Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS) onetime Queen, Wilhelminah ‘Butterfly’ Maswabi, is languishing in jail after she was denied bail by the Gaborone High Court. The State has advanced arguments that she is a high flight risk and her covert training as a DIS Operative puts her at an advantage to temper with evidence and scupper the case.
Maswabi is facing three criminal charges of financing terrorism, possession of unexplained property and false declaration for passports. On Financing Terrorism, this is a charge which on its own carries life imprisonment which the State prosecutors say could be a motivating factor for one not to stand trial and flee the jurisdiction which will delay the proceedings and evidence against her to be compromised.
The state, represented by Priscilla Israel, told the court that carrying different passports was a clear indication of abuse power of which she carried diplomatic passports which allowed her easy access. “If granted bail and before the money is frozen and or restrained there is high likelihood that she will temper with the State's evidence and endeavour to recover the syphoned money that we believe belongs the State,” Israel explained.
According to the State, “There is reasonable evidence that the applicant is likely to be convicted on all the charges filed against her.” Maswabi is accused of holding US390 million in her personal account and that she has at some point transferred P29 million to former DIS Director General, Isaac Kgosi. The transfer occurred shortly after Kgosi had made remarks that he will “topple this Government”, when he was arrested at the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.
During the bail hearing, the prosecution pleaded with the judge do a balancing exercise between the interest of the individuals and those of the prosecution and the public in general. “If the applicant is granted bail the state and the public in general will be prejudiced in that, the applicant is trained to counter, to infiltrate and intercept in dealing with computer related activities.” In the DPP view, “taking all the factors into consideration – that is the seriousness of the offences charged coupled with their sentences this is a high motivation for one to flee the course of justice.”
“Furthermore, the integrity of evidence and money syphoned from the State accounts, we humbly submit that the public interest outweighs the interest of an individual, therefore, we pray that the application before this honourable court is without merits and the public interest should be taken into consideration and the application be dismissed.” Offering emphasis on why ‘Butterfly’ is a high flight risk and may temper with evidence, the DPP said she is an employee of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services and she has been trained as a covert officer which includes among other things interception, hacking and any operations in the cyber space.
The DPP argued that it is in the interest of justice that Maswabi be remanded in custody pending the completion of the case. “Furthermore, it is believed that the applicant is co-conspirator in the syphoning of the Government funds, the matter which is still under investigation and it is believed that she has access to the offs h ore accounts which our primary investigations are believed to have been linked to the money syphoned from the Government funds.”
The DPP made claims that Maswabi “is believed to be a long-time girlfriend of a Mr Isaac Seabelo Kgosi who is a fugitive of justice, and his who his whereabouts are still unknown to the State and there is evidence that the Ap p licant knows where Mr Kgosi is as she has transferred money to him on several occasions.”
The 46-year-old former spy agent shuddered the court when the Directorate of Public Prosecution revealed that she has a lump sum of U$390 million in her personal account. She has travelled to 18 European countries, 17 African Countries, 5 Asian countries and 13 Indonesian countries. “Butterfly” has over 5 passports in her name of which 4 were returned because they were full.
Butterfly is also alleged to be the signatory to the accounts that were used to transfer money some of which was in the sum of P48 million. Israel revealed to the court that the USD 48 million that went into that account was transferred to four different accounts of which two of the accounts the applicant is a signatory to. The two companies are alleged to have 17 different accounts which have 10 billion pula. She further clarified that these are offshore accounts.
THE STATE IS BLUFFING – MASWABI
In their heads of submission, Mack emphasized that the State should provide evidence, if they have any against the accused. He dismissed that the courts cannot be dwelling on cases on suspicion instead of facts. “We demand to see a statement [affidavit] from Bank of Botswana to confirm that an account was created and to ensure that indeed they do exist. No signatures reflect on the documents they claim to have, so how do they tell the courts that the owner of the signatures is the accused,” Mack said.
Mack elaborated that they have no knowledge of which account holds the alleged U$2.9 million, neither do they know who the holder of the account is because the state has not brought any evidence before them. “There is no proof that the Applicant is a signatory to 17 bank accounts as suggested by the State and where bank accounts are. There is no proof that the Applicant was involved in any of the alleged transactions as depicted in Annexures E, D and X. In fact, the said documents are highly suspicious as they do not show their origin, author and they are not signed,” he said.
The applicant’s attorney also made the courts aware that despite her arrest there is no evidence from the South African immigration dealing with alleged pseudo passports. Mack said the second leg deals with the Application for bail in terms of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, in particular, Section 113 as read with Section 114 – The likelihood of the accused not standing trial; The accused interfering with investigations; or The proper administration of justice.
According to Mack if there is no likelihood of the accused failing to stand trial or interfering with investigation, then they must be admitted on bail. “The onus is on the State, if it opposes the granting of bail, to prove on a balance of probabilities that, either the accused is a flight risk or will interfere with investigations. Cogent evidence and not mere suspicion is required to convince the Court that one should not be released on bail,” he said.
Mack said in the present case, no evidence, has been provided by the State that the Applicant is actually a flight risk or that she will interfere with investigations. He admitted that at least one charge is serious, being the charge pertaining to Financing Terrorism. However he said what is critical at this stage is what evidence has been led to support the charges. He further observed that it is common cause that at this stage, the evidence placed before the Court in this regard would merely need to be prima facie and not necessarily conclusive.
“As regards the possible prejudice that the State would suffer if the Applicant is granted bail, it is submitted that none exists. If it does, it has not been set out. All that has been stated is that the Applicant will access money by means of cyber but no connection has been proved between the Applicant and any money or any bank account,” said Mack. He said Maswabi is a Motswana and the evidence led by the State does not suggest that she holds any foreign passport. “The evidence does not suggest that the Applicant is in possession of more than one valid passport.”
Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.
“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”
The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.
“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”
According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month