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I was betrayed – Bakang speaks out

One year anniversary into the highly publicised multi-million pula National Petroleum Fund (NPF) case, Bakang Seretse finally speaks out; claiming he has been thrown under the bus by individuals aimed at settling personal and political scores.


Bakang, the Director at Basis Points (Pty) Ltd and Khulaco (Pty) Ltd; BERA Director, Kenneth Kerekang, Judge Dr Zein and Member of Parliament Sadique Kebonang, Kago Setimela, and Mogomotsi Seretse are before the court for the P250 million scandal. In an exclusive interview with WeekendPost this week, Bakang decried that his name and face have become synonymous with corruption, “thanks to a sustained brutal public and media campaign orchestrated by the DCEC,” he said.

“The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) is only concerned in bringing shame, fear and intimidation to me. They have displayed naked hatred and bigotry towards me at every opportunity.” Bakang said it is unfortunate that though the State is trying everything possible against him concerning the alleged laundered P250 million, the evidence at hand shows that his deal was an agreed and genuine contract with the DIS and the government at large.

He said the equipment that he was ordered to pay for by the government has arrived; documents get exposed; Israelis proof beyond reasonable doubt that their dealings with him was initiated and actioned by government. “Fast forward one year, the DCEC has made a spectacular U-turn.  Now they are pushing a new narrative that I masqueraded as government employee knowingly that I was not, and duped the DIS.  That is venturing to the absurdity.  Give me a break, that’s the biggest lie I have ever heard since maybe Bill Clinton said he didn’t know Monica Lewinsky. It’s actually annoying and outright childish,” charged Bakang.   

“First it was P250 million that vanished to thin air; then later ‘oh! a government IT system that was erroneously bought! Oh! Kgori earned asset management fees that they were not supposed to get! Oh! there were other bogus DIS transactions’.  I mean where we do we stop with this nonsense?  Now when you give your brother money it is money laundering?  This is interesting.  Very interesting,” Bakang said, adding that, his attorney made a good call earlier on that DCEC will go hunting, “and they won’t find anything.”  

“On their return with disappointment there will burn villages on their return.  All these other accusations are side noises, people burning villages.  It’s people consoling themselves.  DCEC over promised the public, and now that they haven’t gotten anything they have resorted to finding the slightest thing to make a case,” he said. Bakang also weighed on the murder saga involving Vusi Mhlanzi, his business partner. 

There have been allegations linking Bakang with the demise of Mhlanzi, who was shot and killed in South Africa, his native land.  “That is a low point of this case.  It’s blasphemous, malicious and disgusting.  It has one, but only one sponsor being our tormentors.  It is meant to get people question our characters, isolate us and destroy our credibility in the eyes of the public,” he said.

I HAVE BEEN MADE A SCAPEGOAT
Bakang stated that in reality he has been made the blame guy for what was government procurement. “Since I was charged on that dreaded 3rd December 2017, I have been made a scapegoat for fights between the DIS and DCEC, while the public is being made to think that everyone is acting for the interest of justice.” He accused DCEC and its officials for desperately trying to build their careers using his good name.

“Never in the history of Botswana has a group of people or an institution shown so much hatred towards another citizen, like the DCEC has done against me,” he said.  “All State resources have been used against me, and yet the leadership of the country that knows the truth behind this case watches by from a distance. The system is just ‘self-cleansing’ itself using my name.  I am not going to be taken like silent lamb to the slaughter.  That I refuse my fellow citizens.”

I AM BEING ABUSED

If there was a case in the history of Botswana with the most grotesque violation of the rights of the accused, my case is such, he said.  All along the way my rights have been continuously violated-he narrated. He said since the beginning of this case, he has been treated unfairly at the hands of the DCEC organization which behaves like its law. “I was arrested with my co-accused, for a good three days and denied legal assistance; we were sent to the notorious maximum prison, under the most appalling conditions,” he said.  

Bakang stated that his family has been continuously harassed, more embarrassing his 83-year-old mother and his 6-year nephew were subjected to ‘rude’ interrogations by the DCEC. “My employees have been beaten up, offices and homes broken into by the DCEC; colleagues, associates have been intimidated to give false statements against me,” he claimed. “Have had 24-hour surveillance on me and my lawyer – what do they think?   They will find me carrying P250 million in a boot of car?”

Bakang alleged that their phones have been illegally tapped such that he can barely have a conversation on the phone. “They have run numerous sponsored articles in the newspapers.  They are very active in social media as well.  I mean I have never come across a policeman that is concerned about public opinion.  They want to run this case by media,” he said.

“Is this the Botswana that we know? Or maybe one that we thought we knew?  Some enjoy the treatment being dished to me, but I warn you it can become you tomorrow.  We are becoming like some of our neighbouring countries that I won’t name out of respect, whereby state institutions are being used to settle personal or political scores.  We should be worried.”

ON A FAIR TRIAL

Bakang said there are not having a fair trial because DCEC keeps changing its narrative at every opportunity to suit themelves accusing them of hiding documents from the public, delaying the trial as well as political interference and prosecutorial misconduct. “On our side we have documents, and evidence.  On the DCEC side is conspiracies and hearsay.  There is lot of gaps in their dispositions. There is so much ethical impropriety from the prosecution. 

Are you aware that we saw the recent charges in social media before we were served with them?  The excitement and opportunity to malign people was too good not to wait for us to be first served,” he said.“The DCEC is an organization that is hell-bent on getting me while not playing fair.  They keep deceiving the honourable courts at every opportunity.  One case is whereby they were ruled against by Judge Dube and Judge Letsididi, they then go to another court, apply for the same matter whilst pretending it’s a completely new matter.  I am certainly not a lawyer, but to me it’s a miscarriage of justice to me, and a complete abuse of court process-narrated Bakang.”

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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022
Jackdish

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022
Govt

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022
Health-Expert

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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