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.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.