Kenneth Kerekang, Bakang Seretse’s co-accused in the ongoing P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) money laundering scandal, has told WeekendPost that he feels used by politicians and has been made a scapegoat by the state agencies.
Kerekang, Bakang, former Minister of Minerals, Sadique and his twin brother Judge Zein Kebonang, Kago Setimela, and Mogomotsi Seretse are accused of laundering 250m from NPF, a charge they all deny. According to Kerekang, first of all there was a formal request made by the then Director in the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Isaac Kgosi to the Ministry of Minerals for funding of strategic fuel storages.
A pre-feasibility study was as such commissioned by the Ministry of Minerals, he says. “I was part of this team which comprised of a number of people from our ministry and the DIS office. And the study results were taken by the DIS to be assessed by a company of their choice (name known to this publication). Their reasons for choosing the said company was that the company had done the work for them before in 2010,” said Kerekang.
It is said that a recommendation was then made by a result of the study that an amount of P650m will be required for the work the DIS needed, which was the expansion of fuel storages done in 2010. “DIS then made an application to PPADB to single pick the said company for the construction of the fuel storage facilities. PPADB advised that it should be an open tender.”
“Kgosi then ignored PPADB and approached me asking me for a variation from fuel storage facilities to human trafficking. I told him the issue was beyond me and advised him to consult the permanent secretary, Dr Obolokile Obakeng,” Kerekang averred. He says from that point the issue of variation never returned to him. “What I knew next from communication was Dr Obakeng has approved the variation to anti-poaching because according to DIS, this had now become a priority.” Kerekang pointed that all this was an internal communication, and further that at the stage Khulaco PTY (Ltd) had not been appointed transactional service provider.
APPOINTMENT OF KHULACO PTY (Ltd)
Kerekang said soon after Dr Obakeng approved the variation, he received a communiqué from Kgosi directing him to deposit an amount of P250m to Khulaco account as they had been appointed transactional service providers. The reason for the P250 million not P650 million, he said was because the monies were in different investments and couldn’t be taken at a go.
“Acting on the strength of that directive from DIS, I wrote a mandate to Kgori Capital, the fund manager of NPF to the extent that the money be released as per the directive from Isaac Kgosi. Quite to the contrary, I never introduced Khulaco to Kgosi. In fact, I knew about Khulaco through the directive that Kgosi wrote to me,” Kerekang told this publication, stressing that Khulaco’s appointment was a matter that would be known to Kgosi and his seniors at the ministry, the minister and his PS.
Kerekang said the amount due to Khulaco was P230, not P250, the reason being to avoid hurting the fund by taking large sums at once. He says at no point had he dealt with Botho Leburu, Bakang’s co-director at Khulaco or Bakang. “I only knew Bakang because he was part of Kgori Capital who were the fund managers. And we had no business relationship or common interest between us. At no time did Khulaco ask me to credit any money to it. The only email I received to credit Khulaco was Kgosi’s directive.”
Kerekang averred that it came to him as a shock when the charge sheet was read to him two months ago that he misled Kgosi into believing that Khulaco was a government company, adding that they have never been in a meeting where the status of Khulaco was discussed. “And it was never my intention to question the status of people and or companies the DIS was dealing with. I have always trusted as the country’s prime intelligence agency that they have done their due diligence. And the DIS is an office with the country’s most senior people and they were reporting directly to the president. Really, it was not for me to challenge their integrity.”
KEREKANG EXPLAINS 20% COMMISSION
“I am aware by reference to correspondence on the file that Khulaco had demanded payment of 20 percent of total amount. This however, has not been a matter discussed with me. It was a matter for the attention of my supervisors who even kept the file in their offices.”
WHAT ABOUT DIGNIA SYSTEMS?
According to Kerekang, he was made aware of Dignia Systems by Kgosi and had at no point communicated with its officials. My dealings with Khulaco were limited to the payment that I was authorized to make. “I am aware that there are suggestions that some property has been bought for me through the NPF money. I wish to state for the record for that I have no property registered in my name bought through NPF proceeds,” he said.
I AM INNOCENT – KEREKANG
“I am still waiting for my accusers to explain what role I played in the variation by Dr Obakeng because if at all there was a conspiracy it would have been the variation. Dr Obakeng cannot say that I was present in their meeting. As far as I am concerned, it was between the DIS and my superiors,” Kerekang noted. He said the issue of variation could not have come up with Bakang. Khulaco came after the issue of variation was settled, he stated.
Kerekang further shares: “I cannot understand why conspiracy can be alleged between us that we conspired to launder P230m or any amount over a project that is not ours. How can I conspire over a project outside my mandate? My mandate has been to do with the transaction that I was authorized to, and other things I only saw them in the DIS invoice.”
KGORI CAPITAL AND BASIS POINTS
Kerekang also spoke to the allegation that he has abused office by signing an unauthorized contract with Kgori Capital, and as a result lost an amount of P10m in asset management fees. He stated that after Basis Points was awarded the tender from NPF and having subcontracted Kgori it was stated by Non-Bank Financial Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) that the asset manager must have a contract with the fund manager.
“The interim mandate had to be signed to allow the work of asset manager to continue as the laws dictated. And part of that request was that fees chargeable by the asset manager should be clear as per the contract,” he narrated. “As a matter of fact, the issue of 0.8 percent which was the annual fee was fully disclosed in the quotation to the fund management committee,” he said, adding that at no point did any committee member or a minister ever question what he had done regarding the duties he was assigned to do.
“I never acted outside my mandate.” It is further Kerekang’s evidence that Basis Point was awarded a tender for consultancy to revise energy projects with a view of recommending optimal funding models. The asset management fees would be dependent on market value, as they were not fixed. “I did not come up with the 0.80 percent, it has always been in the tender document. And it is not like Kgori or Basis Points paid themselves. It was an agreed thing between the parties. And if it had not been about me, the documents that I signed would not have been processed by any officer before coming to me for signature,” he said.
KEREKANG BLAMES DCEC AND DPP
Kerekang alleges that the truth of the matter is that the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) needed someone to use to explain away the alleged conspiracy. “The only people they could use will certainly not be the untouchable politicians. So they took a decision to use me so that these highest and mighty named be absolute from their decision.
I was the easy one to blame because they (politicians) are untouchable people.” “Government had to be seen acting and decided that me and Bakang be charged when the decision makers were never called to account. They are afraid of politicians involved,” Kerekang said.
Former Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Member of Parliament for Gaborone North, Haskins Nkaigwa has confirmed his departure from opposition fold to re-join the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
Nkaigwa said opposition is extremely divided and the leadership not in talking terms. “They are planning evil against each other. Nothing much will be achieved,” Nkaigwa told WeekendPost.
“I believe my time in the opposition has come to an end. It’s time to be of value to rebuilding our nation and economy of the country. Remember the BDP is where I started my political journey. It is home,” he said.
“Despite all challenges currently facing the world, President Masisi will be far with his promises to Batswana. A leader always have the interest of the people at heart despite how some decisions may look to be unpopular with the people.
“I have faith and full confidence in President Dr Masisi leadership. We shall overcome as party and nation the current challenges bedevilling nations. BDP will emerge stronger. President Masisi will always have my backing.”
Nkaigwa served as opposition legislator between 2014-2019 representing Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) under UDC banner. He joined BMD in 2011 at the height public servant strike whilst Gaborone City Deputy Mayor. He eventually rose to become the mayor same year, after BDP lost majority in the GCC.
Nkaigwa had been a member of Botswana National Front (BNF), having joined from Alliance for Progressives (AP) in 2019.
Botswana has received assistance worth over P100 million from Japanese government since 2019, making the latter of the largest donors to Botswana in recent years.
The assistance include relatively large-scale grant aid programmes such as the COVID-19 programme (to provide medical equipment; P34 million), the digital terrestrial television programme (to distribute receivers to the underprivileged, P17 million), the agriculture promotion programme (to provide agricultural machinery and equipment, P53million).
“As 2020 was a particularly difficult year, where COVID-19 hit Botswana’s economy and society hard, Japan felt the need to assist Botswana as our friend,” said Japan’s new Ambassador to Botswana, Hoshiyama Takashi.
“It is for this reason that grants of over P100 million were awarded to Botswana for the above mentioned projects.”
Japan is now the world’s fourth highest ranking donor country in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA).
From 1991 to 2000, Japan continued as the top donor country in the world and contributed to Asia’s miracle economic development.
From 1993 onwards, the TICAD process commenced through Japan’s initiative as stated earlier. Japan’s main contribution has been in the form of Yen Loans, which are at a concessional rate, to suit large scale infrastructure construction.
“In Botswana, only a few projects have been implemented using the Yen Loan such as the Morupule “A” Power Station Rehabilitation and Pollution Abatement in 1986, the Railway Rolling Stock Increase Project in 1987, the Trans-Kalahari Road Construction Project in 1991, the North-South Carrier Water Project in 1995 and the Kazungula Bridge Construction Project in 2012,” said Ambassador Hoshiyama.
“In terms of grant aid and technical assistance, Japan has various aid schemes including development survey and master planning, expert dispatch to recipient countries, expert training in Japan, scholarships, small scale grass-roots program, culture-related assistance, aid through international organizations and so on.”
In 1993, Japan launched Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to promote Africa’s development, peace and security, through the strengthening of relations in multilateral cooperation and partnership.
TICAD discuss development issues across Africa and, at the same time, present “aid menus” to African countries provided by Japan and the main aid-related international organizations, United Nations (UN), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
“As TICAD provides vision and guidance, it is up to each African country to take ownership and to implement her own development following TICAD polices and make use of the programmes shown in the aid menus,” Ambassordor Hoshiyama noted.
“This would include using ODA loans for quality infrastructure, suited to the country’s own nation-building needs. It is my fervent hope that Botswana will take full advantage of the TICAD process.”
Since then, seven conferences where held, the latest, TICAD 7 being in 2019 at Yokohama. TICAD 7’s agenda on African development focused on three pillars, among them the first pillar being “Accelerating economic transformation and improving business environment through innovation and private sector engagement”.
“Yes, private investment is very important, while public investment through ODA (Official Development Assistance) still plays an indispensable role in development,” the Japanese Ambassador said.
“For further economic development in Africa, Japan recognizes that strengthening regional connectivity and integration through investment in quality infrastructure is key.”
Japan has emphasized the following; effective implementation of economic corridors such as the East Africa Northern Corridor, Nacala Corridor and West Africa Growth Ring; Quality infrastructure investment in line with the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment should be promoted by co-financing or cooperation through the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan.
Japan also emphasized the establishment of mechanisms to encourage private investment and to improve the business environment.
According to the statistics issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry, Japan invested approximately 10 billion US dollars in Africa after TICAD 7 (2019) to year end 2020, but Japanese investment through third countries are not included in this figure.
“With the other points factored in, the figure isn’t established yet,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
The next conference, TICAD 8 will be held in Tunisia in 2022. This will be the second TICAD summit to be held on the African continent after TICAD 6 which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016.
According to Ambassador Hoshiyama, in preparation for TICAD 8, the TICAD ministerial meeting will be held in Tokyo this year. The agenda to be discussed during TICAD 8 has not yet been fully deliberated on amongst TICAD Co-organizers (Japan, UN, UNDP, the World Bank and AU).
“Though not officially concluded, given the world situation caused by COVID-19, I believe that TICAD 8 will highlight health and medical issues including the promotion of a Universal Health Coverage (UHC),” said Hoshiyama.
“As the African economy has seriously taken a knock by COVID-19, economic issues, including debt, could be an item for serious discussion.”
The promotion of business is expected to be one of the most important topics. Japan and its partners, together with the business sector, will work closely to help revitalize private investment in Africa.
“All in all, the follow-up of the various programs that were committed by the Co-Organizers during the Yokohama Plan of Actions 2019 will also be reviewed as an important item of the agenda,” Ambassador Hoshiyama said.
“I believe that this TICAD follow-up mechanism has secured transparency and accountability as well as effective implementation of agreed actions by all parties. The guiding principle of TICAD is African ownership and international partnership.”
Directorate on Intelligence Services (DIS) Director General, Brigadier Peter Magosi is said to be hell-bent and pushing President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency since a number of his ministers are conflicted.
The request by Magosi comes at a time when time is ticking on his contract which is awaiting renewal from Masisi.
This publication learns that Magosi is unshaken by the development and continues to wield power despite uncertainty hovering around his contractual renewal.