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Gov’t terminates P28 million unscrupulous tender

Government has this week terminated the awarding of a P28 million pula road tender to Emark (Pty) Ltd under dubious circumstances. The tender involves a works contract for resealing and road marking of Tshootsha – Mamuno road section II (40km).   

The decision by government was taken last week following this publication’s revealing story that some government big shots were caught up in the controversial multimillion tender brawl. This comes after a contractor in the said tender Moira (Pty) Ltd raised the red flag over what they said are matters of clear malpractice and maladministration of government funds.

The termination of the contractor award barely follows government’s recent decision to reverse 4 billion worth tenders, in particular the immediate blacklisting of China Jiangsu International Botswana (Pty) Ltd, a subsidiary of China Jiangsu International – over alleged bribery claims (corrupt practices). In a separate confidential letter this week announcing the contract termination by government, dated 12 February 2019, the Roads department under Ministry of Transport and Communication notified Emark which was allocated the tender that “it is cancelled.”

A contractor that bid the said tender of reference no. MTC 240/55/2017-2018 had earlier pointed out some basic contractual contraventions between Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Board (PPADB), department of Roads and Emark, the contractor awarded. The matter also landed at the Office of the President (OP).

The cutting classified letter passed to WeekendPost and signed by Acting Director of Roads Reason Lekutlane states “we refer to the above tender and hereby cancel the tender aforesaid on your account of your failure to provide valid Performance Security Guarantee issued by a bank or Insurance Company contrary to the conditions of Old Mutual.” The Acting Director of Roads further observed that the purported Performance Security guarantee has been forged by the said company, Emark.

Lekutlane highlighted to the company that “the purported Performance Bond Guarantee as well as the Advance Payment Guarantee issued on a letter head of Old Mutual are said to be forgeries and therefore not valid according to the Portfolio Manager of Old Mutual.” “The contract is therefore cancelled immediately and forthwith by reason of the purported submission of fraudulent documents,” he stressed.

The fraudulent activity was also confirmed by Old Mutual Short Term Insurance (Botswana) Limited, Portfolio Manager Tshipinare Phele in another top secret letter to the Ministry of Transport and Communications and in particular Department of Roads. In his letter also dated 12 February 2019, Phele stated that “I would like to state and confirm that I, Tshipinare Gofaone Phele of I.D no. 090318617 working for Old Mutual Short-Term Insurance Botswana (OMSTIB), in my capacity as Portfolio Manager DID NOT sign, neither initial nor stamp any Performance Bond Guarantee/Surety document for the companies Mod’s services (Pty) Ltd and Emark Enterprises (Pty) Ltd, or for whichever company, pertaining to the Works Contracts of resealing and road marking of the stated roads tenders: tender no. MTC240/5/55/2017-2018(2).”

He further on stated that he does not even know the stated companies in question. “I would like to also state that I have no knowledge of the above stated companies, nor have I ever met and know their representatives. The signatures and handwritings are not mine, and so they were done fraudulently.” The Old Mutual official explained that the Old Mutual Short Term Insurance Botswana does not even offer the Performance Bond Guarantee cover hence they do not hold any form of cover/policy for the said companies.

He also revealed that “please also note that Old Mutual Shot Term Insurance Botswana went through rebranding and that we also changed our letterheads in and around September 2018, so as such there is no how I could have issued the letter in the old letterhead as in the Performance Bond Guarantee letters provided by December 2018.” Following the shadowy revelations, the mysterious termination of the tender also follows a recommendation from the Ministerial Tender Committee to the department of Roads.

“The Ministerial Tender Committee at its special sitting of the 12th February 2019, approved your recommendation for cancellation of contract and withdrawal of award of tender for reseal and road marking of Tshotsha – Mamuno road section II (40km) tender in respect of Emark (Pty) Ltd,” Chairperson of Ministerial Tender Committee (MTC) Maipelo Ragalase who is also the acting Deputy Permanent Secretary (Corporate Services) in the Ministry of Transport and Communication, stated in another letter.

In light of the termination of the contract, the department of Roads were also advised to “report this matter to the relevant authorities.” It is understood that through MTC Chairperson’s affidavit, there are certain matters of clear malpractice and maladministration of government funds which have been committed by both herself and the Director of Roads.

Chief among the irregularities, Kgotso Botlhole of Lekorwe Legal Consultants, on behalf of Moira (Pty) Ltd cited that: “first, the Director of Roads issued a notice of commencement handing over the site to Emark without first having received a performance bond giving security in favour of the government of Botswana for Emark’s performance of the works.”

He stressed that the letter of acceptance is dated 17 December 2018 while Emark issued a letter dated 14 January 2019 apparently attaching a performance bond only issued by Old Mutual two days later, and on 16 January 2019. The rushed letter is now reportedly said to have been forged.

According to Botlhole “Director of Roads, Modisa Segokgo, also authorized the occupation of site and the commencement of works by a civil contractor for the project (28 million pula) to be paid by the government, without first ensuring that security is furnished to the government for the performance of the contract by Emark.”  

The Moira company attorney, the enterprise which lost the bid in the second position as they ran short of half a million to reach the 28 million mark, said therefore that “this is a clear act of unlawful maladministration inexplicably placing the government at an unnecessary and wholly avoidable fiscal risk. This behavior does not conform with the letter of acceptance, nor to any government standard practice (in tendering).”

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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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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de DĂ©veloppement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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