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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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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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