Bakang Seretse, one of the accused in the ongoing P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) money laundering trial, has stated that the case is both commercially and politically motivated.
Bakang, a relative of former President Lt Gen Ian Khama, and a nephew to former Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Ramadeluka Seretse, has alleged that his family ties are the motivating factors in his ‘persecution.’ “Some say I am being prosecuted because of deemed association with the past administration, or that I have a relation with the Khamas. I don’t want to take that road, and state the obvious. I wish to focus on my case, and disengage because people tend to conflate me with the former President, and think by crushing me they can get to him,” he said.
“But I can confirm there were a number of commercial interests in my persecution, very soon I will be vindicated. Things will reveal themselves very soon. The reality is I was a threat to many competitors. With our passionate development agenda, we became a threat to many that were in the same business as ourselves. Add localisation and giving Batswana a chance that set the cat amongst the pigeons.”
Bakang said people have always wanted them out of the finance industry of Botswana, vowing that it will not happen. “We as citizens have always operated in the periphery of our economy. I refuse to be treated as such. I still have a lot to contribute for my country, and indeed for myself and my family’s benefit. But that’s a conversation for another day,” he said. Bakang denied to have ever used his relationship with the former President to get access to government tenders. He said it was just a blatant lie if someone dares attempt to say that.
“Actually, there has never been any relationship with Khama in the first place, just to say his father was my father’s cousin. That’s all. It is very mischievous and dangerous of people to say that.” He lamented that, “the very people who used to block us access to Khama saying the Seretses are bewitching the former President, are the very people who are now going around saying we somehow benefited from his administration. They lied to Khama about the Seretses not being good to him. I have worked independently and hard to get to where I am in life.”
In his own words, Bakang described the whole case as personal saying people were settling personal and political scores against him. “If people want to settle scores against me, come to me directly. Don’t choose vulnerable targets. Play the ball but not the man. Leave my brother out of this circus. That giving P20, 000 or him being given business by one of my associated companies is money laundering is a blatant lie. It is meant to intimidate me, and embarrass my family.”
“A lot has been said about the NPF and my involvement. It all comes against a background of ignorance and lies. And a lot was also said at the Public Accounts Committee that was nothing but lies. Some people all of a sudden developed amnesia, some said contradicting statements and some came with some new lies.” He said one such lie is that Basis Points Capital was never properly appointed by the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security.
He said surprisingly the Auditor General has never approached him. “The same applies to this myth that somehow Kerekang favoured the companies that were associated with me. We are on the assertive to say that we have never been appointed by Kenneth Kerekang to any transaction. The Ministry Tender Committee is the one that appoints service providers,” he said.
“In the midst of all this noise, the good that we did for NPF is conveniently kept away from the public. For one, we presented financials for the NPF after more than three years were the Fund had no financials due to audit queries.”Bakang contend that since taking over the fund they increased the investment income of the Fund many folds indicating that for the first time, they ensured that there was efficiency in the collection of the levies.
According to Bakang, prior to his arrival, there was no system or process in collecting government levies. He said through the system they identified many delinquent levy payers, and ensured fairness in the petroleum industries by making sure that everybody who imports fuel pays. He also opines that they went far back as seven years to audit the levies and found out that there was more than P450 million that was owed to government.
“A simple answer to that is that it depends where the smoke is coming from. I was home, minding my own business when I was called by a government official to facilitate what I was told was a government transaction. All of a sudden, I then find myself in a midst of a storm.”
Bakang said he was surprised that what he was told to be a state secret and made to swear into secrecy has turned out to be complete joke with people failing to take responsibility.
“I am being made to explain government processes and procedures. How, when I have never worked for government? I have been made to take blame for state actors where it is bluntly evident that they are the owners of the transactions. What I know is that we did work, and we ought to be paid. Goods have arrived from Israel, pay me my remaining contract money. It’s simple as that. All other stuff is some side noise,” Bakang concluded.
Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.
“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”
The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.
“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”
According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.
In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.
“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.
“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.
However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”
Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.
“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.
Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.
Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.
State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.
The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.
Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.
“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.
However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.
Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.
“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.
While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.
He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.
According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.
“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.
Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.
“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.
He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.
“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.
He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.
Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.
Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month