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Mountbatten ordered to share Xigeria Camp with workers

Competition Authority (CA) has on Wednesday given the British Virgin Islands based Mountbatten Limited a thumbs up to take over Great Explorations which owns Xigera Camp under strict conditions that will see the company sharing the safari camp with workers.

After the local anti-trust body analysed all the facts of the Mountbatten-Great Exploration merger and found that “the proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition, or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the market under consideration,” it laid conditions on the table.

The most interesting condition is where the company is demanded to redeploy its 33 workers and create an employee share scheme trust, which will be for the benefit of Botswana citizen employees of Great Explorations (the target entity) who will get 16 percent of the issued share capital of the target entity.

The Authority allayed fears of loss of employment by workers of the company that is being bought by Mountbatten as it discourages retrenchment and ensures that in the next three months the British Virgin Islands based entity provides a detailed report showing changes in employment report.

An update regarding the 16 percent shareholding advanced through the employee share scheme trust is also required by CA after three months. An employee share scheme trust is a scheme or program that facilitates the distribution of a company’s shares to its employees.

 While in other countries there are tax incentives for a company that gives its workers shares, in Botswana there are no such tax laws. The move to give employees shares by a company is seen by many as a morale booster and increase of loyalty and good service. Mountbatten had proposed to CA acquisition of 100 percent of the issued share capital in Great Explorations from Okavango Wilderness Safaris, an entity of Wilderness Holdings.

This means the employees who will be absorbed by Mountbatten from Great Exploration will get 16 percent of the 100 shares. Great Explorations’ main business is operation of Xigera Lodge-a safari camp located in the paradise of Okavango Delta known for its wildlife, palm-filled islands, riverine forests, a multitude of clear water channels and expansive floodplains. For 1 June to 31 October 2018 rates, per person per night sharing is around P11 000(US $1120). The price is expected to increase next year by P350 or $35 in the same period.

If the words of Xigera future owner Michael Tollman in an interview with BusinessPost are anything to go by, the safari camp is going to be upgraded to a five star hospitality hub. According to Tollman, the Xigera Camp will now be operated by Red Carnation Hotel Group-a positive move by its current employees as it was voted third best by Sunday Times of London as the best company to work for in the UK out of 100m companies.

This should be a bonus to the motivating factor of giving Xigera workers shares. Going back to Tollman’s vow to make Xigera a five star, the Red Carnation Hotel Group was recently voted the second best hotel group in the world and this reputation could rub on the local safari camp according to its future owner.

“The acquisition of Xigera will move it from a 3 Star property to a 5 Star. We will design it uniquely like most of our properties who we turn into iconic properties….we are going to make Xigera iconic,” promised Tollman in an interview. Tollman also promised to make the safari camp big and hire more people increasing the 33 already hired by Great Explorations.

The alarm of Mountbatten incorporated in a regarded tax haven

Meanwhile Tollman told BusinessPost that Botswana should not have fears that the company will not declare its taxes or evade it to British Virgin Island as its target entity Great Explorations will comply with the local tax laws as it has always done. He also said Mountbatten does not actively do any business as it is merely a holding company not involved in any trading. “It (Mountbatten) doesn’t operate any business, it is a dormant company….it owns 17 companies but does not do any business,” Tollman said.

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DPP halts JSC, Judge’s back to work plan

25th January 2021

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

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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