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.”
In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy.
The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.
However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world. The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.
Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.
“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.
The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)
Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.
“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.
“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.
“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.
“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”
The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.
For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.
In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.
According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.
In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled. Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.
Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects. During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies. Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).
A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination. The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.
The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.
Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.
He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful. Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.
But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB. FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.
Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.
Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB. “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.
The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).
FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders. Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.
In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.
But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings. “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.
FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries). The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?
“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.
“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.
He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”
“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.
Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.