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BPOPF talks massive plans after trashing CMB in court

Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) is picking up the pieces after their recent high profile court victory against Capital Management Botswana (CMB) and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Rapula Okaile.

In the judgement of the case which BPOPF were in pursuance together with Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), three Court of Appeal Judges; Justice Ian Kirby, Justice Singh Walia and Justice Jacobus Brand ruled that “the appeals of both the first appellant (BPOPF) and the second appellant (NBFIRA) are allowed.” They also set aside Justice Omphemetse Motumise’s judgement and replaced it to confirm appointment of Peter Collins as Statutory Manager of CMB.

In light of the appointment, BPOPF CEO Boitumelo Molefhe told Weekend Post in an interview this week following a press briefing in Gaborone that Collins has taken charge and BPOPF is banking on him to direct way forward. “We are now going to be guided by CMB new Statutory Manager Peter Collins; he is a very important and key person going forward for all of us,” Molefhe said.

She emphasised that “Collins is going to make recommendations for all of us and they will be looked at by Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) and if they agree with them they will be implemented.” The BPOPF CEO also said Collins will lead investigation into a proper inquiry on how they lost close to 500 million pula of pensioner’s funds that was invested in CMB.

“We need a proper inquiry (that will be led by Collins) into how on earth this whole thing happened and that are we likely to receive the lost assets, and which one, including finding out if we can recover further assets beyond Okavango Wilderness and Cell city,” Molefhe highlighted.

According to the pension Fund CEO, they drew some lessons from the whole circus that put 60 billion worth pension fund into risks. “We learnt that next time there should do a thorough due diligence and make sure that they know the customer very well before any partnerships agreements.”

Why BPOPF committed to increase assets: P500 million to P880 million

The BPOPF CEO further told this publication separately after the press conference that initially they had wanted to increase assets they invested at CMB from P500 million to P880 million because they felt it was reasonable. Molefhe explained the transaction: “it was at a time in which the relationship between us as BPOPF and CMB was in good health. They were compliant. They were doing the draw down and they were laying down the money, they were actually investing the money. So we thought it would make a lot of sense to increase the capital which under weighed the dividends and increase them.”

She further observed that they wanted to allow CMB to make that capital rising for the company so as to allow for additional money in which the Advisory board approved it about three months later and that was also done in accordance with the partnerships agreements, Molefhe pointed out. “But shortly after that they started breaching those agreements and that’s when we started reminding them that they have to comply and do their quarterly reports to see their valuations and that is when they disagreed and refused saying they won’t do that.”

Molefhe added: “That is when we went ahead and told them that because of the major breaches and even that additional capital of P880 million is now null and void because there were conditions that they should give the valuation reports and even the auditors were concerned about it asking why they are refusing the valuations.” Private equity, she said, when they come and raise capital with you they need to show you that they have a pipeline and you have to be confident in the pipeline.

Will BPOPF locate the assets and repossess them?

In terms of the assets the BPOPF CEO said, “I think for these two; Okavango Wilderness and Cell City — am still confident that we will repossess them because they were/are still subjects of the court that is they are under Statutory Manager, they were even frozen, there was no trading allowed on them. It is a lot of money to the tune of P150 million and the share keeps increasing and there is also dividend.”

BPOPF appoints new board chairperson Solomon Mantswe

According to BPOPF CEO the Pension Fund has dully constituted new board with 11 trustees. They have also “appointed Solomon Mantswe as Chairman of the board effective 1 July 2018.”  He will serve for a 5 year contract. “New board under Mantswe supports us as was evident in the just ended court case. There is a very cordial relationship,” Molefhe told this publication.

CMB wanted to settle matter outside court

In an interesting twist of events, BPOPF CEO also mentioned to Weekend Post in the interview that she heard CMB had wanted to settle the matter outside court although she denied it in the press conference. When asked separately she said “there may have been some kind of attempts to settle the matter outside court. This happened after the matter was lodged before court.

In fact it happened recently, I just heard recently. I heard it was from the CMB side and not BPOPF. It is certainly cannot be from our side as we believed in this case and had great prospects of winning as it turned out.” She insisted on the matter: “From our side we could have engaged our legal team. We never talked about wanting to settle. You just can’t settle by street talk without following due process and rational.” 

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

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.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

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

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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