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BERA board chairman face sacking

Skeletons have begun to tumble out of the beleaguered Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) closet as board chairperson Bernard Ndove is facing possible expulsion from the parastatal’s oversight body.

Weekendpost has established that the board took the decision after Ndove misinformed the Parliamentary Committee for Statutory Bodies and Enterprises, while under oath. The board has even suggested that, “it might be a more honorable decision for yourself to resign rather than to be taken to task for perjury and face criminal prosecution. But it is your call,” the letter from BERA’s concerned board member reads. 

Appearing before the committee this week, Ndove revealed that the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security trampled upon the BERA Act when increasing retail prices for all petrol grades by 65 thebe per litre, diesel by 73 thebe per litre and paraffin by 63 thebe. According to Ndove, BERA as the regulatory authority have the responsibility to recommend and determine the price of fuel as per their Act.

It appears other BERA board members were not happy with the conduct of the chairperson who was at pains responding to the question posed by the committee members. A letter seen by this publication written to Ndove a day after appearance at the parliamentary committee states that; he has put “BERA in a rather compromising position and put all the current board members in danger of losing their much appreciated appointments.”

Among the ‘fabrication or misinformation’ Ndove told the committee according to the letter, is the involvement of BERA in the recent petrol hike decision process.  “There has never been a board sub-committee approving the tariff for petrol nor has there been a board approval of the said tariff increase. Most of the board members saw the announcement on the newspapers just like the general public.”

The statement is contrary to Ndove’s pronouncement on Tuesday that the parastatal had actually recommended that petrol should be increased by P1.14 per litre and, “we were surprised when they made the announcement,” Ndove said referring to ministry announcement on the increase. The letter has also questioned the board chairperson’s decision to claim obliviousness on any BERA member who has had a business relationship with BERA.

“That is not true. You have had business relationship with BERA. A company associated with yourself Pipe King Services supplied BERA with computers worth P34 384.00 on October 2018.”  This, the letter says it is a fact Ndove has acknowledged in the last board session when financial statements were discussed.  “Whether you made profit or not, as you intimated in your blistering monologue is a moot point,” the letter stated.

BERA CEO Rose Seretse has told the oversight body this week that there is a matter under investigation relating to a member who has a business relationship with BERA. “DCEC is also involved on the matter. We picked it up since it was allegations in the newspapers. It is about a Tanzanian.” The parliamentary committee on Tuesday was told that the BERA logo was designed by a company called Heritage which was initially agreed to cost P150, 000 before more additions.

 “This was patently false too. You designed the logo even though Mr. Motswetla and myself, as I recall cautioned you against such as a matter of principle, even when we were informed that it would be for free or gratis, which to my knowledge it was. I still do not understand why you could not offer such an explanation.”  The two paged letter further went on to state that Ndove’s statement saying that no one was handpicked for a post at BERA is false. It is said CEO Rose Seretse was handpicked by both Ndove and the then Minister Sadique Kebonang.

Chief Operations Officer (COO) Duncan Morotsi and the Human Resource Director were also handpicked and unilaterally employed by the board chairperson. “Only Chawada Machacha, the Director of Finance went through an interview process,” It is said. Appearing for examination at the parliamentary oversight body, it was disclosed that the CEO and the chairperson circumvented established process, despite documented cautions from board members, and waivered a license provision for political expediency.  “You had been fully made aware that you do not possess such authority. Instead you chose belligerence over caution and ethics by attacking those who were warning you. That is rather unfortunate,” the letter quipped.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021
Kebonang

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.

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BDP rejects Saleshando payment proposal

25th January 2021
MP saleshando

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.

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Boko-Khama axis viewed with suspicion

25th January 2021
boko-and-khama

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.

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