Gov’t pays for reckless P450 million Norilsk deal
The decision by parliament to authorise P450 million debts by BCL to Norilsk mine was misinformed as the whole acquisition process was negotiated using under hand tactics, Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) was told this week.
In a heated session of the PAC on Wednesday, it was disclosed that as per the South African laws, BCL was not eligible to buy stake in Nkomati mine under the financial state it was in. “BCL was supposed to demonstrate that they can buy the mine, they could operate and it could responsibly close it down, how did the approval to buy the 50 percent shares come about looking at the financial position of the BCL then?” PAC member Dithapelo Keorapetse asked.
It has emerged that the whole 50 percent share process with Norilsk was “fraud and a raw deal” as the Director General for minerals in South Africa never recommended to the South African minerals minister that BCL should buy the stake, but shockingly the deal was approved by the Botswana Minister anyway. What perturbed the PAC most was the fact that BCL finances were on sick bed hence there was no need to enter into the deal.
Noticing the piercing questions from PAC members especially from Keorapetse, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources Green Technology and Energy Security, Cornelius Dekop conceded that indeed they acted recklessly. “I must be the first to admit that we were very trigger happy to have come to parliament when negotiations were not concluded and have not done due diligence, we shouldn’t have come here for the money, we should have waited,” he revealed.
It has also surfaced that while negotiations were ongoing, Norilsk, surprisingly sat on the BCL board until three days before the deal was concluded. Another factor that raised eyebrows was the initial price for the 50 percent shares deal – a whopping 150 US Dollar which doubled to 450 US Dollar by the time BCL bought the stake.
“We had to pay the amount because following the provisional liquidation of BCL, Norilsk filed for Arbitration in London Court and at the same time there were issues about their share owners agreement in South Africa and the original figure was P277million. So the government avoided the arbitration route as it felt reputation and diplomatic reasons were paramount hence opted for an out of court settlement,” said Dekop. As it stands the P450 million is yet to reach Norilsk since the government is playing wait and see game, another case involving Norilsk is looming in South Africa.
DIXON WARREN GOT P1.1 BILLION
The PAC session also revealed that to this day the government of Botswana has already paid P1.1 billion to take care of BCL liquidation. “The money paid to the liquidator is for the liquidation process including salaries of 400 of our employees and operating cost of the assets,” Dekop responded to PAC member Polson Majaga. “We are happy with the work of the liquidator what we are unhappy about is the amount he is telling us the liquidation process will be take. We are looking at influencing that period,” said Dekop.
GOVERNMENT, DE BEERS NEGOTIATIONS YET TO TAKE OFF
The negotiations between Government and De Beers over diamond mining in Botswana have not started in earnest according to Dekop. The government says it is looking at different negotiating points and the minerals policy committee has looked at those and they are finalizing them. However the accounting officer could not reveal any further details. “I should not get into the strategies but we have looked at all the aspects and we have all the options but for the comfort of everybody we will negotiate in good faith,” he said.
There has been concerns from certain quarters that De beers is enjoying monopoly hence the government should consider other players who will bring good offers to the table. From Dekop’s remarks it was nonetheless clear that De-Beers will be given priority because of the relationship it has established with government.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswanaâ€™s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, â€śMerging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.â€ť
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
â€śIt is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,â€ť said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that â€śwe require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,â€ť Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. â€śIt is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.â€ť
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
â€śWe believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.â€ť
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
â€śWater pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanityâ€™s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.â€ť
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
â€śIn Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying â€śWe need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.â€ť
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
â€śCommunities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.â€ť
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwaseâ€™s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldnâ€™t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephantâ€™s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. â€śThis has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.â€ť
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. â€śThe re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.â€ť
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
â€śThere must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.â€ť
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, â€śparticularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.â€ť
Govâ€™t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
â€śIt is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.â€ť
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when â€śwe reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,â€ť he said.
â€śI commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.â€ť
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
â€śThere are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.â€ť
â€śThese achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.â€ť
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
â€śThese are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our countryâ€™s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.â€ť