Gov’t loses millions in Gcwihaba project
By Dave Baaitse
The much anticipated Gcwihaba caves explorations, which was carried out by the Government of Botswana has come to a halt despite having splashed monies slightly over a million Pula in the project since its inception.
In their bid to continue to sabotage all the projects which were spearheaded by former President Lt Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, it is alleged that the current administration decided to put everything on hold and the officers who were deployed at the caves were left in the dark.
It is reported that the dedicated team which was joined by officers from Botswana Museum at the expense of the Government, has just stopped and the
In an interview with WeekendPost this week, former President Khama said the costs of travelling to Gchwihaba and doing explorations is slightly in millions of Pula. In September last year Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) announced that a state- of- the-art facility is expected to take shape at Gcwihaba caves, 43 Kilometers from Xai Xai village in the Ngamiland District. Former President Lt Gen Ian Khama who was appointed Tourism Ambassador, was later stripped of the title at the time leading to the development where a lodge and an airstrip were expected to be built to make it accessible for tourists and selling the beautiful caverns to the international market.
In an interview with WeekendPost at the time, Khama said his involvement with the development is not somehow anything commercial but he was pursuing his work as the Tourism Ambassador and offering his experience with the caves dating back to his days at the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) as a Commander.
The former President with his team of soldiers and the Botswana Museum and Wildlife, have been involved in a number of explorations in the area to discover more caves and make them more accessible and attractive to tourists. In the interview Khama said even though the investment is private, the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) will be at the forefront.
Khama said so far the biggest challenge is water availability and access roads. To help the issue of roads they have resorted to building an airstrip so that air transport can help get there faster. The former President also revealed that he did not see government building roads anytime soon, but confirmed that the roads will be graded in the meantime. “These developments will directly benefit everyone including Batawana,” he said. Gcwihaba caves are a National Monument administered by the Botswana National Museum and protected by the revised Monuments and Relics Act (2001).
Adherence to some basic guidelines will make your visit worthwhile and ensure the continued protection of a part of Botswana’s unique heritage. These caverns were first known to the Qung San and were shown to Matinus Drotsky, a Ghanzi farmer in 1934. Subsequently he published them. The caves formed as a result of natural process that operated and created fascinating geologic formations some 3 to 2 million years ago.
The caverns have been formed in the dolomite marble of the Precambrian Damara super group when wetter conditions prevailed and acidulated water flowing underground dissolved the caverns and later a river forming nearby lowered the water table, emptying them. Rain water highly charged with bicarbonates, percolating through the upper rocks and dripping into the caverns lost its carbon dioxide and chemically precipitated fantastic stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones.
Epic re- flooding, evacuation and dripping have resulted in deposits of different ages forming one upon another. Presently the caverns are refilling with windblown sand but minor seasonal precipitations are also taking place. There are two entrances which are interconnected by a serious of caverns and passages covering a total distance of over half a kilometer. The caves are also an important home for a variety of life including different species of bats.
According to UNESCO website, the Gcwihaba Caves have been part of the Kalahari landscape for at least the entire Pleistocene epoch, some 2 million years ago. The cave contains sediments useful for the regional paleo climatic reconstruction. This was found out during the first scientific research undertaken by Cooke and Ballieul (1974). This cave system has two large (more than 5m wide) cavernous entrances, which have allowed access of a large number of bats and windblown sand deep into the cave.
This has effectively buried much of the cave with sediment of up to at least 7m (Cooke, 1975). Adjacent to this cave is a recently discovered cave named !Wa Doum. This has only been researched on a few occasions. The cave's most important feature is the limited air exchange with surrounding atmosphere as it was more or less sealed off from the outside world until researchers entered it for the first time in October 1992. These caves have a very rich variety of secondary cave formations such as stalactites and stalagmites, but also many more unusual formations such as helictites, soda straws and cave pearls, totally untouched by man.
The cave has been resealed after each visit by researchers to safeguard the interior air composition. The current exploration project has delineated a number of caves of which three have been confirmed. In addition, a lot of bones (both fossilized and modern) as well as archaeological finds have been unveiled through excavation programmes as part of the ongoing exploration work.
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Mascom, Letshego partner to deliver the MyZaka instant loan
Letshego Botswana has recently partnered with Mascom to launch the Mascom MyZaka Instant Loan, a customer focused mobile money microloan service designed to provide customers with swift and convenient access to funds, driven by the underlying theme ofÂ â€śIthuseâ€ťÂ meaningÂ â€śhelp yourselfâ€ť
The loan is said to have been developed through a partnership driven by a deep customer focus with the key objectives of access, convenience and flexible financial support to customers of Letshego Botswana and Mascom through instantly disbursed short-term loans from P50 to P1 500 over the period of one month.
Letshegoâ€™s head of transformation, Molebogeng Malomo highlighted that working through agile methodologies, the partnership was able to develop and be released as what they call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or solution. â€śIn keeping up with the spirit of design thinking and agile methodologies, the experiences and viewpoints of both Letshego Botswana and Mascomâ€™s customers will be valuable to inform further enhancements to the Mascom MyZaka solution,â€ť he said.
He further noted that the partnership and the development of the MyZaka instant loan will provide both the organizations to diversify their offering and customer base, while also offering the customer more choices and flexibility to initiate and be in control of their loan requests through the self-service mobile based application.
Mascomâ€™s Chief Executive Officer, Dzene Makhwade-Seboni also alluded that their origins, priorities and initiatives are firmly rooted in Botswana and in the success of all Batswana, and that their strategy and intent is supported by embracing innovative problem-solving.
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DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.
Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.
DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.
It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.
According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.
Responding toÂ WeekendPostÂ enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, â€śI am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,â€ť adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.
When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. â€śI know nothing about the warrant and I havenâ€™t been served with anything,â€ť he said.
Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.
â€śIt is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,â€ť said the former president in a statement.
He also stated that his brother TKâ€™s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. â€śTheir desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,â€ť he said
This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.
Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.
Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khamaâ€™s territory in Shoshong.
DCECâ€™s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo
Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.
Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.
It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCECâ€™s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; â€śpeople at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.â€ť
Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.
At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.
In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilaneâ€™s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.
When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any â€śinfightsâ€ť at the DCEC â€śat the top managementâ€ť, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. â€śThe DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,â€ť said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.
When WeekendPost inquired about Pilaneâ€™s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.
The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCECâ€™s corruption prevention strategy.
Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.
Although the infighting was denied by Pilaneâ€™s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.
Pilaneâ€™s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilaneâ€™s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.