A Criminal Procedure and Evidence (Controlled Investigations) Bill 2022 that will be tabled by the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Kagiso Mmusi is soon to be brought before Parliament as a matter of urgency.
During Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting, the Bill’s urgency was passed by a majority vote of 25 against 18, with 11 absentees.
In essence, the Bill seeks to grant law enforcement officers the power to create fake/pseudo identities, complete with Omang, Passport and Drivers License. It also advocates for the tapping of communication devices by investigatory authorities.
While supporters insist it will be a valuable tool in the fight against crime, opponents have labelled the Bill anti-democratic, with frightening potential for widespread abuse from the powers that be.
A number of high-flyers in society gave their thoughts on the Bill and its possible implications…..
Uyapo Ndandi – Human Rights lawyer
I could never have imagined that during my lifetime, a horrendous Bill like this could come before Parliament.
The speed at which the Executive wants it passed is telling.
The law basically says the population of Botswana can triple because one person can have two or more identities.
One would not be able to tell the real or fake name. A person can go to court and say you charged the wrong person, I’m so and so, and that would be the end of the case.
A person could register to vote as many times as their number of identities.
A mother can unknowingly put a fake name as the identity of the father of the child.
And then when she sues for maintenance a different name appears denying paternity or even claiming alibi.
Intercepting of calls has already been happening, now it will obviously be widespread and with impunity – that is without shame and with no consequences.
No checks and balances have been in place. The constitutional right to privacy has been thrown out of the window, it doesn’t exist anymore.
It would seem the executive is tired of being held accountable by the courts, it is cutting corners.
Laws like these should be challenged in court and see if they meet the constitutional standards.
I am convinced a sober court would find it unconstitutional as it lacks any justification in a constitutional democracy.
Only dictatorship regimes can be at peace with such draconian laws.
I’m calling upon the conscience of leaders to wake up in its slumber and defeat this bill.
Failing which history will judge them harshly.
Lawrence Ookeditse – BPF Publicity Secretary
By now we are all aware of the tendency of this government to fake news, and simply not tell the truth.
We just never thought they would stoop to this new record low.
You may be on a business conversation about your latest innovation and someone at the Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) and Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) may listen in and steal the idea or give it to their friends.
You may be on a conversation with your wife, husband, girlfriend, mother, father, boyfriend and the DIS will be listening in and could use that information as they please – including blackmailing you if they do not like something about you.
You may send private messages with pictures for the eyes of the intended recipient only and the DIS and BDP will see them and do God knows what with them.
That is the level at which they are intruding into your personal lives – and without good reason.
The Bill will also allow the Registrar of Births and Deaths and Registrar of National Registration and Registrar of Marriages to make fake entries into their registers.
In effect, it means fake Identity cards and other registries such as marriages and deaths will legally be permitted.
It means fake identities may be mass produced for BDP and DIS operatives to vote more than once.
It means the DIS and BDP will overnight have the power to frame anyone on basis of such information.
These pseudo persons being unleashed on society may vote and may even be employed as returning officers for purposes of elections.
In 2024 you may be queuing to cast a vote and next to you will be Tom Mang Mang.
The same Tom Mang Mang will be Tom Gorbachev as he returns to vote for the second time.
Later on he will come as France Museveni and then as Leina Kakapa – all these duly registered with Omang cards and voter registration cards.
The foundations of this country on trust and democracy are being badly eroded by a gang of extraordinary thieves.
The national security implications of this army of pseudo persons are huge and far reaching.
These fake identifies will be used in criminal activities and to undermine the rule of law in our country.
Such fake identities may for instance access loans and enter into contracts and covenants.
They may even be employed across industries and country.
What you see in the movies is now becoming a reality and it’ll unfold right before our eyes if we do not act.
Monametsi Sokwe – BOCONGO Executive Director
Our take is that Batswana and indeed civil society is concerned about this laws despite it targeting criminals.
The issue of why it is sending shivers down the spine of Batswana is that they don’t trust their government and as such are more worried that the government is going to abuse the law to target their civil liberties and for political gain.
Under normal circumstances, if one is not a criminal they shouldn’t be worried but now with issuing fake IDs the question is, is the ballot paper safe?
Moeti Mohwasa – UDC’s Head of Communications
The whole essence of democracy is respect for civil liberties and citizens’ right to privacy.
The Constitution of Botswana also clothes us with these rights, which the BDP government wants to strip us of.
Any government that respects not only itself but its citizens does not have to be reminded of this.
The fundamentals should run in its veins and be a guide to action.
It is not surprising that the current BDP is now turning this whole country into a Big Brother house.
The tragedy is that this is not a popularly elected government.
It is a government that lacks legitimacy and wants to cling on to power at all costs.
The Bill seeks to circumvent the need for a court order in order to intercept any form of communication.
Through it, the State wants to gatecrash its way into your conversations, bedrooms, offices, meetings, business dealings and all other spheres of your lives.
This opens the way to limitation of our freedoms and its intended effect will be felt in the build up to the BDP Congress and then the 2024 General Elections.
The question is, was there urgency in introducing a Bill that seeks to create valid and ascertainable identities through IDs, passports and birth certificates for its operatives?
Was there urgency in creating a law that seeks to intercept any form of communication including letters, emails, smses etc?
What about Doctor/Patient, Attorney/ Client right to privacy?
The Bill goes further to compel service providers to have hardware that can store and share communication by clients.
Ease of doing business in this country will be greatly affected.
Confidentiality in business dealings has to be respected and it will be asking for too much if we expect that from this regime.
Lastly those who voted for this draconian piece of legislation should know that when you legislate it is for the good of the country, not to weaponize against perceived political opponents.
It could come back to haunt you!