NOUVELLES DU BOTSWANA 98-99
Botswana's Mogae inaugurated as president
Botswana's Festus Mogae was on
Wednesday sworn in as the country's third president since
Africa's oldest democracy gained independence three decades ago.
In a peaceful handover of power considered rare in Africa,
Mogae took the oath of office at an elaborate swearing-in
ceremony on the steps of parliament attended by dignitaries and
``I, Festus Gontebanye Mogae, do swear that I will
faithfully and diligently discharge my duties and perform my
function in the high office of president of the Republic of
Botswana. I will maintain the constitution of Botswana and
uphold the laws,'' Mogae told a cheering crowd under sunny skies
in Botswana's capital.
The 58-year-old former finance minister and vice-president
replaced President Ketumile Masire, who retired on Tuesday after
18 years in office.
Mogae assumes power a year before his ruling Botswana
Democratic Party (BDP) faces voters in a national election.
Botswana has enjoyed remarkable economic growth during
Mogae's decade-long tenure as finance minister, a portfolio
which earned him a reputation for fiscal prudence.
The southern African country's vast diamond wealth has made
it the world's biggest producer by value terms, estimated at
$1.82 billion in 1997.
But Mogae is under pressure from opposition parties to spend
more of the diamond-generated wealth to combat a 21 percent
unemployment rate among its 1.5 million people.
The 72-year-old Masire's last state appointment on Tuesday
was a brief one-on-one talk with visiting U.S. President Bill
Clinton who spent two days in Botswana during his six-nation
The former British Protectorate of Bechuanaland gained
independence in 1966 as a multi-party democracy, espousing a
code of human rights within its constitution.
Botswana, the size of France but with a population of only
1.57 million people, has become an African democracy showcase,
having resisted the then fashionable one-party political system
that swept across the continent in the 1960s.
New Botswana President Festus
Mogae, long the crown prince to veteran
leader Ketumile Masire,
is expected to continue the policies that have made the
diamond-rich nation Africa's showcase democracy.
Mogae, 58, was sworn in as the country's third president on
Wednesday in a peaceful transfer of power considered rare for
this turbulent continent.
He is widely expected to lead the ruling Botswana Democratic
Party (BDP) to victory in general elections next year, extending
the party's grip on power which it has had since independence
from Britain in 1966.
The 72-year-old Masire announced last November he would
retire as President and hand over to Mogae.
``I have ideas on my style of governance,'' Mogae told
Reuters after unveiling Botswana's 16th surplus budget last
month. ``But you shouldn't expect dramatic changes in policies.
After all, I was an active participant in the formulation of the
Botswana is one of Africa's strongest democracies and boasts
one of its fastest growing economies thanks to its vast diamond
wealth. It is the world's largest diamond producer by value,
estimated at $1.82 billion in 1997.
Mogae has earned a reputation for fiscal prudence during his
decade-long tenure as the finance minister.
As a result of reinvesting hundreds of millions of dollars
earned from diamond exports, Botswana has the highest per capita
foreign reserves in the world, $4.7 billion for a population of
In his budget speech, Mogae outlined plans to further
liberalise exchange controls, reform mining laws to attract
prospectors and introduce a more transparent tax regime.
``It (globalisation) is upon us whether we like it or not.
It has presented challenges and opportunities and we have to
rise to them,'' Mogae said.
Analysts say he may tinker with policies to lure foreign
investment in manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, but no
dramatic changes are expected to the country's lifeblood,
South Africa's De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd (DBRS.J), a
50-50 partner in Botswana's three diamond mines, praised
Masire's mining policies and predicted more of the same under
``We're very appreciative of the support from the Botswana
government and would expect that to continue in the future,'' De
Beers spokesman Tom Tweedy told Reuters.
Unlike his two predecessors who styled themselves as farmers
on loan to politics, Mogae is steeped in the world of economics
and high finance.
His views were moulded in the halls of England's Oxford
University where he earned an honours degree in economics and
later received a degree in development economics from Sussex
Under Botswana's first president, Sir Seretse Khama, Mogae
served in the ministry of finance and development planning and
as alternate governor for Botswana at the International Monetary
Fund (IMF), the African Development Bank and the International
Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He was also an
executive director of the IMF.
When Masire became president in 1980, Mogae was governor of
the central Bank of Botswana. In 1988 he was appointed minister
of finance and development planning and in 1992 vice-president.
On the political front, Mogae's strongman leadership style
will be tested as he tries to impose discipline on a ruling BDP
beset by internal divisions.
``Masire's greatest achievement was to keep his party
together,'' Opposition leader Michael Dingake of the Botswana
National Front, said when Masire announced his retirement.
``The members might still be troublesome, but they will obey
Mogae,'' Dingake said.
A key position to ensure party unity ahead of national
elections in 1999 will be Mogae's choice for vice-president, a
position traditionally coupled with the finance portfolio.
Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Minister
Ponatsehgo Kedikilwe, 59, is considered a favourite for Mogae's
old job. His economics background includes stints as director of
financial affairs and the country's central bank.
Another candidate for a senior post in Mogae's cabinet is
army commander Ian Khama, who plans to enter politics after his
retirement from the military next week.
Khama, 45, is the eldest son of Botswana's founding
president and is chief of the country's most influential tribe,
``Politically, the most intriguing story is Khama's
retirement from the army and entry into politics. He has a solid
power base,'' a Johannesburg-based analyst said.
Mogae has offered favourable assessments of both men, but is
not expected to show his hand until after the inauguration.
Namibian troops have illegally entered
Botswana twice in two weeks, Botswana
President Festus Mogae's
office said Thursday.
``The office of the president has received reports that
members of the Namibian Defense Force have been patrolling along
a disease-control fence inside the Botswana-Namibia border,'' it
said in a statement.
``The office of the president views this illegal border
crossing very seriously.''
The troops apparently strayed 20 yards inside Botswana.
Mogae was sworn in as Botswana's new leader a week ago,
taking over from Ketumile Masire, whose government had held
talks with Namibia over long-running local border disputes
between the two sparsely populated southern African nations.
The statement said the Namibian troops crossed the border
twice last month, at Kaputura and Mohembo, places where the
Okavango river feeds into Botswana's Okavango delta.
The statement said that during a meeting between defense
officials from the two countries ``it was alleged that the
Namibians believed the fence to be marking the border.''
``This is not so, the border itself is clearly marked with
concrete beacons,'' it added.
Namibia's Foreign Minister Theo Ben Gurirab said he was
``surprised and dismayed'' by Mogae's statement.
``If he had any reason for concern, we would have expected
him to first contact our high commission in Gaborone, or
Namibia's Foreign Affairs Ministry, or the president himself,''
Gurirab told Reuters in Windhoek.
``Namibian forces are on Namibian soil and we would under no
circumstances position troops on Botswana territory. If it is
the area we are disputing, which is Situngu island, then we are,
as far as our position goes, on Namibian soil,'' he added.
Namibia and Botswana have been embroiled for several years
in disputes over ownership of tiny, shifting border islands, one
of them Situngu, which are submerged for most of the year.
Botswana built a fence last year along the Caprivi Strip
border with northeastern Namibia to halt the annual migration of
wild animals, hoping to prevent cattle lung disease it said had
killed 300,000 cattle.
Wild buffalo carry foot and mouth disease, which can infect
Namibia was furious at the move, but did not publicly
Botswana has the world's fastest
economy between 1965 and 1996 in comparison with the Asian tigers, said a
report released in Washington by the World Bank Thursday.
Eric Swanson of the bank's development
data group said the report showed
Botswana's per capita income had grown 9.2 percent during the 31-year
period, compared with 7.3 percent for South Korea, the second fastest
performer and number three, China's 6.7 percent.
Swanson said the figures were statistical
averages of the countries' annual
growth over the period. The bank does not have figures prior to the period
under review. Botswana's gross national product (GNP) grew by 13 percent
over the period.
The World Bank predicts that growth
in developing countries would continue
until the end of the century, rebounding from the temporary setback of the
Asian financial crisis. This prediction depended on the success of key
reforms effected in response to the crisis.
FOR years, Botswana has enjoyed a surplus budget, a huge foreign reserves and a high standard of living from its large diamond deposits.
Now, however, for the first time in 16 years, the southern African country is anticipating a budget deficit, following a fall in diamond price in the international market.
''A 25 percent reduction in dollar value of diamonds export would turn the projected budget surplus of 200 million Pula into a deficit of 800 million Pula, the first budget deficit in 16 years,'' said the Botswana Stockbrokers in its latest report.
Diamond, which was discovered here 28 years ago, is mined at Jwaneng, Letlhakane and Orapa by the Debswana Diamond Co mpany, a joint venture between the De Beers and the Botswana government.
The sales has enable Botswana, with a population of 1.5 million people, to accumulate foreign reserves which were valued at 23 billion Pula by March's end. And if current work on the 1.4-billion Pula expansion project at Orapa is completed by January 2000, Botswana will double its annual production of nearly 25 million tonnes.
Mbendi's profile on Botswana
The stockbroker has attributed the projected deficit to the downturn in the international diamond industry. ''Although the downturn in the diamond industry is serious, if it is shortlived, it will have no major impact on the Botswana's e conomy and can be smoothed out using the reserves that have been built up over the years. However if the downturn is prolonged, or becomes more serious, Botswana may find that some forms of economic adjustment will be necessary,'' the report added.
The adjustment is, however, not expected to wipe out Botswana's overall balance of payments surplus ''because the accumulated savings at the Bank of Botswana are more than 20 times the size of the projected deficit''.
''Another area where the diamond industry downturn will be felt is the government budget, and this is perhaps where the impact on Botswana's economy will be striking. Lower diamond exports will sharply cut government revenue in the 1998/ 1999 fiscal year. It will be approximately 1 billion Pula below the 3.5 billion Pula presented during the 1998 budget speech in February,'' the report said.
The downturn in the international market has been largely attributed to the currency crisis in the Far East and the world's leading wedding ring country -- Japan which started in the second half of last year.
The impact of the currency crisis resulted in the De Beers' London-based Central Selling Organisation's (CSO) reduction of sales by 16 percent in the second half of last year and a further reduced sale of 1.7 billion US Dollars in the first half of this year.
The downturn has sent some panic signal in Botswana, prompting the permanent secretary at the ministry of minerals, energy and water affairs, Blackie Marole, to appeal for ''stability in the diamond market'' during the International Diamond Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, last month.
''The first thing that Botswana would like to see is stability in the market,'' he said. ''The worst case scenario in the market for us would be instability. When you depend heavily on one thing, stability is what you need most''.
One of the world's largest diamond dealer, Fleming Security Services, agreed. ''With sales in Asia still very depressed, it is unlikely that the CSO will boost the second half sales very much. As for 1999, the trends are not yet clear. These risk militate against a sustained recovery in the share price,'' said the firm in its June review of the diamond market. --
SHOP ASSISTANT Gertrude Zakaria believes members of Botswana's police force tortured her brother, Lefatshe Thobolo, to death.
Thobolo was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession and on his release from custody he went to a local attorney to complain about police brutality.
Thobolo told his family that police had beaten him, tied a 10kg bag of rice to his head, held him on the floor and walked all over him.
Ten days later Thobolo was in a coma. Two days after that, on June 10, the 34-year-old gatekeeper and father of three was dead.
Police launched a full investigation immediately after his death. However no statements have yet been made about the torture allegations and no officers have been suspended while the investigation is under way.
The family say Thobolo died from brain and liver damage as a result of assault, but the results of the postmortem have not yet been released. In the meantime the family wants to sue the state.
Does torture exist in peaceful Botswana, the region's model democracy?
Yes, says the first torture assessment -- produced by Ditshwanelo, the Botswana Centre for Human Rights. The report was launched to coincide with UN Torture Day on June 26.
While it would be grossly unfair to suggest that such practices in Botswana were widespread, it would be just as unfair to suggest it was not happening.
"Overall there is ample suggestion that torture is practised within our society...it is practised by persons sanctioned to protect the public of Botswana," says the report, "Without documented evidence there appears to be very little possibility that the government can and will treat this issue seriously."
The report cites several torture methods including part drowning, choking, rape, the threat and exposure to rubber bullets and tear gas, and twisting of male genitals.
In one instance an escaped prisoner who was recaptured was made to strip naked and run while prison officials fired gun shots at his feet. The prisoner was then beaten up and put in solitary confinement for two nights while prison officials gave the naked man a daily dousing of cold water.
According to official figures, 34 people have died while in police custody or as a result of police operations between independence in 1966 and 1994. According to official figures 15 cases have been filed against the police in the past four years, although only three were put forward for prosecution with one conviction.
But many other cases have gone largely unreported.
Ditshwanelo says torture is often adopted as a method for regaining control. This was seen during the civil unrest of early 1995 when mob rioting followed the release of three suspects in an alleged ritual murder.
According to Ditshwanelo, torture was used as a way to "quell and dismantle the protests aimed at government's action (or inaction)....in situations such as civil unrest it is perceived that anyone in the public domain is guilty of participating in an unlawful act".
To illustrate this, the report cites
one woman who was assaulted by police officers as she was walking home
from work during the riots.
Torture is also blamed on poor methods of investigation, and sometimes occurs when a suspect challenges police or army authority.
One man, for example, was tortured because he asked for a search warrant when police attempted to search his house. He was immediately taken off to the police station where his request was "laughed at". The man, still not charged with any offense, was handcuffed and beaten unconscious.
He was later taken back to his home which the police searched, still without a warrant. The police finally released the man from handcuffs, having found nothing.
The Ditshwanelo report also covers torture in the private sphere and specifically includes domestic violence. Government officials agree "in principle" that domestic violence is torture and say police do not always take such complaints seriously. This is partly attributed to the belief that if a husband beats his wife then this is not really assault.
Ditshwanelo says the judiciary also needs to be reminded that its role is to deter torture, not perpetuate it.
In a 1982 High Court ruling the judge sentenced a man to just 10 years imprisonment for stabbing his wife because the woman had refused to have sex. The "stab wounds were inflicted in the heat of passion engendered by the wife's attitude," said the judge.
A Gaborone man, Edison Mochudi, also alleges torture at the hands of the police and has told the press he intends to sue for wrongful arrest.
Mochudi alleges that police at Sir Seretse Khama Airport tied his hands with electric cables and partly suffocated him with a plastic bag, claiming he was a car racketeer. He says he was kept in custody for three days and was only taken to hospital after prison warders refused to admit him.
The Ditshwanelo report recommends that state legal aid be provided to all suspects on arrest as most torture happens in the first 48 hours. The idea is if the police know that the accused will have a lawyer then they "may be deterred from participating in acts of torture".
THE Botswana government has announced
new economic policies aimed at bolstering the country's image and tilting
it towards open market principles.
The new economic measures were announced by President Festus Mogae at the Botswana Democratic Party's (BDP's) recent 28th congress. "We will take some further steps in line with the promotion of the country's competitiveness by putting into place the privatisation and competitive policies before the end of the year," Mogae said.
In addition to being renowned for having the lowest taxation in the region, Botswana, which has a population of 1,5-million, has also removed all foreign currency controls. The privatisation move was set in motion by a study on privatisation conducted in 1996 by a consortium of business sectors, the Botswana Confederation of Commerce, Industry and Manpower (BOCCIM). Public companies recommended by the study for privatisation include: Air Botswana, certain sections of the Botswana Telecommunications, Botswana Agricultural Marketing Board, Botswana Housing Corporation, Central Transport Organisation, certain activities of the Gaborone City Council, and the Accountant General, among others.
The report apparently prompted Mogae, who was then the finance and development planning minister, to appoint a task force charged with the responsibility of identifying public companies eligible for either privatisation or commercialisation.
However the report has come under heavy criticism from political analysts who have warned of a possible backlash, since privatisation is generally accompanied by retrenchments. "Privatisation is a politically sensitive issue because more often than not it is accompanied by a loss of jobs. I think government should wait until after the general elections to present the policy to government," said the chief executive of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), Rupert MacCammon.
The privatisation move has already sparked strong opposition from the country's largest trade union, National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatal Manual Workers Union, which said in a statement that the move is bound to trigger "loss of jobs and misery".
"Privatisation all over Africa has got a bad history of retrenchments and transferring the ownership of property into the hands of the very wealthy people at the expense of workers and the general public," the union said.
Earlier the union refused to participate in the consultative process leading to the privatisation of state properties. "We do not want to be associated with any move that will result in the worsening of the workers' welfare," the union said.
Commerce and Industry Minister George Kgoroba said recently that the competition policy will be presented and discussed in the November parliamentary session. According to a document forming the basis of the policy, the promulgation of the competition policy - otherwise known as the anti-trust law - comes at a time when there is growing concern about unfair competition across the border, mainly from South Africa.
"The main point to be made here is that Botswana is not an open economy in the true sense as long as it is a member of the Southern African Customs Union and is honouring a very high common external tariff.
This means it is only open to South Africa and is therefore subject to all the anti-competitive practices and conditions that have been developed over the years by the South African industry," the document said.
It said the key elements of the policy will be to deal with mergers and acquisitions, predatory pricing, restrictive buying practices such as exclusive dealings, collusion, misleading advertising and sales practices, local monopolies and administrative practices found in the market.
A state of emergency has been declared
in Botswana to avoid disruption to general elections due to be held in
President Festus Mogae cancelled a trip to Libya where he was due to attend a summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to deal with the constitutional crisis.
Botswana's dissolved parliament has been recalled to pass a law which will allow 60,000 potential voters to take part in the election.
Last week, a writ for the elections was issued before the voters roll had been completed, thus disqualifying thousands of potential voters.
Under Botswana's constitution, the President was obliged to declare a state of emergency in order to be able to recall parliament.
The legislature will meet on Monday to amend the Electoral Act, to allow the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to update the voters role.
So far only 400, 000 out of 900, 000 eligible voters have registered, so the extra 60, 000 voters will take the figure to 51 per cent.
The leader of the main opposition Botswana Congress Party has criticised the president for the mistake.
"What has happened is a very serious scandal," he said.
He said he could not support a situation where the president had to resort to emergency powers to correct a political gaffe.
Botswana holds its general elections next month with the once high-riding opposition in urgent need of a miracle to escape another whitewash from the long-ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The party surmounted a major test of strength in July when, contrary to expectations, it managed to hold a peaceful national congress, which saw party protagonists closing ranks to present a united front before the general elections.
On the other hand, the opposition has miserably failed to keep its head above water. It has been bickering and feuding, ending up with a totally divided front as the polls approach. The end result has been the absence of a notable main challenger to the BDP.
The ruling party's long-time chief rival, the Botswana National Front (BNF) which gave the BDP a big scare in the 1994 polls, has been stripped of its long-held mantle as the main opposition party. But that is no consolation to the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which has temporary overtaken the BNF as the "official opposition". Analysts are predicting dire times ahead of the BCP, which they say will crumble in the elections. An opinion poll conducted by the University of Botswana in May showed that the BCP might lose all the 11 seats it grabbed last year from the BNF. The BNF itself, which scooped 13 of the country's 40 parliamentary seats in the last elections, has bled profusely ever since and remains a mere shell. And there is no end in sight. Last year, the party saw 11 of its MPs and other party heavyweights jump ship to form the BCP. Those who left in the acrimonious fallout included the party's number two, Michael Dingake, who now heads the BCP.
After the split, the BNF panicked and approached other opposition parties to form a united front. The protracted negotiations ended in the formation of the trouble-ridden Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM), launched early this year. But just weeks after its launch, BAM began to wobble. The small parties accused the BNF of dictatorship and bad faith, while the BNF itself feared losing its identity because it felt the small parties were swamping it and cashing in on its strength to its disadvantage. The BNF has since quit the alliance, leaving the opposition with a mountain to climb.
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