Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 17 April 2018 - Botswana Guardian
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 12:02

Not off the hook

Published in News
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 11:59

Masisi’s powers under spotlight

BCP challenges President’s powers in court

Masisi’s presidency is unconstitutional - Rantao

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is expected to approach the High Court on urgency to challenge President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s powers regarding appointment of Vice President and dissolution of Parliament.

The BCP this week wrote a letter to Speaker of National Assembly Gladys Kokorwe challenging Masisi’s powers to appoint a vice president as they believe that section 35 (1) under which he ascended to the presidency does not give him overriding powers to appoint a vice president. The party threatened to approach the courts if the Speaker fails to act on their demands.

By Wednesday evening Kokorwe had not yet responded to the BCP letter. 

Dumelang Saleshando, president of the BCP, told Botswana Guardian that the speaker has until end of Thursday (yesterday) to have executed her duty of convening the National Assembly to elect the President. “If she fails to do that then we would proceed with the litigation,” said Saleshando. Kokorwe could not be reached for comment. This publication is however informed that the speaker has been advised not to make such an undertaking and wait for the litigation.

The letter was copied to the Attorney General Advocate Abraham Keetshabe and titled, ‘Election of the President of the Republic of Botswana’ under Section 35 (4) as read with Section 35 (5) of the Constitution of Botswana. 

The BCP through its lawyers Dingake Law Partners states in the letter that its clients BCP (the party), MP for Ramotswa Samuel Rantuana and MP for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse opine that there are four (4) types of Presidents envisaged under the Constitution, and these are; Section 32 President; Section 35 (1) President; Section 35 (2) President; and Section 35 (4) President. 

The law firm indicated that as provided for by the Constitution, only Section 32 and Section 35 (4) Presidents are substantive holders of office with the power to make appointments (revoke the appointment of Vice President) or dissolve Parliament.

Section 32 states; Election of President after dissolution of Parliament. Sub section (1) Whenever Parliament is dissolved an election shall be held to the office of President in such manner as is prescribed by this section and, subject thereto, by or under an Act of Parliament. Sub section  (2) Nominations in the election of a President shall be delivered to the returning officer on such day and at such time as may be prescribed by or under any law for the time being in force in Botswana; the nomination of a candidate in an election of a President shall not be valid unless it is supported, in such manner as may be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament, by not less than 1000 persons registered as voters for the purpose of elections to the Assembly.

“His Excellency President Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi is neither a Section 32 nor Section 35 (2) President. Further, he did not ascend to the office of President following an election by Parliament. And to this extent, does not qualify as one (President) under Section 35 (4) as read with Section 35 (5) of the Constitution,” the letter states.

BCP argues that therefore President Masisi is, remains and has always been a Section 35 (1) President; and must be treated as such. Section 35 (1) indicates that whenever the President dies, resigns or ceases to hold office, the Vice-President shall assume office as President with effect from the date of the death, resignation or ceasing to be President. The party further argues that the Constitution in terms of Section 35 (3) provides that a Section 35 (1) President “shall not exercise the powers of the President to revoke the appointment of Vice President or dissolve Parliament”.

“Section 35 (4) and (5) provide for a mechanism of transforming a President under Section 35 (1) and Section 35 (2) into a fully-fledged President. Until such a president is fully-fledged their powers are limited to the extend (sic) provided by Section 35 (3) of the Constitution. The process of transforming a Section 35 (1) President shall take place on the seventh (7) day after the office of President becomes vacant, or such earlier day as may be appointed by the speaker as provided for under Section 35 (4) of the Constitution. 

“To the extent that you have not convened the National Assembly on such earlier date for election of the President, our clients demand that you give an undertaking to us in writing, no later than the 11th of April 2018 at 09hrs00min that you will convene the National Assembly for purposes of election of the President under Section 35 (4) of the Constitution no later than the 12th April 2018 at 24hrs00mis,” reads the letter from Dingake Law Partners adding that they hold instruction to approach to approach court on an urgent basis if no undertaking is given and within the requested period of time for an appropriate injunction.

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Botswana government has decided to resuscitate the P500 million-credit facility extended to Zimbabwe’s Short Term Emergence Recovery Programme (STERP) in 2009.

This was revealed by Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Vincent Seretse this week. Seretse stated that former President Ian Khama expressed the commitment of Botswana Government to resuscitate the credit line.“We had signed on our side but Zimbabwe could not sign because of the challenges that they were facing. When President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited Botswana he made enquiry about it. The then President Khama promised that it would be dealt with and as we speak relevant ministries are busy with it. 

“We are hopeful that in few months’ time everything would be concluded,” said Seretse who was appointed to head the foreign affairs ministry last week. He stated that the draft agreement was submitted to Zimbabwe in April 2011. 

Botswana government would provide a partial guarantee for the lines of credit while Zimbabwe would provide a counter guarantee and indemnity to Botswana for the risk or exposure. In addition, the Export Credit Insurance Company Botswana (BECI) will enter into subsidiary finance guarantee agreements with participating local banks. 

The two countries have reached an agreement that 70 percent of the resources will go towards the manufacturing sector while the remaining 30 percent will go towards other sectors. The Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) was signed in March after the two governments recognised opportunities for increased investment in the two countries and a need to conclude the agreement in the shortest possible time.Seretse who was addressing the media at his office in Gaborone on Wednesday this week said Zimbabwe’s economy has not fully recovered as some international investors have not returned to the country in full force. The minister stated that maybe a major shakeup could be expected after Zimbabwe’s elections expected later this year. Seretse explained that the investors want to see if indeed the elections would be free and fair and observe what would happen there afterwards. “When Mnangagwa was here he explained that everyone is welcome back to Zimbabwe. He promised free, fair and credible elections. That was the highest stake the president has put on the table. He has invited SADC and international bodies to freely come to Zimbabwe and observe the elections. This should motivate investors,” the minister said. According to the minister things are shaping up for Zimbabwe as the country has also been invited to come back into the Commonwealth. It was suspended in 2002 over political violence against opponents of former president, Robert Mugabe regime. Membership of the Commonwealth brings both economic and political support.

Published in News
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 11:56

Climate change threats real for Botswana

Botswana has been challenged to embrace adaptation to climate change, given its environmental social and economic circumstances.

Speaking at the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting for authors, Professor Thelma Krug Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) vice-chairperson told over 100 international scientists gathered in Gaborone this week that Botswana is prone to climate change due to its fragile environments and semi-aridity.

“Botswana is highly vulnerable to climate change particularly agriculture or livestock, woodlands and forest, water and health,” said Professor Krug at the 4th Lead Author session of the IPCC. She said climate change is likely to add to existing stresses for Botswana causing significant changes in prevalent vegetation and rangeland cover, affecting species types, composition and distribution, as well as those depending on them. “Adaptation to climate change in Botswana is vital given the environmental, social and economic circumstances,” said Professor Krug.

In the Southern Africa region, Botswana is one of the countries affected by loss of livestock under prolonged drought conditions given its extensive rangeland, making it difficult to provide adequate provision of water for livestock production.

Slumber Tsogwane, Botswana’s vice president said the nation needs to effectively respond to the negative effects of climate change. “Botswana is located in a region where the rate of warming exceeds that of the global average.

“The vulnerability of the country to the adverse effects of climate change needs to be better understood, as well as its implications on environmental and socio-economic sectors such as health, water, tourism, infrastructure, agriculture and overall development,” said Tsogwane.

 

Published in News
Tuesday, 17 April 2018 11:54

Adv. Kebonang clears his name

Says his former Acting PS, Dr. Obakeng is “not honest”

I was never involved in the fund (NPF) because it was run by the PS

Billions of Pula might have been illegally siphoned out of National Petroleum Fund (NPF) given the way things are done, says former minister at Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Advocate Sadique Kebonang.

Advocate Kebonang made the revelations this week during Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) probe on the NPF. The former minister stated that the history of the NPF Fund Order shows that it has never been properly followed. Advocate Kebonang stated that funds from the NPF could have been lost even before he joined the ministry in October 2016. 

The Lobatse Member of Parliament took a swipe at former Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry Dr. Obolokile Obakeng for failing the ministry. He indicated that Dr Obakeng has failed the NPF, as he did not hold any meetings as the chairman of the NPF Management Committee. 

He said the PS did not ensure that as per the Fund Order the management was constituted by the right people. He was answering a question from PAC member Ndaba Gaolathe who is also MP for Gaborone Bonnington South. The MP wanted to know if “billions or let us say P1 billion or P2 billion could have been leaked out of the Fund because the Fund has been porous”.

Gaolathe also wanted to know how this could have been the case if Advocate Kebonang was a hands-on minister as he had earlier claimed to have been. It was also revealed at the hearing that there are no guidelines on how funds should be disbursed from the NPF.

“The problem with Government is that when you ask questions and start sniffing around as minister, people start saying you are corrupt. They would say you want to give confidential information to a third party. That is the problem with our public service. The NPF Management Committee has been dysfunctional. 

“I never met the committee which at the time of my arrival at the ministry I suppose was there because I was never asked to appoint the committee. I think things got out of hand because the committee failed to advise the fund managers. I have never been involved in the NPF management, people are shifting blame,” said Advocate Kebonang.

The former minister dismissed evidence by Dr Obakeng that he (minister) put him under pressure to agree to the variation of the P230 million given to Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS). Dr Obakeng told the committee that he acceded to the request by DIS because the minister put him under pressure and was afraid of losing his job and concerned about the security threat of the country as stated in the letter from DIS.

“When the letter from DIS asking for variation arrived, I was out of office. My secretary called me and informed me that I have a letter from DIS and is very urgent. I asked her to open it and read it to me. I told her to take it to the PS. I asked the PS about his thoughts on the request, he agreed that there is nothing wrong and said he would get on it. I only learnt later that even such a letter was addressed to the PS and not me. 

“I had no reason to second guess the request by DIS because DIS is another government department which deals with security matters and what they do with the money is up to them. Whether they followed proper procurement process or not is for them to answer. I also did not find it wrong to agree to the variation of the funds because at that time the funds were already with the DIS,” he said adding the statement by Dr. Obakeng is unfortunately false. 

He said he was never involved in the fund because it was run by the PS who was responsible for appointing the fund managers Basis Point in October 2015 a time which he (Kebonang) was still at Ministry of Trade and Industry.

To support his arguments against his former PS Advocate Kebonang produced letters and minutes which he said the PS failed to produce to the PAC because he is not honest. “People come here, say they are under duress and hide information from you. Some of the things that were said here are outrageous. 

“According to minutes of the committee they last met on 8th November 2016 and was mainly constituted by officials from Energy Affairs Department. The Fund Order indicates that the committee should have officials from my ministry, ministry of finance and a bank Managing Director. 

“One other thing I have to highlight is that according to the minutes of the committee of March 9th 2016 it was agreed that the fund managers in terms of investment should target Choppies Store, Wilderness Safaris, insurance companies and properties. I do not know if any investment has been made in that regard. If you do not have the right person to be in charge of the fund money would be lost. I was never briefed on the investment.”

The MP stated that according to the Fund Order the PS has to manage the NPF but says nothing about qualifications. He said this position might need someone with the necessary skills and knowledge. He further explained that Dr. Obakeng was involved in many boards of parastatals and at most instances during briefing of (minister) he would be briefed by directors because the PS would not be available. 

He said in various correspondences between them there is no mention of the minister but just between the PS, DIS Director General Isaac Kgosi and Khulacho Pty Ltd Managing Director Bakang Seretse. He said Dr Obakeng, Seretse and Kenneth Kerekang went on benchmarking trip but as the minister he was never told the details because half the time he was never briefed. 

He said DIS has indicated that it is in consultation with Finance Ministry to reimburse the funds transferred to DIS through Khulacho following a directive by Cabinet that the P230 million be returned as per the resolution of the meeting of February 7th 2018. DIS boss Isaac Kgosi is expected to appear before the PAC next week.

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Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership finds itself between a rock and hard place over its swap of constituencies with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).

In its effort to find a constituency for its President Dumelang Saleshando who also serves as Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President, BCP has approached its colleagues in the UDC, BMD to swap constituencies. BCP had proposed that it be given Maun West in exchange for Nata-Gweta which is one of BCP’s 17 constituencies. 

According to a letter seen by this publication written to BCP by BMD Secretary General Gilbert Mangole, BMD is not interested in Nata-Gweta. Mangole indicated in a letter dated April 6th 2018 that they can only accede to the exchange request if they get Francistown West.

“Some time ago your party’s Vice President and National Chairperson approached the leadership of BMD with the request to exchange Maun West for Nat/Gweta Constituency. About two weeks ago BMD leadership informed your National Chairperson that regrettably the BMD was unable to accept Nata/Gweta and could be happy to exchange Maun West for Francistown West. Your party National Chairperson undertook to place the matter before BCP executive for a decision,” wrote Mangole to the BCP.

BCP is said to be failing to reach a decision on the matter, as some believe Francistown West is winnable under the BCP. The party is said to have made inroads and some candidates have been identified. It is alleged that veteran politician Vain Mamela was requested by some to relocate to Francistown West. Another BCP member who has been lured to the constituency is BCP 2014 Parliamentary candidate for Tati East Maria Kusasa. 

Kusasa was lured after the BCP decided to give Tati East to Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) another contracting partner in the UDC. While some believe the Francistown West is a fair deal some argue that the BCP has credible candidates in Mamela and Kusasa to win the constituency. Kusasa was allegedly convinced by former Francistown West MP Dr Habaudi Hubona to relocate. Dr Hubona is allegedly not contesting for the coming elections.

The division within the BCP could find the party back at square one in its bid to find Saleshando a constituency. The BCP leader is said to have expressed interest specifically in Maun West and Councillors in that constituency have also expressed that they would be more than pleased to have Saleshando as their candidate for 2019. Failure by the BCP factions to deal with the matter in time could cost Saleshando the constituency where he is believed to stand a better chance due to his family and business ties in Maun. 

The BMD has announced that on the 5th of next month it would hold primary elections in all its 14 constituencies Maun West included. BMD allegedly wants Francistown West for BPP to field its President Motlatsi Molapisi following their bilateral meeting in Francistown early this year.

BCP Information and Publicity Secretary Dithapelo Keorapetse said the party is not divided on any issue. He revealed that as the BCP Central Committee they are meeting on Thursday (yesterday). “If the letter is there then it would be presented to the committee and we would take it from there after our deliberations on the letter,” he said.

Last week, BCP Vice President Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang released a statement that they could not trade Francistown West because dynamics at the constituency have changed. He said they looked at the issue of gender balance and that Mamela had initially relocated from the constituency for the benefit of the UDC project and moving him again would not be fair on him. This has however been seen by others as just a factional stance as the party is yet to meet on the matter. 

It is now public knowledge that factional wars exist within the BCP, as those who already have constituencies are not prepared to let go of them. It is alleged Ditimamolelo- a group of BCP activists who are engaged in a fight to protect Saleshando post 2014 general elections is now in control of most of the BCP constituencies and are not willing to give way for the party president. Ditimamolelo was first made known to the public in November 2014 during a public rally in Old Naledi where they vowed to defend the party and its leader against any attack by other political parties following the BCP’s dismal performance in the 2014 polls.

BMD survived being kicked out of the UDC at the February UDC congress. Some of those who called for removal of BMD within the UDC are said to have done so due to their interests in certain constituencies assigned to the BMD. It has been argued that the BMD is no longer trusted to deliver some of its constituencies it has been assigned to manage on behalf of the UDC. BMD has lost many members to other political parties but more people left the party to the newly formed Alliance for Progressives (AP).

 

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Gaborone high court Judge, Tshepo Motswagole has reserved judgement to August 3, 2018 in the case in which MultiChoice Botswana (MCB) is suing Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) from implementing its enforcement guidelines against them. 

At the centre of controversy is Section 90 of the BOCRA Act which requires all the licensed service providers to submit their intended tariffs to BOCRA for approval.  MCB first brought the matter to court last October on urgent application to interdict BOCRA from implementing its enforcement guidelines against them until the matter has been heard and the court has pronounced its final judgement. MCB argued that it is impossible for them to provide such tariffs because they do not provide such services, instead such services are provided by MultiChoice Africa. The current dispute started last year when BOCRA granted MCB a Subscription Management Services licence which included Clause 13, which requires MultiChoice Botswana to amongst other things, submit to BOCRA in writing, a proposal in respect of subscription fees it intends to apply. 

MCB argues that clause 13 is unlawful as it is BOCRA’s attempt to regulate a foreign company which owns the DStv service through MCB. DStv is owned by MultiChoice Africa. 

This is not the first time the two square up in court. The last time MultiChoice Botswana and BOCRA’s predecessor, National Broadcasting Board (NBB) had a go at each other in court was in 2007. The dispute went all the way to the Court of Appeal and culminated in the repeal of the Broadcasting Act only to be replaced by the Communications Regulatory Authority Act, in an attempt to regulate players such as MultiChoice, which at the time was the only player in that arena.   

Once again the current dispute essentially revolves around the extent to which BOCRA can impose certain licensing conditions on MCB. The latter is represented by Advocate Wim Trengove SC with junior Counsel Isabel Goodman through local lawyer Sipho Ziga of Armstrongs Attorneys. 

BOCRA have brought Advocate Adrian Botha SC with Tsholofelo Mvungama of Collins Newman & Company.  When asked by a judge Motswagole whether MCB can provide support services to a company which is not licensed to broadcast in Botswana, Adv.Trengove said MultiChoice Africa does not need to register with BOCRA because the Communications Regulatory Authority Act operates within the borders of Botswana. 

Advocate Botha SC then took judge Motswagole through the role of BOCRA which he said includes but not limited to, section 6(2) of the current Act, which is to “protect and promote the interests of consumers, purchasers and other users of the devices in the regulated sectors, particularly in respect of the prices charged for, and the availability, quality and variety of services and products, and where appropriate the variety of services and products offered throughout Botswana...”

Botha who reminded judge Motswagole that MultiChoice Africa is avoiding regulation because, of its own volition and under oath, MCA’s position is that it cannot submit to BOCRA’s regulatory jurisdiction and risk other African regulators following suit. If MC Africa is forced to submit to regulation in Botswana, it may have to evaluate its relationship with MCB or the provision of the DStv service to subscribers in Botswana, in order to preserve its commercial viability.

It would appear that this case is very important to BOCRA and how it sinks its teeth with all players, including the new Kwese TV, regarding how they conduct themselves in the market place. It is definitely a public interest case. The judgment was reserved to 3 August 2018 at 0900am.

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One year after Botswana established diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine, Botswana Guardian reporter Ernest Moloi asks Botswana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae what progress has been observed in the protracted Israeli/Palestine internecine conflict.

 

Botswana Guardian: Do we see the (Israeli/Palestine) conflict as a humanitarian/human rights or peace and security issue; and in all these categories, what is our foreign policy posture regarding the Peoples of Palestine?

 

Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae: 

Botswana remains resolute in its support for the Palestinian people in their quest to realize their inalienable right to self determination and the pursuit of freedom, peace, dignity and stable existence. It is in light of this that Botswana, as a gesture of continued support and solidarity, established diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine on 08 March 2017. 

While we welcome ongoing efforts by the “Middle East Quartet” (United States, European Union, Russia, and United Nations), which continues to work tirelessly to find a lasting solution to the Middle East situation; Botswana regrets that in 2018, Palestinians still live in the face of an unrelenting human tragedy of multiple conflicts and fragile environment.

The Government of Botswana remains steadfast in her support for the International community’s efforts to resolve the Conflict in the Middle East, peacefully and amicably. We are still of the belief that, there is room for both Israel and Palestine to co-exist as good friendly neighbours. 

The conflict is among the world’s oldest and most protracted. The conflict is multifaceted and has historical, religious, cultural, legal, political and economic dimensions. It would therefore be naive to view the conflict exclusively from the perspective of humanitarian, human rights, peace and security dimensions only. 

This explains why the conflict remains one of the world’s oldest and most protracted, which inevitably received and continues to receive wide coverage by the international press. The point is that both Israelis and Palestinians have human rights which have to be respected by both sides to the conflict. Humanitarian issues relate to the welfare of the estimated 6 million Palestine refugees. In this respect, Botswana supports the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a threat to international peace and security. Hence, continued international efforts to resolve this old conflict. Botswana as a Member of the United Nations supports these ongoing international efforts to find a durable solution to the conflict through relevant United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions. 

BG: What is Botswana’s Position regarding the Two-State solution? How has America’s (Donald Trump) recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel aided or abetted the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelites?

 

CN: Botswana is committed to Multilateralism and to the multilateral system that underpins it. It is therefore important to note that the position of Botswana on the question of Palestine is firmly rooted on principles of international law, specifically the various Resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council on the Question of Palestine. In line with these Resolutions, the future of the City of Jerusalem is among those that have been designated in the peace negotiations as “final status issues”, still to be negotiated and agreed between Israel and Palestine.

It is in the light of this that Botswana views the recently announced decision by the US Government to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as an unduly pre-emptive move, which also has the potential to undermine the  integrity of the Two-State solution, as well as compromising the United States’ impartiality in the peace talks.

Botswana supports the two-State solution, which is considered by the international community as the only way to ensure a durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two-State solution underlines a negotiated settlement by Israelis and Palestinians. It entails having two sovereign States – the State of Israel and the State of Palestine living peacefully side by side. 

 

BG: Who are the original occupiers of Palestine/alternatively what are the internationally-defined boundaries of the land originally known as Palestine? How did Israel come into being in the Middle East?

 

CN: Botswana as a Member of the United Nations is largely guided by principles of international law with respect to questions of territorial disputes of other sovereign States.

In this instance, it would be recalled that, the Assembly Resolution 181 (1947) (Partition Plan) adopted the plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into Two States, one Arab and one Jewish, with Jerusalem placed under a special international regime, and is still recognised and regarded by the UN as applicable. 

Furthermore, the 1949 Armistice signed by Israel and Arab States as well as Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) are internationally recognised as a basis for the legitimate call for Israel to withdraw its armed forces from territories it occupied.

 

The aforestated Resolutions provide the broad historical context of this dispute. 

BG: Do you suppose the United Nations Organisation has any locus standi to resolve this conflict, given that it is an interested party by virtue of demarcating the 1947 boundaries that created the state of Israel?

 

CN: Yes, the United Nations has locus standi to resolve this conflict. As the only multilateral organisation with near universal membership, the UN is enjoined by its Charter to find global solutions to global problems and challenges. 

Action by the UN is premised on relevant Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.  As far back as 1948, by Resolution 54(1948), the United Nations Security Council determined that the situation in Palestine was a threat to international peace and security and consequently ordered cessation of hostilities.  Since then, the United Nations has remained actively engaged in efforts to resolve the conflict.

In these efforts, the United Nations has enlisted the support of other players, including the neighbouring countries, the Arab League and the Middle East Quartet (the UN, US, Russia and EU).  It has to be appreciated that both Israel and Palestine need a third party to assist them to amicably resolve this conflict, which makes the involvement of the UN imperative, on account of its universal membership, international legitimacy and moral authority, as well as primary responsibility for maintenance of international peace and security. 

 

BG: How has the Israel/Palestine conflict affected bilateral & multilateral trade and other fraternal relations between Botswana and Israel and Botswana and Palestine?

 

CN: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not had any adverse effect on bilateral relations, either between Botswana and Israel or between Botswana and Palestine, or both. Botswana has otherwise maintained a balanced approach to its relations with both Israel and Palestine and enjoys cordial relations with both of them. 

The Government of Botswana and the State of Israel have maintained close relations based on mutual respect and understanding. The two countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1993, following the latter’s signing of a peace accord with the then Palestinian Liberation Organisation that same year. Furthermore, the two countries established economic and technical cooperation in a number of fields, including agriculture, health, water resource management, human resource development and education. Batswana have in the past taken advantage of scholarships administered by the Israeli Centre for International Cooperation, MASHAV, which is responsible for the design, coordination and implementation of Israel’s development cooperation programmes. 

As a demonstration of our continued support and solidarity with the Palestinian people, Botswana established diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine in March 2017. We remain resolute in our support for the Palestinian people in their quest to realise their inalienable right to self determination.

 

BG: What has been the position of the African Union and the Arab League on this conflict and do you suppose multilateral diplomacy can ever resolve this dispute?

 

CN: The quest to find a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict enjoys overwhelming support from the international community, including the Arab world, African Union, Asia and European Union. The Arab league has been at the forefront of the efforts to find a lasting solution to the Israel - Palestine conflict. In its support for Palestine, the Council of the League of Arab States adopted in 2002, an “Arab Peace Initiative” calling for full Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967, and Israel’s acceptance of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.

The question of Palestine is a standing agenda item of the Summit of the African Union and every such Summit issues statements of support and solidarity with the Palestinian people. For example, at the last Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit, held in Ethiopia in January 2018, the African Union reiterated its support to the Palestinian position in its vision of a final solution to the conflict based on the principle of a Two-State solution and the full withdrawal by Israel from the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories.    

 

BG: As Botswana’s representative at the United Nations what role do you suppose Botswana’s much-vaunted peace credentials can play in the resolution of an impasse of such large scale and magnitude? And have you at any time proposed any resolution to the structures of the UNO?

 

CN:  The fact that Botswana enjoys a fairly good reputation internationally as one of the Africa’s most politically stable countries, and also a champion of democracy, good governance, respect for the rule of law and human rights, provides the country with the moral ground to leverage peaceful resolution of this conflict. 

To this end, Botswana uses every available opportunity at the United Nations (and also at other fora such as the African Union and Commonwealth) to reiterate its unequivocal support for the Two State Solution with the Israeli and the Palestine living side by side, in peace and security. 

The Israeli/Palestinian issue is consistently reflected in the statements Botswana delivers during the annual Sessions of the UN General Assembly.

In addition, the United Nations Security Council conducts quarterly Open Debates on the Middle East Question, with particular focus on Palestine and Botswana consistently delivers statements of support to the Two State Solution during these meetings. 

The delegation also lends support to Resolutions that support the humanitarian and human rights situation of the people of Palestine in different fora of the General Assembly. 

Botswana also always issues a “Message of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”, during commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People which takes place on 29 November of every year. 

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Opposition parties in Francistown region may cash in on the infighting between aggrieved Botswana Democratic Party members, if the matter is not addressed promptly. 

Member of Central Committee (MCC) Shaw Kgathi was unceremoniously forced to abandon a meeting recently which he had been sent by the party leadership to give the recent Bulela Ditswe winners at Francistown South a go ahead to start their 2019 general elections campaigns.

 But his mission was interrupted by furious members who forced him to go back to party headquarters to start afresh by resolving the previous primary election protests which were never addressed. 

So serious is the matter that some BDP members interviewed on condition of anonymity said the party is likely to lose the Francistown city constituencies in the coming general elections as those disgruntled will most likely sabotage BDP and hand over the two constituencies to the opposition.

Francistown Regional chairperson Badumetse Medupi does not agree with the current stance taken by some democrats. He told Botswana Guardian that there is a difference between party policy and self-interest. 

Medupi is greatly, disturbed by the current developments sayinmg there is an existing party policy regarding membership registration which those gunning for primary elections tend to deliberately ignore to serve their own personal interests. 

“At BDP voter registration books are handled by the party structures who make it a point that members are registered ahead of any general elections or on any ordinary day they would prefer to do so. This clearly reflects that those interested in contesting for any political positions are in the dark about the party policy since they are only driving their self-interests,” Medupi said.

He said candidates must focus on recruiting members of their side instead of castigating the party concerning membership registrations which has a specific department to handle. 

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The ascendency of Mokgweetsi Masisi to the highest office of President of the republic has triggered an old argument on whether it is constitutional for a vice president to automatically take office and enjoy sweeping powers, or if he needs to first be elected by parliament.

The same argument was raised by political commentators in 2008 and Advocate Sidney Pilane, then special advisor to former President Festus Mogae successfully tackled the issue.

But since Masisi’s inauguration social media has been active with different interpretations offered by many lawyers including initiator of the discussion Tshiamo Rantao as well as Kgosi Ngakaagae and Jao Salbany.

 But the Attorney General Araham Keetshabe has remained unshaken stating that the constitution is clear. He is supported by some attorneys who specialise in negotiating and drafting. 

But to remove the ambiguity, some say Section 35 subsection 3 and 4 could be amended just to clear and not leave it to speculation. 

But Rantao says the matter raises other constitutional issues such as “vacancy in office of President” as provided for in section 35 of the Constitution. “This issue was once in the public domain about 10 years ago, but there was no resolution since it was never taken to court for a determination,” he said. 

After much soul searching and prompted by a passion for “rule of law,” Rantao now offers his considered viewpoint.

 

Hope on Masisi

“I think that Masisi has given many Batswana renewed hope in our nation. I certainly have renewed hope that he shall govern this country in a better way than his predecessor. If my interpretation of section 35 be correct, I have no doubt that he would still win a National Assembly election held under section 35(4) of the Constitution”.

However, this does not make the holding of such an election an academic exercise. It cannot be merely academic to comply with the Constitution of the land. “Failure to comply could result in his assumption of office being declared unconstitutional and set aside by our courts,” he warns.

Section 35 of the Constitution contains 7 subsections. None of these subsections can be construed in isolation, says Rantao. As a rule, all the provisions in the constitutions should be construed together, not in isolation. Section 35(1) of the Constitution was introduced by way of a 1997 amendment. It reads: “Whenever the President dies resigns or ceases to hold office, the Vice-President shall assume office as President with effect from the date of the death, resignation or ceasing to be President.” This provision is clear and unambiguous, says Rantao, adding, “we all know what it means that the Vice President takes over, as President Masisi did on 1 April 2018 because President Khama ceased to hold office on 31 March 2018”.

 

The question

The million dollar question is, is this assumption of office temporary or not? Rantao is convinced it is temporary. He cites Section 35(2) of the Constitution, which provides that if the office of President “becomes vacant in circumstances in which there is no Vice-President or is vacant whilst the Vice-President is absent from Botswana or is, by reason of physical or mental infirmity unable to perform the functions of his or her office” the functions of the office of President shall be temporarily performed by such Minister as Cabinet shall appoint “until such time as a new President assumes office in accordance with (section 35) or section 32 of the Constitution”. 

Rantao says quite clearly, this subsection is not of moment because when Khama ceased to hold office, “we had a Vice-President who assumed 

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