Last Thursday was yet another busy day on a number of social media platforms, but this time around it was a tussle between the president of Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), Biggie Butale, his wife and the taxman.
What unfolded was that the BPF president and his wife failed to declare what was initially stated as R20, 000 in cash when crossing the border back into Botswana through the Ramotswa Border Post. The amount of money recovered later changed to R41, 800.
Well the drama that unfolded at the border gate had Batswana from different walks of life debating on whether the search constituted harassment on the part of the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS).
Then again what do we mean by harassment? Had the people who were being questioned done something or they were just being harassed for no good reason?
When entering or leaving Botswana one is required to declare local and/or foreign currency in their possession, the amount of which equals to or exceeds an equivalent of P10, 000.
You need not declare traveller’s cheques and other monetary instruments. Customs and Excise Duty Act’s definition of goods include currency and a person who fails to declare currency may be liable to prosecution.
Are these regulations only applicable to certain individuals and not others or is there some other point that we are missing? A popular quote from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which goes, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” clearly captures this scenario.
If indeed the BPF president failed to declare sums of money, which was supposed to be declared, he should answer to the BURS as to why he and his wife failed to do so.
Would it not have qualified as harassment if Butale had done everything according to the book, and BURS decided to pounce on him anyway?
Well, Butale and his wife should have declared the amount of money they were carrying as required by the law, and since they failed to do so they were in the wrong.
Unless Butale and his wife come out and tell us that excessive force was used or that BURS officials decided to raise alarm over nothing that is when we can listen and criticise the government organs, which ‘harassed’ and ‘intimidated’ the duo.
Right now as it looks, BURS officials were merely carrying out their duties, unless there is someone who wants to argue that, the regulations should be applied selectively or that there are some people in our midst who are too important to declare goods.
It is important for us as citizens to respect and abide by the laws that govern our country, so that we will be able to hold the day’s government accountable without fear or favour.