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Court advised to quash NPF charges

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) yesterday (Friday) continued to blunder in the P230 million National Petroleum scandal as they failed to convince the court why the charge should be amended and why the magistrate should commit the case to the High Court.

During their last mention Broadhurst Regional Magistrate Masilo Mathaka had ordered that in their next mention both the State and the defense attorneys were to argue the two matters. The State sought to move an application to amend the charge sheet, add more accused persons and commit them to the High Court whereas the defense attorneys want the charges against their clients thrown out. In his heads of argument, defense attorney Kgosi Ngakaagae argued that they submitted for the charges against their clients to be quashed stressing that they would not accept amendment of the charge sheet.

Ngakaagae stated that on the 31st May they received a supplementary request from the State prosecutors. “There is nothing that warrants its introduction, no consultation with the defense. The State should know that the purported supplementary affidavit in fact is a void document. Today we do not come to discuss any supplementary response,” he said. Ngakaagae argued that the defense and its clients have had enough of the State amending its charge sheet in every mention.

“My clients have been appearing before this court since 2017 and we on charge number five in a space of one and a half years,” he contended. The exasperated Ngakaagae argued that his clients have on several occasions denied by the State to take a plea. “The first appearance was a one count charge sheet on money laundering. We asked to plead, the State refused. Second was an amended Zimbabwean charge sheet for money laundering, the State still denied my clients to take a plea. We cried to this court that we be prosecuted but they resisted.”

He further stressed: “Then came a Botswana charge sheet (65 counts in total), we came before this court, we asked to plead. We did not resist despite increase and departure of the first charge sheet. Charge number four, 164 counts came now an esteemed and learned friend Abrahams [Shaun] now a South African charge sheet.” Ngakaagae told the court that the continuous change of prosecutors in this matter has delayed the case even further. He argued that each counsel brings their own charge and brings their own narrative.

“There should be an end to this. This matter has ceased to be about law but about counsels and what they prefer. Between now and then things have changed, the question is should an accused person be chasing after changing charges all the time?”
The defense attorneys stated that their clients have therefore made a decision to have the matter quashed.

“Our respectful submission in this case may be thrown out, and my clients be acquitted of the charges. In all their papers the state has failed to explain why they refused to give us further particularities and they have yet to explain why they did that in contempt of the court. The confiscation offense is not stated. How is the accused to know what the confiscation charge means if they are not told. Unoda Mack, who forms part of the defense attorneys also shared Ngakaagae’s sentiments.

“We submit that the state failed to provide answers and proper documents. They may say they have delivered eight files, but I doubt they are before the court. Our request for further particularities was based on the question, how was the money transacted? And the only response we got from the state was we do not know. Therefore the entire charge sheet should be quashed accordingly,” Mack also submitted. When he took the stand, State advocate Shaun Abrahams described to the court that the case has not been easy.

“This was not an easy investigation. It was a difficult and long one by the DCEC. More charges were bound to increase with time, you uncover new things,” he said. In his heads of arguments, Abrahams argued that there is a list of witnesses that the prosecution intents to call, pleading with the court to dismiss the motion to have the case quashed. “The matter has advanced to a stage where we are ready to commit the accused to the High Court,” he argued.  

State Prosecutor Ernest Mosate of the Directorate of the directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) also argued that the magistrate should have in mind what the effects of quashing the charges are and what purpose will be achieved from quashing these charges.  “The court must balance the interests of both parties. We want this matter to proceed. We are ready for trial. Therefore we submit that may the application to quash the charges be dismissed.”  

He was however interrupted by magistrate Mathaka who lashed that the state cannot say they are ready for trial when they keep on amending their charge sheet every mention. “Where is the readiness there? You are never ready, today you are here tomorrow you are there. Your charges keep on giving birth to other charges,” the magistrate said.

Ngakaagae dismissed the state’s argument: “If you are not ready go back, and try get your house in order. You’ve never been ready that is why they denied my clients to take the plea. Theirs is a dead case and that is the sad reality with no escape. This case belongs to the archives.” The ruling will be delivered on the 18th July 2019.

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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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