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Thursday, 18 April 2024

CEDA wins employee dismissal lawsuit in Guma matter

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Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA), has this week emerged victorious in a case in which its former employee, Primrose Solomon was suing for unfair dismissal and praying for reinstatement or compensation.

When delivering the verdict on Tuesday this week, Industrial Court Judge, Isaac Bahuma resolved that Solomon’s dismissal was procedurally fair. “This case is about applicant’s claim for reinstatement and compensation based on her contention that the dismissal was unfair. The Court has made a finding that the respondent has proved on a balance of probabilities that applicant misconducted herself in handling the URB application,” reads the judgement. “The Court also found that the disciplinary process proceeding the applicant’s dismissal was fair. Consequently the applicant’s claim has to fail and Court so finds.”  

Solomon, who was Portfolio Executive in Structured Finance Department at CEDA was dismissed from the organisation on the 26th of February 2018, owing to her handling of an application for short term finance by United Refineries Botswana (Pty) Ltd, a company co-owned by former Tati East Member of Parliament, Samson Guma.


The court heard that on the 14th of November 2017, James Moribame, who is Head of Structured Finance of which Solomon was under, received an application from URB (Pty) Ltd, for a short term facility of P9.2 million as well as restructuring of their interest in the non-performing loans.  

The application was handed to Solomon for appraisal of which she raised red flags among others; URB had a credit facility of P30 million which they were failing to service; URB was trading at a gross loss, the cost of raw materials exceeded market price; URB had no audited accounts since inception; URB had violated its share agreement with CEDA by diluting the latter’s shares; URB was not tax compliant; URB was technically insolvent and was facing closure by FNBB (P25 million) and BDC (P15 837 868.62).

Despite the red flags, Moribame gave Solomon a go ahead to appraise the application with the view of recommending funding, but the latter could not do as requested within the stipulated time [5 days for short-term finance]. This resulted in Moribame, out of exasperation instructing Solomon to hand over the task to another colleague, Aobakwe Mokgethi who then delivered the task the same day.

After completion of appraisal of URB application, Mokgethi sent the appraisal to Management Committee for consideration. The document was copied to Solomon, who in turn sent an email detailing the red flags which were ‘ignored by her colleague’ during appraisal.
The application however did not succeed because URB had reached CEDA threshold of P30 million and also that then Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry, Vincent Seretse refused to give a waiver.

On the 19th of December 2017, Moribame generated a report in which he accused Solomon of having promised on different occasions to submit the report, but failing to do so, resulting in him giving wrong information to management that the report was ready when it was not.
The report resulted in Solomon being charged, subsequently appearing before the disciplinary hearing, which concluded on her dismissal on the 26 of February 2018.  

Solomon, considered the dismissal unfair, and approached Industrial Court to seek relief. In seeking the relief, Solomon said the dismissal was not merely a result of how she handled the URB issue, but because of previous issues in which CEDA CEO had given her an ultimatum to either resign or face disciplinary action.

Solomon had accused Thamane of having acted negligently by failing to bring to the attention an application to management for consideration. Thamane, according to Solomon, was so incensed by the accusation, a justification which Solomon contended that it led to her expulsion and that the URB issue was the scapegoat.

The court however, arrived to the conclusion that there was no evidence to prove the link between what had happened earlier to the URB disciplinary action, which the court concluded it was fair and procedural, therefore upholding CEDA’s decision to dismiss Solomon from work.
According to the evidence, given by CEDA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Thabo Thamane, and other CEDA senior executives who were subpoenaed by the court, Solomon was dismissed for misconduct relating to handing of URB matter, of which the court agreed. 

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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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