*Govt fails to pay P5billion ordered by AU * Owed family curses Moitoi’s campaign
As Minister Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi prepares to face new rivals for the African Union Commission (AU) chairmanship in January, a local stumbling block to her campaign has emerged.
A disgruntled family of the late former deportee, John Kealeboga Modise, in Lobatse this week threw a spanner in the works by lambasting both the Foreign Affairs and international cooperation Minister and the government for failing to honour a ruling by the AU human rights wing, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) in 2001 to pay out A P5 billion compensation.
Modise, a former businessman and politician, died in 2012 after he successfully appealed his 1978 deportation to South Africa by the Botswana government at the ACHPR.
His 55-year- old daughter, Elizabeth Modise, who has keenly followed the race for the AU chairmanship has described Moitoi’s candidature for the chairmanship of an organization her country has little respect for as hypocritical.
Modise was first deported on October 17, 1978 on grounds that he was born in South Africa.
He left his four young children under the care of his teenage daughter, Elizabeth, as his wife had deserted the family.
He kept returning to the country to join his children as he did not have any family in South Africa, but he was deported four more times before he was rendered a prohibited immigrant.
In 1992, Modise sought the intervention of the ACHPR and after lengthy legal deliberations on the matter; the Commission ruled in 2002 that it had found multiple violations of Modise’s rights by the Botswana government.
The Commission recommended that government should recognise Modise as a citizen by descent and compensate him for the violations of his rights.
In September 2002, Modise’s London based lawyers, Interights, sent a settlement proposal to the Office of the President, through the then Permanent Secretary Edward Raletobana, demanding P5billion in compensation.
The lawyers in their letter of demand, had considered that Modise’s deportation had for over 21 years, destroyed his family life, left his business and means of livelihood in ruins and adversely affected the health of his children leading two of them to develop mental health problems.
“It also irreversibly destroyed the life and educational skills and opportunities to which his children would foreseeably have been entitled to,” stated the letter of demand in part.
The lawyers had also added that the objective of the compensation demand was to get the state to acknowledge wrongdoing and provide a material basis to enable Modise and his family to heal and, in some way, reconstruct and carry on with the remainder of their lives.
The now ageing Elizabeth who was left to take care of her siblings at the age of 14 when her father was deported to South Africa says Minister Moitoi’s campaign is cursed and appears aborted and still-born from the onset.
She says Moitoi’s main stumbling block is Botswana government’s refusal to comply with the decision of the ACHPR judgment passed in favour of her father.
Narrating her story to The Voice, Elizabeth said the government has been cruel to her family and that she has engaged local lawyers to help her family seek the P5billion compensation.
She says she was only in her early teens when her only parent, Modise, got deported to South Africa.
“It was tough, I had to look after my siblings. In fact I was turned a mother by the government at 14 years,” said Elizabeth.
She added that the Botswana government turned them into orphans and beggars as some of the family property had been confiscated by the state.
“I had to beg from my class mates for survival. The deportation of my father led to other siblings turning mentally challenged and becoming delinquent,” she said.
Elizabeth added that despite a recommendation by the ACHPR, her father was denied compensation for political reasons.
“We engaged professional actuaries as the whole drama resulted in heavy financial losses and deprived my family of our father’s support. The actuaries calculated and recommended that P5billion be paid to the family a decade ago. My father died in 2012 still waiting for the compensation,” she said.
In 2013, the Office of the President wrote a letter to the aggrieved family explaining that the case had been closed, after they secretly summoned Modise and attempted to pay him a paltry P100 000 as compensation, which he refused to accept.
A letter signed by Private Secretary to the President, Brigadier George Tlhalerwa, confirms that Modise turned down the P100 000 offer.
“An offer of compensation in the sum of P100 000.00 was made to Mr. Modise and he turned it down. This offer had a time frame which has since lapsed,” the letter reads in part.
For his part, Brigadier Tlhalerwa confirmed signing the letter but declined to comment further on the issue.
Former Lobatse Member of Parliament and Umbrella For Democratic Change activist, Nehemiah Modubule, said the main reason Modise got deported was that he was against the service levy.
“The deportation destroyed the family, BDP government has been cruel from the start,” he said and added that government should have long compensated the Modise family.