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Kgosi Tawana’s juicy BDP deal

In what was supposed to be a landmark deal between the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and Batawana royal, Kgosi Tawana Moremi, WeekendPost has learnt that a tide has turned after some observers informed Kgosi Tawana of an orchestrated move to solicit his support to endorse the BDP candidate for Maun West, parliamentary candidate, Reaboka Mbulawa.

According to the deal, Tawana would later on after the general elections, be handed all the concessions belonging to Batawana, back to the community. According to an anonymous source Kgosi Tawana, had sometime this year been offered the said deal, some of whose details President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi pronounced at a Maun Kgotla meeting recently. Tawana, who allegedly has vested interests in the land, is believed to have agreed in an off record agreement with high ranking officials to endorse their preferred Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary candidate, Reaboka Mbulawa, in Maun West constituency.

The gentlemen agreed that Tawana would rather make the pronouncement at a political rally where President Masisi launched Mbulawa and his councilors. With Tawana not trusting the deal, it is alleged that the Batawana Paramount Chief remained reluctant to endorse Mbulawa, after some observers informed him that his ‘hunters’ will not keep the promise. 

The observers further informed Tawana, that a plot has also been hatched with Tawana Land Board to convince Tawana, that he will indeed get Batawana land back. Tawana, was also promised a Maun Educational Park that is currently run by government.  Batawana Paramount chief, Kgosi Tawana Moremi, is currently Maun West Member of Parliament, having served two terms. Tawana, has long announced that he has no intensions of coming back to parliament. With the arrival of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)’s Dumelang Saleshando, to contest the constituency, BDP’s Mbulawa felt the heat and wants Tawana to endorse him and show him support.  

According to local press, Kgosi Tawana Moremi has in the past maintained that the Chief’s Island is his personal property. He contended that it was traditionally his forefathers’ hunting ground. The Minister of Tourism at the time, Tshekedi Khama, said there was documentation to prove that Batawana gave Moremi Game Reserve-which they formed as a tribal territory in 1960-to the government.

However, Keith Diako of Batawana Advisory Committee, said that the tribe is still contesting the ownership of Moremi Game Reserve and Maun Educational Park. Tawana’s contention has been that, when all prime tourism areas in the country were taken from Tawana Landboard, a number of concessions were transferred to foreign business people without consultation with locals. 

“The Landboard are administrators of the tribal land, on behalf of the people, the land does not belong to them. But certain pieces of land were transferred from Land board custody without consultation and chaos emanated from there. There was no longer accountability. A Minister appointed those he wanted to run the show and allocated the land to those he/ she wanted”, Tawana said.   

Kgosi Tawana, has been at battle with government which has been simmering over for years now. At the center of controversy, is a 2014 directive by government to take Okavango Delta from Tawana Land board management and place it in the custody of Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), through a controversial initiative termed ‘The Land bank’.

The current situation is that state land is controlled by Central government, under the Ministry of Land and Housing and BTO; an arrangement which does not sit well with the Ngami-land people in general. The land belonged to the Batawana people and in 1962 Chief Moremi's wife saw that the local wildlife was being decimated by the hunters and created Moremi Game Reserve.

The Reserve covers large tracts of the central and eastern areas of the Okavango. It is dominated by Chief's Island which was the Batawana Chief's main hunting ground in historic times. The region is vast, with areas of permanent floodplains as well as drier seasonal areas.
Moremi Game Reserve has a vast range of habitats which supports a great diversity of animal life; from large herds of elephants all year round to the waterways; home to numerous hippos.

Speaking to WeekendPost Kgosi Tawana Moremi denied meeting President Mokgweetsi Masisi or anyone from the BDP on the matter involving Batawana land. Tawana said President Masisi had made some remarks during a Kgotla meeting in Maun, assuring that investigations will be carried out in regard to the land in question.  Kgosi Tawana Moremi also told this publication that the two parliamentary candidates in Maun West constituency have never approached him for support. “I have resigned from politics, at the moment I just want to watch from a distance,” he said.   

Contacted for comment, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Vice President Dumeleng Saleshando, who is vying for the constituency, told WeekendPost that he met with Kgosi Tawana Moremi, and he told him that Masisi has asked him to help the BDP because they are in trouble. However, Saleshando said he did not know anything concerning the deal between Kgosi Tawana and President Masisi. “I cannot comment beyond that”, he said.

It is said Tawana is unsure on whether he should endorse BDP but he has told some Dikgosana in Maun that he wants to accept the ruling party deal and endorse. According to information received by this publication, Tawana has met one Kgosana and the plan is to justify the endorsement by accusing Saleshando of campaigning along tribal lines. WeekendPost received information that BDP has pledged to sponsor Tawana’s 50th birthday bash on 5 October.

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P500 million Tshesebe-Masunga road dispute lands in Court

25th January 2021
500-Million-Tshesebe-Masunga-road-on-a-stand-still

The Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road estimated costs stand at P500 million, the tender which was awarded to Bash Carriers in 2017 has not taken shape four years after the project was commissioned.

Tshesebe-Mosojane-Masunga road when it was commissioned, was estimated at P500 million in value, this included construction of 22.50km of the two lane carriage way and 28.70km of access roads including associated bridge works, cross drainage works, storm water drainage works and relocation of services.

When it was first tendered the contract was awarded to Bash Couriers but was terminated after it was alleged that the contractor failed to deliver. It was said that Bash Couriers Construction Company was lagging behind schedule.

This publication visited the sites of Tshesebe-Masunga road last year December and it was evident that the project was at a standstill as deserted machinery on site could be seen with the gravel road also in a devastating state.

Information revealed then indicated that there had been issues of mining rights for aggregates, availability of structural engineers and manpower and a criteria for awarding tender to the specific company when the contract was terminated.

In 2016, as part of the ESP projects, government funded the 25 kilometres (Km) road project to link Tshesebe and Masunga.

Construction of the road, which also connects some of the villages within the district, commenced early in 2016 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.

The company had done nothing when their contract was terminated with allegations that it never had the capacity to carry out the project in the first place.

The major ESP project had ultimately robbed a lot of people potential employment when it succumbed to termination.

It was then that the government restarted the tendering process.

The project was awarded to Bango Trading Company and Zebra Construction in a joint venture at a value of P319 Million Pula.

However, information reaching this publication from the Ministry of Transport and Communications confirms that indeed there are no current works carried out on the Tshesebe Masunga road.

Responding to a questionnaire sent to them by this publication through their Public Relations Officer Doreen Moapare, the Ministry indicated that the Tshesebe-Masunga road project is before the courts therefore their response is limited by such a pending outcome.

“As a background the project had been awarded to Bash Carriers at a contract sum of P400, 044,365.68 to begin the works in May 2017 and complete the project in January 2019. Scopes of works included 51.2km main road inclusive of seven access roads. Due to non-performance, Bash Carriers contract was terminated on the 25th of September 2018. ”

Further, Moapare indicated that upon termination of Bash Carriers, a process began to ensure that the development project completes.

Five companies went for a selective tendering bid which she listed as; Lobkom Investments (Pty) Ltd, Landmark (Pty) Ltd and Truck Hire (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, ACE /Excavator Hire (Pty) Ltd and Asphalt Botswana (Pty) Ltd Joint venture, Cul De Sac, Bango Trading and Zebra Construction Joint venture.

“Some companies have since queried the results of the tendering adjudication landing the issue in the courts. We are currently awaiting a ruling expected in February/March 2021, and this will determine the course of action thereafter,” concluded Moapare.

At one point last year, reports indicated that Bango Trading Construction Company had faced raiding by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security, Botswana Police and Botswana Unified Revenue Services, with allegations that there was an emerging pattern targeting overscheduled construction companies with powerful political connections.

Bango Trading Managing Director, Moffat James, was reported to have had close links to former DIS Director Isaac Seabelo Kgosi. Bango Trading and Estate Construction Company which has obtained close to P 1, 5 billion government contracts under former President Lt Gen Ian Khama has been the subject of a parliamentary probe due to the many government contracts awarded to them.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.

JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.

This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.

“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.

This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.

“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.

UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.

In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.

This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.

Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”

Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”

UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.

Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.

“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview
UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.

The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.

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