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.”
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.