Ex-Member of Parliament for Gaborone Bonnington North (formerly Gaborone West North), Robert Masitara has this week declared his parliamentary candidature as an independent contender for the area in the impending 2019 General Elections.
In an exclusive interview with the Weekend Post this week the politician cum Gaborone Socialite and philanthropist confirmed the move saying the country needs him and his expertise more at this juncture than never before. “I still feel that my skills are needed in parliament particularly the expertise and exposure on corruption,” he asserted while stressing “so the role that I want to play at parliament is mainly to fight corruption.”
According to Masitara, in his short stint while outside of parliament in the last term he became aware of some things that he was otherwise not aware of when he was in the system. “Being outside parliament briefly allowed me to gain some valuable expertise. I learnt that corruption is not only the element of stealing or visible corruption. There is a hidden and subdue corruption that you cannot understand. That corruption is beyond nepotism, extortion, embezzlement and misappropriation. And I want to fight that corruption in parliament,” he observed.
When did he take the decision to stand as an independent candidate?
The corruption busting former law maker stated that he took the decision to seek for a second term in parliament around two to three years back but kept it closer to his lips while being present in the area on the ground. It was about two to three years back, he pointed out to this publication.
He continued: “I have long taken the decision as soon as I got into the forensics and saw the way things are being done and I realised that none of our MP’s understand the dynamics of our corruption the way I do. And none of the people in the oversight duties of government understand corruption the way I do. So I thought my best decision is to go back to parliament to rescue them.
“I am the only person who can help Masisi” – Masitara
The maverick ex legislator said he thanks God for an extension of his life because his assignment to the people is not yet fulfilled and think it will be, under President Masisi. At this stage, he said, “I am the only person that can actually help President Masisi” while adding “I am putting my life at risk I know I am going to have opposition. He contended that his loss, will be a loss to the entire country. “Even if I lose, it will not be the loss to myself alone, but it is to the country. It’s very critical. So they must put me in parliament.
According to the one time ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator, the people of Gaborone Bonnington North are different from other voters and that they understand him more to vote him back. “This is the time they need my services at parliament. With the influx of foreigners leading to more corruption, they need me more at parliament. Even if it means joining government it can help – mine is to help to recover corruption money. I will also put systems to block more money from going outside,” he said.
Corruption top priority for Masitara at parliament
Masitara highlighted that corruption will be his priority at parliament because every problem in this country cannot be resolved until they solve the nucleus of problems which is corruption. He observed: “I can draw a matrix of the economic situation of this country; the high rate of unemployment, substandard infrastructure. Everything emanates from our inability to provide corruption. There are no medicines in the hospitals as the supply chain in the procurement system of medicines has been captured. Service delivery cannot be executed as people are busy in demand of a ‘cut.’’”
Why he thinks he did not win in last 2014 elections
In terms why he lost the previous general Elections, the non-conformist politicians justified that there were many dynamics at time. He said, there were issues of public sectors strike that was at hand, but that he managed to garner more than 5000 voters against opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s more than 7000 speaks volume.
“This means I cannot be taken lightly. Remember people were also being trafficked into the area to vote against me because of the strike. Right now dynamics and the landscape have absolutely changed. And so let the electorates decide what they want.”
Some BDP cadres conspired to throw Masitara under the bus politically
When narrating his ordeal, the celebrity politician said he submitted his application at the BDP to stand in the recent primary elections but was blocked. “I had channelled it through our branch committee and I don’t really know where my letter ended. So they blocked it. I was in Pretoria at the time when I put through my letter. But that’s water under the bridge,” he said. He also stated that he believes there was instruction from somewhere in the party high authority saying they should not allow me to stand.
“They know very well that they cannot stand me. The very reason why they did not allow me is because I was not even listened to while I was in parliament. It’s the very reason why I was launched three days before the 2014 October General Elections. I was launched after everybody else have been launched. This explains why,” he lashed out.
Masitara believes that when one is in the Finance department, such as he was in oversight parliamentary committees, there is no way he can/would have been friends with anybody when executing his duty which he says might have contributed to some of his colleagues non-support. He observed: “when I used to say I want people to account I mean it – right from the presidency down. If you become soft people take you for granted. These are public funds.”
Did Masitara fail as the Chairman of parliamentary oversight committee?
The ex-MP said parliament can do so much up to a certain level and that from there government must take over. “If I come as the Chairman of a parliamentary committee implying that there is corruption somewhere and advice for forensic audit to be carried out, and give government the report. My expectations is not to go to government and shove the report down their throat but that they should look at it and see if they can implement as they hold the government purse. So the system did nothing, and what else can I, as an MP do given the set up?” he asked rhetorically.
Senior officials are busy looting while Khama/Masisi fight
According to Masitara, former President Ian Khama and incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi are still fighting this senseless war, which he says he do not even know where the war emanates from although they can speculate, and that this is happening while people are busy looting on the sides.
“Minister, senior government officials are looting. They are looting money through the system. They are doing this because they is no monitoring, who is monitoring parastatals, government departments? Who provides financial oversight over all these institutions?” he further asked oratorically.
Botswana not fighting corruption but only noncompliance to BURS
The corruption fighting specialist went on to reveal that what Botswana is fighting now is not corruption but compliance; it is an issue of non-compliance to Botswana unified revenue Services (BURS) for tax purposes. “I even told the DISS about this. It is about someone owing tax and it accumulated with penalties and interest and now BURS want to confiscate his assets to forfeit, yes they can do but that’s not the duty of the DISS. Corruption and money laundering should make part of their duty.”
On Isaac Kgosi ongoing court case, Masitara said he feels embarrassed that the former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi is only charged for leaking pictures of DISS operatives on duty against the DISS Act while there are strong allegations of corruption involving millions spanning in billions hanging on his head, but no charges have been laid so far. On NPF issue he stressed that it is just a tip of the iceberg and involves small money.
He stated that: “there is a risk that if the State fail to have collected evidence that is permissible in a court of law, the accused persons have a high risk of being discharged on technicalities because of our weaknesses in terms of collecting crucial data. And when they win the case they can even come back and sue government.”
On the famous undelivered promise to build bridge to the electorates
The philanthropist politician also pointed out that the issue was blown out of proportion. “Those are petty issues. I was standing against Otsweletse Moupo back then. I urged the people of Block 5 to vote for me so that I build the bridge for them. It was a simple thing as at the time as I had connections back then to deliver,” he said. So, he added that they decided to vote for Moupo instead and so there was nothing he could do then and he gave him a chance to execute his duties and that it’s now water under the bridge.
In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy.
The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.
However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world. The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.
Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.
“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.
The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)
Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.
“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.
“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.
“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.
“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”
The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.
For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.
In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.
According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.
In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled. Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.
Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects. During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies. Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).
A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination. The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.
The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.
Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.
He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful. Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.
But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB. FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.
Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.
Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB. “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.
The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).
FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders. Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.
In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.
But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings. “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.
FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries). The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?
“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.
“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.
He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”
“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.
Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.