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Masiyiwa fights defamatory suits in South Africa

Telecommunication magnate, Strive Masiyiwa is embroiled in a legal suit, after dragging three compatriot for defamation in a matter relating to the origins of Econet Zimbabwe and its relationship with TS Masiyiwa Holdings (Private) Limited.

Masiyiwa, a London based Zimbabwean businessman and the founder and Executive Chairman of diversified international telecommunications, media and technology group Econet Wireless, on the 13th May 2019 filed an application with South African High Court, Gauteng local Division, Johannesburg with Econet South Africa as the First Applicant, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited as Second Applicant, Econet Global PTY LTD (Mauritius) as Third Applicant and Strive Masiyiwa himself as the Fourth Applicant.

The matter cites Rutendo Benson Matinyarare as the First Respondent, Mutumwa Dziva Mawere as second while third is Pardon Gambakwe. The application seeks an order in the following terms:
5.1 The respondent be indicted from publishing in any form, any defamatory matter, including innuendo, and any injurious falsehoods of and concerning the Applicants, their business and/ or any of the Applicants’ products or services (collectively “defamatory matter,”

5.2 The respondent immediately remove from publication all and any forms of defamatory matter including without limitation from publication via video posts, comments or statements of any media or internet site/s including but not limited to www.youtube, www.gambakwe.com and www.facebook.com (collectively “all media”); and 5.3 The Respondents be ordered to refrain from publishing whether directly or indirectly, all and any defamatory matter on all media.

In his affidavit signed on 24th April 2019 at Sandton Police Client Service Center in South Africa, Dr Kuzozvirava Shumba said this matter involves a factual and legal dispute in relation to the origins of a company called, Enhanced Communications Networks (Private) Limited (Econet Zimbabwe), and its relationship with a company called TS Masiyiwa Holdings (Private) Limited (TSM), a company in which he (Shumba) was represented as a shareholder holding 2.4 percent of its issued share capital per Prospectus, a copy which was attached.

Shumba also reiterate that it is significant that Strive Masiyiwa who is fixed with the knowledge about the issues in dispute chose to hide behind Douglas Mboweni (CEO Econet Wireless Zimbabwe Limited) who purports to have been authorized to represent him in this matter by virtue of a confirmatory affidavit. Shumba also said it is his contention that this application fits into Masiyiwa’s known strategy of hiding his fraud using parties that have no knowledge of the facts that they put before the courts.

Douglas Mboweni on behalf of the Applicants alleges that the following constitute defamatory statements in relation to the affairs of the applicants;
“Mutumwa Zviva Mawewere (Second Respondent) claims that Strive Masiyiwa’s court application to interdict the investigations that Mr. Mawere was heading in relation to corruption allegations that some officers working for First Mutual Life (FML) especially in respect of an unauthorized investment of Z$180 million that resulted in Masiyiwa gaining control of Econet on the back of a contribution by TSM Private Limited (TSM), a company in which Mr. Masiyiwa and his wife, Tsitsi, held about 67. 5% shares in.”

“The article clearly suggest that material falsehoods were included in the relevant prospectus and it is clear from the article as a whole that the allegation is being levelled that the process was tainted and designed to defraud”.  Shumba as a financier of the pre- IPO Econet argues that he has personal knowledge which Mr Mboweni does not possess since he was not involved at all at the material period.

“Accordingly, it is part of my complaint that Mr. Mboweni knowingly and wittingly misrepresented facts before the South African Court that the version that Mr. Masiyiwa who associated himself with the application is false and that a careful reading of the prospectus when juxtaposed with the true nature of the facts of this matter will confirm a crime of perjury and defeating the ends of justice.

This application constitutes abuse an abuse of the SA justice system because the correct version is known to Mr. Masiyiwa that his purported shareholding in TSM was based on the fact that TSM, a Zimbabwean registered company that was subject to exchange control limitations was the lawful owner of the equipment that was purportedly acquired by Econet at the IPO stage”.

Daniel Shumba said Mr. Mboweni knew and ought to have known that the basis of this application is based on manufactured facts that are not supported by any reality. “The allegation is made that the fourth applicant (Masiyiwa)’s family company improperly benefited as the result of an “international fraud,” which “resulted in an unjust and corrupt enrichment of the Masiyiwa family and related shareholders of TSM.”

Shumba said the evidence and facts at his disposal confirm that in truth and fact, Mr. Masiyiwa was a driving behind and fraudulent scheme that resulted in gaining the control of a company that he helped fund and more significantly the purported equipment that TSM swapped for shares in Econet was not owned by TSM and in any event TSM had no capacity to procure the equipment in question.

“It is my contention that Messrs. Mbeweni and Masiyiwa knew and ought to have known that the whole IPO was tainted with fraud.” On paragraph 1 of the affidavit Mr. Masiyiwa represents before a Court that he was the majority shareholder of TS Masiyiwa Holdings (Private) Limited (TSM) which he erroneously misrepresented as MASCOM fully knowing that MASCOM was a separate company in which Shumba was a purportedly 25% shareholder at the material time.

“I only become aware of this affidavit a few weeks ago. At all material times, I was made to believe that TSM was a company that was the vehicle of owning the shares in Econet at IPO stage or during 1998. Until then, my understanding was that Mascom was the sole shareholder of Econet yet in this affidavit, Mr. Masiyiwa represents otherwise.

On paragraph 4 Mr. Masiyiwa also misrepresented that Mascom, a company which Daniel Shumba was a shareholder, was a successor to Retrofit (Pvt.) Limited. However, in terms of company law and practice, there is no such thing as a successor of a juristic or entity. “I also draw your attention to a copy of judgement under Case Number SC251/96 in which the Learned Judge Gubbay CJ, stated as follows; TS Masiyiwa (Private) Limited (Mascom) owns the entire share capital in Econet.”

The deponent Daniel Shumba said Masiyiwa is no longer within the reach of the Zimbabwean justice system and wants to abuse the SA system to perpetuate a lie. It is important that the proper facts relating to this matter are investigated properly so that the delayed justice and equity in this matter can be known and ventilated.

The second Respondent Mutumwa Zviva Mawewere also argues that Civil Procedure and the common law in South Africa require that before a party may sue in Court of law, it must prove that it has title to sue. In this case, Mr. Mboweni must prove that he is the right person to sue and depose to factual matters in the cause and also that he has ability or capacity to substitute the fourth applicant.

In this matter, there are no averments made as to how Mr. Mboweni purports to act in relation to the applicants other than the bold assertion that he is CEO of the second applicant, a company that is domiciled in Zimbabwe, while at the same time acknowledging that the other three applicants are situated outside the jurisdiction of Zimbabwe.

A letter authored by the National Merchant Bank of Zimbabwe Limited on 22nd January, 1998 with ref: Exchange Control Application for TS Masiyiwa Investments in Mascom Botswana (Pty) Limited reads;
“This is to confirm that we, National Merchant Bank Zimbabwe Limited, bankers to TS Masiyiwa Holdings (Pvt.) Limited, will obtain Exchange Control Approval from Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in respect of our client’s investments in Botswana.

We further confirm that our client’s application meets the normal criteria for such approvals from the Reserve Bank. We therefore have no doubt that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will grant Exchange Control Approval for this investment.” The letter was signed by PF Timba Assistant General Manager, Corporate Finance Division.

In the High Court of Botswana Held at Lobatse on the 30th October 1998, in the shareholders dispute DECI Holdings (PTY) LTD 1st Applicant, Portugal Telecom Internacional, SGPS, SA 2nd Applicant and DECI Investment (PTY) Limited 3rd Applicant had dragged Strive Masiyiwa and Mascom Wireless Botswana (PTY) Limited before the court.

Judge Lesetedi had ruled that Mascom is a holder of one of only two cell network licenses issued by the Botswana Telecommunications Authority in the country. The shareholding Mascom and the relationship of the shareholders is governed by a consortium agreement entered into by the shareholders on the 11th day of August 1997 at Harare. This was before Mascom was awarded the licence.

Under the consortium agreement, the shareholding was as follows: (DECI – 36%, PTI – 25% and TSM- 14%). On the remaining 25%, 15% of the ordinary share capital was to be offered to institutional investors of Botswana origin, 5% to Southern African Enterprise Development Fund. At the time of this litigation, the aforementioned twenty- five per centum shareholding had not yet been taken up. The consortium agreement was to be an interim governing agreement pending the signing of a shareholder’s agreement, otherwise it was to lapse in the event of Mascom not being granted a licence.

Lesetedi said the governing contractual instrument is the consortium agreement has been cancelled on the basis inter alia that TSM has not paid its share call. Neither has TSM paid its contribution to DECI Holdings to make its own contribution to Mascom. TSM admits that it has not paid its share call although it now says the funds are available.

“It appears to me that if PTI had a prima facie right to cancel the agreement, then it appears to me that due to the public interest in Mascom, it is very important that an order be granted for the two companies to run with some semblance of normality in the interim pending the final determination of this matter.

Mascom was the first mobile telecom company Masiyiwa founded. He founded the company 21 years ago, few months before he established Econet Wireless in Zimbabwe. It is Botswana’s largest mobile operator with a reported 1. 7 million subscribers. Earlier in March, Econet Group spent $300 million acquiring a 53% stake in Mascom from MTN Group, thereby increasing its stake from 7% to 60%. The deal is expected to be concluded anytime soon as regulatory approval is at its final stages.

Earlier this year during his visit to Botswana and hosted by President Mokgweetsi Masisi Zimbabwe’s richest man, announced that his company, Econet Group, will list Botswana mobile network operator, Mascom, on the nation’s stock exchange later this year.

Speaking at a press conference in Gaborone, Masiyiwa said that by October this year, he intends to list some of Econet’s Mascom shares on the Botswana Stock Exchange in what he believes will be one of the biggest flotations on the bourse. “This is what I have always wanted to do …I have never held enough shareholding to push it through,” he told reporters.

On his Facebook page, Masiyiwa said that anyone who can raise $10 should be able to buy shares in Mascom. “In what I hope will be the biggest public listing ever undertaken in Botswana, I want to sell shares to anyone who can raise about 100 pula ($9.36),” Masiyiwa said.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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