his weight behind Tebelelo Seretse. “I support Tebelelo Seretse because I know her. She has the wherewithal to turn this party around if elected,” he said. Even President Khama is aware of her capabilities, said DK, because when she “contested against me for the same position back in 2010, he sang her praises.” He reminded that former President, Festus Mogae once told women to use their numbers to empower one another, when they demanded him to appoint them to decision making positions in the country, “I repeat this appeal to you today. Use the congress to elect a competent woman to a decision-making position,” said DK.

Meanwhile, Tebelelo Seretse is confident that she will emerge victorious at the congress. Should she achieve that feat, she will be the first woman to hold the position of chairperson in the ruling party. “I have covered the entire country canvassing for support and I must say I am humbled by the reception,” she told close to 40 delegates at Tati River Lodge in Francistown on Sunday, “This is despite the fact that I have got no money. I already feel the weight of your expectations ahead of the party elective congress in Mmadinare,” said the former cabinet minister who returned from the United States of America (USA) recently where she served as Ambassador. Seretse, who has served as board member for several organisations including Debswana, Botswana Life and Bank of Botswana told the meeting that she is the only one among the other contestants for the post of chairperson who has represented the party in debates. “I have competently represented the party in a number of debates at the University of Botswana (UB), Matlho-A-Phage and other fora,” she reminisced.

She explained how she also raised money for the party and even acquired a kombi for the BDP Women’s Wing when she was its chairperson. “If you do not vote for me, it will not be a loss to me but to the party,” she said. Kwelagobe added that Seretse would bring reforms for the benefit of the party and the country. “If no radical changes are made in the party, forget about winning the 2019 general election,” he opined. DK, who during his heydays used to amuse people at public rallies by suggesting that a win by the opposition was as impossible as a donkey growing horns, told the meeting that the possibility of an opposition government in Botswana now exists.

The BDP veteran who lost his parliamentary seat in Molepolole to the opposition in the last general election said that even Masisi supported women empowerment. “When he returned from the African Union (AU) meeting in South Africa recently, the Vice President explained that one of the issues discussed and agreed upon by the African leaders was the empowerment of women,” he said. The first woman to contest an executive position in the Botswana Democratic Party was Margaret Nasha when she sought to be the party chairperson. She lost to Daniel Kwelagobe.

In 2010, Tebelelo Seretse contested the position of party chairperson but also lost to the then incumbent, Kwelagobe. Three years later, for the third time in a row, another woman, Pelonomi Venson contested the party chairpersonship against another new entrant, Samson Moyo Guma, but also lost. The party chairperson is effectively the party vice president although the latter provision does not exist in the BDP constitution.

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President Ian Khama has cut short his attendance at the ongoing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) national congress in Mmadinare for an emergency SADC Heads of State meeting in Pretoria, South Africa today (Friday).

The meeting will discuss the political turmoil engulfing the mountain kingdom of Lesotho brought about by the killing of former Army Commander Maaparankoe Mahao last Thursday. It will also address the precarious security situation in that country. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi told Botswana Guardian that Botswana’s advance team led by permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lapologang Caesar Lekoa has already left the country for South Africa to prepare for the respective meetings. Moitoi was scheduled to leave for South Africa yesterday (Thursday) to attend the SADC Ministers meeting while President Ian Khama will arrive in Lesotho on Friday for the SADC Heads of State meeting.

Moitoi said that their visit to South Africa follows a debriefing by South Africa’s Special Envoy in the Minister of Defence and Security, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. The envoy was dispatched on Wednesday by SADC Troika chairman and South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma to brief Botswana government on the latest developments in Lesotho. According to South Africa’s High Commissioner in Botswana, Lembede Mdu, Nqakula was part of the fact-finding delegation that travelled to Lesotho to assess the situation in that country. The killing of Mahao last Thursday has thrown Lesotho into political turmoil. Currently all three opposition leaders are reported to have fled the country fearing for their lives. Among those who fled is former Prime Minister, Tom Thabane who was an ally of Mahao. Early this week, SADC Troika Chairperson President Zuma sent SADC facilitator in Lesotho who is also his deputy President -Cyril Ramaphosa-to Lesotho’s Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and Foreign Affairs Minister Tlohang Sekhamane.

The killing of Mahao has raised security concerns in the mountain Kingdom, which recently underwent regime change through the electoral process. Mahao’s family is accusing the Lesotho government of reluctance to investigate his murder. Based on this, Lesotho Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili appealed to SADC to help with the investigation. South Africa agreed to send pathologists with Zimbabwe and Namibia offering to send investigators to probe the killing of Lesotho’s former army commander General Mahao.

At the end of his Lesotho trip, Ramaphosa was widely quoted as having said that, “Prime Minister Mosisili has requested that SADC should assist with the investigation into the death of Lieutenant General Mahao, as well as to assist with the pathology examination around his death.” He said that South Africa would be sending pathologists to do the examination and other countries in the region; Zimbabwe and Namibia would send investigators to investigate the circumstances around Lieutenant General Mahao’s death. Minister Motoi confirmed that the decision to send experts from the neighbouring countries to Lesotho was SADC’s and would lead to a lasting solution.

Published in News
Tuesday, 02 June 2015 12:45

Independence of the judiciary at stake

The Law Society of Botswana (LSB) this week filed court papers challenging President Ian Khama’s powers when appointing judges of the High Court. The landmark case, which some in legal circles say is of national and international interest, was triggered by a recent decision by Khama to reject a recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to appoint attorney Omphemetse Motumise a judge of the High Court on a permanent basis.

Instead, the President endorsed Dr Zein Kebonang - the brother of the Minister of Trade and Industry in Khama’s cabinet, Sadique Kebonang - for the position on an acting basis.  LSB is challenging the President’s decision because it holds that the JSC has sole responsibility for deciding who should be appointed judges of the High Court. “The President does not retain any form of discretion to refuse or reject the advice of the JSC on which candidate should be appointed,” reads part of the LSB’s court papers seen by this publication.The case, which is at the heart of the rule of law as it touches on issues of the independence of the judiciary, will be heard by justices Abednico Tafa and Singh Walia on a date to be set.  LSB argues in papers tabled on Tuesday that Khama’s decision not to appoint Motumise behind closed doors has the potential to contribute to erosion of public confidence in the judiciary.

“Candidates apply to a seat of profound public power and prestige, to which an appropriately high standard of public scrutiny and accountability is attached,” a filing affidavit reads The law society wants the High Court to determine, among other things, whether the President has a discretion to refuse candidates who were or are nominated by the JSC for appointment as judges of the High Court, to what extent the proceedings and decisions of the JSC are confidential, and to what extent the LSB representative on the JSC is entitled to consult with and report to the LSB Council on decisions and proceedings of the JSC.

Lawyers representing LSB argue in their court papers that the role of the JSC in the appointment of judges under Section 96 (2) is pivotal and crucial. They note that the scope and reach of the section does not permit exercise of any discretion by the President to refuse or reject the advice of the JSC regarding which candidate to appoint.The society’s legal team, comprises Dick Bayford, Osego Garebamono, Tshiamo Rantao and Mboki Chilisa. Legal brains view the case as “groundbreaking” and regard it as a matter of huge national importance because it touches on the integrity and credibility of the judiciary, its independence, the doctrine of separation of powers and the rule of law.

The lawyers want President Khama’s decision not to appoint Motumise as a judge of the High Court to be reviewed and set aside. They are also pleading with the Judges to declare that the President is bound to follow and implement the lawful advice of the JSC on the appointment of High Court judges in terms of section 96(2) of the constitution.

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Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) national chairman, Daniel Kwelagobe has declared his support for Tebelelo Seretse in the ongoing race for the position of party chairperson.

The BDP will hold its elective congress in Mmadinare this July. Member of Parliament Biggie Butale, former MPs Ramadeluka Seretse and Tebelelo Seretse, Moemedi Dijeng, Seteng Motalaote, Dithapelo Tshotlego and Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi are contesting for the hot seat. Masisi, the latest entrant in the race, is expected to automatically succeed President Khama as Head of State when the President retires in 2018.

His supporters argue that, doubling as chairman of the party would make him a better president of the party as he would be closer to the party structures. Kwelagobe disagrees. “That is a joke. What is needed is not somebody who will become chairperson to learn the goings-on of the party first but someone who goes in there to lead the party.” In an interview, Kwelagobe, spoke glowingly of Tebelelo Seretse.

“I support Tebelelo Seretse because of her long and meaningful activism in the party. She was in the BDP Youth Wing during her early days. I was in the leadership of the mother body myself from which I took note of her contribution to the BDP. She travelled the length and breadth of this country raising funds for the youth. As an adult, she led the BDP Women’s Wing. She has both been a Member of Parliament (MP) and of the Central Committee,” said the former MP for Molepolole South and former long serving party secretary general.

Ironically, Seretse challenged Kwelagobe at the Kanye congress in 2010 but lost. Back then, President Ian Khama, who publicly supported her against Kwelagobe, spoke in glowing terms about her. He described her as a selfless visionary while portraying Kwelagobe as a self-seeking individual who was also a spent force. The historically conscious Kwelagobe reminisced, “Only a few years ago, she was rightly portrayed by this country’s leadership as a visionary and quality leader. That still stands and if anything, she has become even better in terms of quality,” opined the man many say knows where all the bodies are buried with respect to the BDP.

It is widely speculated that Khama backs Masisi in the high stakes fight for the chairmanship of the party. Former party chairman, Guma Moyo has been quoted in the media declaring his support for Masisi for the position of chairmanship. Meanwhile, another BDP veteran, who is also a former Minister, Margaret Nasha, a close friend of Kwelagobe, decided to be diplomatic when asked to say who she supported.

“Let the best person, the most hard-working, approachable person who genuinely cares about the party and its members win. I know exactly who that person is. But I am not sharing that information with you,” wrote Nasha in an SMS in response to an enquiry. She also revealed that she had spoken to the person she supports and wished that person well. Is it Seretse, who happens to be a woman like herself? The gender activist replied, “Your suspicions could be true.”

Both Kwelagobe and Nasha do not share the concern by onlookers that the number of people contesting the chairmanship of the BDP is needlessly high. “Not only is this good for democracy. The party constitution gives everybody the right to vote and be voted for. It is easy for a two-way race to develop into factions,” said Kwelagobe without elaborating. He is happy that none of the contenders is circulating a lobby list. Expressing concern over allegations of vote-buying even in an internal party elections, he said that people should consider somebody for endorsement on the basis of the person’s abilities as well as what the person has done for the party. According to Nasha, “The number of candidates does not necessarily bring polarisation. Democrats deserve the right to choose. The more the merrier!”

Like Kwelagobe, her choice is, “Somebody who knows the party and works hard. Not an armchair leader.” Nasha, the immediate past Speaker of the National Assembly recently published a book casting aspersions on the party leadership especially Khama much to the chagrin of those concerned. For his part, former cabinet Minister, Peter Siele, said that he was not yet ready to share his voting habits. “To be honest, only one candidate, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has sought my support. As for the other candidates or their campaign teams, they are yet to talk to me,” said Siele adding that he had sat with Ramadeluka Seretse and Masisi in cabinet. Outgoing BDP chairman, who also doubled as Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe would not be drawn into discussing his preferred candidate either.

“My answer is that it has to be somebody who shows he has the welfare of the people at heart by creating necessary opportunities for them. It has to be somebody who can appreciate the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. It has to be someone who understands the demographic changes we face as a country. It has to be a selfless person who appreciates that the party is above self,” thundered Kedikilwe.

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