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Friday, 19 April 2024

UDC provokes Masisi

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Opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is pinching on President Mokgweetsi Masisi to face the reality of a dark cloud hanging over Botswana with regard to challenges of political uncertainty.

UDC which is a conglomerate of the oldest opposition parties in the country, Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), was this week reacting to remarks by Masisi, which he made at the just ended World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. 

“We are not caricaturing the country in a manner described by Masisi. What we are doing is something provided for in terms of the law and is part of the electoral process. Election petitions are not new. What is new is the elephantine proportion of rigging in the 2019 elections,” the UDC official mouthpiece Moeti Mohwasa told WeekendPost on Thursday. Mohwasa further observed that Masisi should at least be happy that the opposition did not cause pandemonium in the country but is rather opting for court which is the main arbiter.

“He (Masisi) should be happy that not notwithstanding the extent of cheating, the opposition remained calm and did not cause instability. We note that he is willing to abide by the court’s decision if it does not go his way,” he highlighted. The response comes following the annotations Masisi made earlier this week on the side-lines of WEF, when speaking to CNBC International discussing his plans to push Botswana's growth potential locally and internationally.

Masisi had told CNBC anchors, Geoff Cutmore and Steve Sedgwick that: “I wish you were from Botswana like I. What you speak of this really is caricaturing Botswana as if there was instability. For us it’s totally normal. We have always been committed to the rule of law. And so even citizens know that if you have a challenge, or a dispute (like UDC), you go to the courts of law so they will be settled.”

Inaugurated as the fifth President of the country after winning the just ended 12th country General Election, Masisi was stating that Botswana has an advantage of a much friendlier environment for development. The CNBC journalists however then raised alarm to Masisi that, “for many of those things to happen your country needs political stability and at the moment we are in a moment where the opposition is challenging election results, you tried to dismiss the UDC’s perspective, and there will be a ruling later this month, I think, so we are waiting to see where this things goes.”

The distinguished international scribes also added that, they want to know if such prevailing state of affairs is holding back some of the opportunities for government to actually focus on the economy as the country is now in the midst of an issue of political uncertainty which will make policy quite difficult to implement. Masisi then responded: “when matters are before the courts, life goes on. Before I left home, I went through the Budget Speech for the current Parliament, we have drawn up our budget.

We are ready, we continue to serve our people and country.” If the court pronounces in anyway whatsoever, the President emphasized that “we will abide by that ruling”; adding that “if it wants us to go for a re-election or bye-election, we will do it, there is no anxiety, there is no political instability, there is nothing abnormal in Botswana, it’s just the way we do business.”

Meanwhile, a Professor at the University of Botswana in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor David Sebudubudu said the consequences of rigging claims are worrisome and should be of more concern to the country than the outcome at court of law.

 “Although Botswana is still enjoying political stability, at the same time the allegations of rigging are very serious. So I am concerned about repetition of Botswana. They stand to dent reputation of Botswana for many years to come. Look at the image of Zimbabwe, it can’t even recuperate. Therefore they should not be taken lightly or dismissed easily,” the UB professor highlighted.

According to Sebudubudu what should be troubling more is not the country leadership but dealing with the possible repercussions of the rigging claims. “Court may dismiss them but even if court throws them away this may haunt the country for some time,” the Political Analyst highlighted to this publication. He pointed out that in the past there used to be 1 0r 2 petitions filed with court and were resolved but that UDC is now querying results of 15 constituencies which is alarming and of high magnitude and therefore cannot possibly be ignored.

The UB academic said Masisi’s effort to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the face of these allegations may turn out to bear no fruits. “So the scale today means we should be concerned because it will work against Masisi’s efforts to lure investors as Botswana has a narrow economic base. Botswana is a small country,” he said.  

Nowadays everywhere, he added that people are reading about Botswana because information travels faster and they see what is happening. “Therefore the government (or Court, IEC and Masisi) should be proactive in addressing this serious matter, concerning the possible implications,” he insisted.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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