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Bakang’s bid to have P250 million NPF charges dropped fails

Court has this week dismissed an application by Gaborone businessman Bakang Seretse and co-accused in which they wanted their criminal charges dropped in the controversial P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga.

Seretse, the accused persons in the NPF case, is charged together with former Department of Energy Director, Kenneth Kerekang; Khulaco (Pty) Ltd, Basis Point (both represented by Bakang as Director), M & B Properties Pty Ltd with Bakang Seretse as Director. They cited also the Member of Parliament for Lobatse and ex-Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy, Security Sadique Kebonang, Raging Bull Pty Ltd, Sadique Kebonang as the Director, twin brother to Sadique and High Court Judge Zein Kebonang.

Mogomotsi Seretse, Leomog Pty Ltd- (Mogomotsi Seretse as Director), Kago Stimela and STM Holdings Pty Ltd, Kago Stimela as Director, were also dragged in. Acting for the defence, was attorneys Ngakaagae and Unoda Mack while Wesson Manchwe was representing the DPP.  The accused are faced with 65 counts in the charge sheet most of which are related to money laundering as they are accused of involvement in diverting multimillions of pula from NPF to a private asset management company.

When making the ruling on Friday with regard to the application brought by the accused persons through their attorney Ngakaagae, Broadhurst Regional Magistrate Masilo Mathaka said since it’s not the first time that such request is made to court to drop the charges – which was dismissed – reasons thereof still stands.

“This is not the first time in casu that the court has been moved to quash the charges. A similar application was moved in the past and on the 22 March 2019 I delivered a ruling refusing the application,” the Magistrate stated. He continued: “the reasons I gave then are as valid today.” Magistrate Mathaka further pointed out that “it is in the interest of the accused that they stand trial and clear their names and it is also in the interest of the society that the matter be taken for trial given its seriousness.” 

The answer, he said, also concerns Mack’s application for the quashing of the charges as well. “For this sole reason I again refuse the applications for the quashing of the charges,” the Magistrate maintained. Ngakaagae had filed an application to quash the indictment in terms of Section 147 of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act on the 5th June 2019.

The attorney’s argument were that the matter was registered long back in 2017 and his clients have been appearing in court throughout. He argued that the objective of the criminal law is not only to hold people accountable for alleged crime but to do so in a fair and just way.
“In a space of one and half years since the registration of the matter the State has amended the charge sheet 5 times. I am not too sure of the count, but of course it has been amended several times and there was attempt to amend it to about 169 counts which never materialized,” Ngakaagae lashed out in the heads or argument which were read out by the Magistrate.

His argument, Mathaka said, is that goal posts keep shifting, to his clients’ prejudice. The State has behaved contemptuously to the court and its process and continue to do so, he said, adding that Ngakaagae’s arguments that the accused’s interest are equally important as are those of society. Magistrate: “I can’t agree more.”  He further narrated that the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has responded to the application (brought by Ngakaagae) by submitting at length that since the court is not entrusted with the trial of the case, it does not have the power to deal with the application raised by Ngakaagae.

“This court was called upon to engage in the interpretation of section 147 and 148 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act,” he stressed out. Meanwhile Ngakaagae has indicated his willingness to appeal for the second opinion of law the matter while the Magistrate was adamant to take the matter now to the High Court. “I thought today we are committing the matter to High Court. We can’t continue like this as these appeals may drag the case further,” he stated.

The matter was therefore scheduled for committal on August 26 to prepare it for the higher court. Magistrate also separately dismissed the DPP through Manchwe’s plea to allow for amendment of the charge sheet in the public interest to cater for 3 more accused to be charged citing that they have been amending it for far too long and therefore can’t allow it for the 5th or sixth time.

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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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