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Botswana officials put under international surveillance

The Botswana government has scored an ‘own goal’ in the seemingly increasing money laundering scandals involving corporates and former senior government officials.  This has resulted in senior government officials being placed under international surveillance for possible money laundering activities by United States agencies.

This comes after the European Union; especially France placing Botswana on a hot list of money laundering centers. President Mokgweetsi Masisi has since resuming office last year vowed to fight corruption and leave no stone unattended to. He has since being pursuing money laundering charges against corporates and former senior government officials through a collaboration of the country’s security organs. “Included in the list of officials under surveillance are cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries, senior government officials, top military and security officials, Bank of Botswana and other parastatals,” said a source close to the events.   

It is believed what triggered the surveillance was the activities of the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) under the administration of Colonel Isaac Kgosi.  And what has made it worse is the ongoing theme of money laundering charges levied against several persons before Botswana courts.About P4.9 billion remains accounted for at Bank of Botswana, and is suspected to have been money laundered. 

Contradicting statements by government don’t help the situation.  Initially Minister of Finance and Development Planning Kenneth Matambo through an interview with a local publication had said the ongoing NPF case will give light to the disappearance of the funds.  Later on, with an interview with the Weekend Post Matambo said they have since been able to account for the funds and it was an audit or accounting error that caused the confusion.  

It is believed the DIS under Kgosi used to withdraw sums of about P500,000 per week over many years from a Bank of Botswana account claiming they are for facilitation and bribes in their course of work.  Some of the funds were traced to DIS agents individual accounts and that of the then Director himself.  At one point a DIS deputy director was fired after claims that he helped himself to a briefcase full of money belonging to his boss, Kgosi.  Some of the funds it is alleged made way to foreign accounts of various individuals related to the DIS.

The Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is currently faced with a huge and complex task of investigating how billions intended for implementing the e-government project since 2012 wound up in the wrong hands.

The investigation, according to impeccable sources started some time ago, and is also expected to take many years to be completed. “Some cases require a lot of time to be investigated.

This case is one complex matter. It might take even five years from now for the investigations to be complete.” According to information gathered by WeekendPost, the money got entangled between the Office of President, Ministry of Transport and Communications and the DIS in the past government. “Two billion was never accounted for. And this started in 2010.”

At one point the permanent secretaries who are the accounting officers in the involved ministries were summoned to account for the missing billions. There was a communiqué from the involved ministries and department as to where some funds were to be transferred, “but the billions never reached the said destiny”. During confrontation, one PS is said to have admitted to signing for the money to be transferred to a particular account, but said he was surprised he never received communication confirming receipt of the sum.

Speaking to highly placed sources within government, he noted, “Cabinet has recently been made aware of the surveillance.”  The surveillance also comes hot on the heels of the elections season, where most political donations come from outside Botswana. Already money deposited to an account of one Olebeng Ngwakwena who was seen as an activist for Pelonomi Venson-Motoi in her BDP Presidential campaign was frozen by authorities.  

Furthermore Bridgette Motsepe, sister in law to President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been placed on a visa restriction to enter Botswana. Motsepe was suspected of also be aiding the Venson-Moitoi camp through her close relationship with former President Ian Khama.  And within this week, BURS pounced on a helicopter leased by the Leader of Opposition Duma Boko, saying it failed all the necessary clearance requirements to enter the customs area of the country.

It is feared the new move by the US will have long term devastating economic impact on the ease of doing business for Botswana with the US and the rest of the world.  India is also one of the countries whose relationship with Botswana has been ruined by the escalating money laundering scandals in Botswana.

This will result eventually in low foreign direct investment, reduced exports and a general economic downturn in the long term.  While the US agencies have taken an aggressive approach towards Botswana, the former colonial master United Kingdom has adopted a wait and see approach to Botswana. Sources however say the United Kingdom has been less impressed with the attitude of Botswana on tourism and other initiatives which they feel hurt their interests in the country.  

As things stand Botswana has political tension with South Africa which forced a release from the South Africa International Relations Department to distance itself from activities of South African nationals in Botswana meddling in interparty politics.  The South Africa media had termed it “effecting regime change”.

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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.

Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”

Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.

On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.

He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”

President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.

“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”

When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.

“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”

He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.

“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:

He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”

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Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks

24th March 2023

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.

“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”

In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.

It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.

Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.

President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”

In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”

He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.

“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”

Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”

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Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV

24th March 2023

Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”

Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.

“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”

He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.

In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.

Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.

Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”

“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”

Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.

“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”

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