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China Jiangsu loses P1.5 billon tender lawsuit

The Court of Appeal has this week ruled that the cancellation of P1.5 billion tender bid for China Jiangsu (Pty) Ltd, by government was legal and in the public interest. The appeal arose from a dispute over the award of a tender for the design, supply and building of water distribution network, sanitation, reticulation, telemetry and scada, and other associated works in Maun.

In the debatable tender, China Jiangsu was the initial successful bidder and awarded the tender in the amount of a whooping P1, 568, 877, 164. 38 (one billion five hundred and sixty eight million eight hundred and seventy seven thousand one hundred and sixty four pula thirty eight thebe). Zhengtai Group (Botswana), was the runner-up in the evaluation in which its tender bid was a paltry P305 million above that of Jiangsu, but about half that amount was above the procuring entity’s cost estimates.

The controversial tender was floated around June 2017, with the procuring authority being the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.  In the appeal case brought by China Jiangsu, Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), was cited as the 1st respondent, Attorney General as the 2nd respondent, while Ministry of Land Management and Water Sanitation was the 3rd respondent.

The last and the 4th respondent was Zhengtai Group, which was eventually awarded the tender (and therefore the subject of the dispute) following its withdrawal under dubious circumstances from China Jiangsu. Following careful consideration of evidence submitted before him, Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Isaac Lesetedi dismissed the appeal thereby confirming Zhengtai as the rightful appointee in the multimillion tender.

“Having considered all the factors in this matter, I am not satisfied that a case has been made for the granting of an expedited hearing of this appeal nor for an interim interdict pending that appeal. For that reason, the application is dismissed with costs,” Justice Lesetedi stated in the judgement delivered this week. In terms of the tender, Zhengtai Group, being dissatisfied with the award to China Jiangsu Company, had in the meantime filed a complaint with the relevant administrative structures soon after the award and the complaint was only finally dismissed in early March 2019.

Despite its request for notification of the award in its favour, China Jiangsu did not receive notification, and on 7th February 2019, it however received correspondence that the award to it “had been withdrawn for classified reasons.” On the 25th March 2019, China Jiangsu learnt that the tender had now been awarded to the Zhengtai group. Lesetedi indicated that it is common cause that the withdrawal of the award was made on the strength of adverse letter from the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS).

Dissatisfied with the withdrawal of the award, China Jiangsu filed an application for the review and setting aside of the withdrawal of the award on the 14th February 2019, and that the application was not filed on urgency. In the Court of Appeal, Zhengtai opposed the application on a number of grounds particularly that there was nothing exceptional in the matter, it being a pure commercial dispute with commercial interests.

“But generally companies which bid for tender projects are primarily driven by the commercial interests of rendering services as required by the procurer and for a bargain in monetary terms,” Lesetedi highlighted. They had argued, which Lesetedi acceded to, that “the greater public interest is in the expeditious carrying out of the contract to provide members of the community with the basic services which they had yearned for many years and of which the need has become acute.”

“The needs for of the community for basic services which the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation has a duty to provide will be adversely affected by an indeterminate delay in implementation of the project whilst review proceedings are pending,” the CoA Judge observed.  The court contended it is in the public interest that the values of a fair, accountable, and transparent procurement system are adhered to and parties whose rights have been infringed by the breach of those values can meaningfully have judicial recourse.

Justice Lesetedi added that the cost overruns which may well eclipse what damages the applicant may suffer together with the prejudice to the community brought about by the interim interdict are very significant. He emphasised: “there is no evidence that it at any time sought to have the review application itself to move on an expeditious basis having regard to the interests and needs of the community of Maun and the surrounding villages for which the tender is intended to provide. It therefore has got no public interest at heart as evidenced by its conduct. It has only got its commercial interest.”

According to Lesetedi, the prejudice China Jiangsu is suffering is weighed against the public interest and in light of its own conduct set out, weighs against it in the balance of convenience and in the consideration of the overall prejudice. Advocate John Peter and Kgalalelo Monthe represented China Jiangsu; Tshiamo Rantao and T. Resheng stood in for PPADB; while Ministry of Land management and Water Sanitation and Attorney General were represented by S. Thapelo and G.I Begane.

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

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.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

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.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

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

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