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Tsogwane chides Chinese contractors

Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane has taken to task the Chinese government for what he termed sloppy work carried out by Chinese owned construction companies when awarded projects by the Botswana government.

The seemingly fed up Tsogwane accused Chinese companies of not only leaving Botswana construction in a mess but also ‘milking’ the country dry as millions of pula paid for the botched projects never get re-invested in the country. Tsogwane was speaking in a meeting with their ideological bedmate, Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is the founding and ruling political party of the People's Republic of China. The CCP was in a visit in this country this week to strengthen relations between the two parties and exchange notes on maintaining their grip in power and improving the lives of electorates.

A number of projects were highlighted, including among them the failed multi-billion pula Palapye Glass Project, Morupule B power station and Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. “We should tell you that some of the Chinese companies we give business, usually do shoddy work. At the end of the day we are forced to do maintenance within a short period of time. This costs the government a lot of money,” Tsogwane told the CCP delegation made up of six members this week.

At the meeting, CCP vice Minister, Xu Lyuping stood up to apologize on behalf of the party and his government to Tsogwane. “That should never happen; we will engage them so they understand the trust you have on them. They should also understand the culture of every republic they do business at,” she said.

Still at the meeting, the BDP resolved that the CCP should engage the ambassador of China to Botswana Zhao Yanbo to time and again engage the Chinese business community. Further, the ambassador is expected to also have meetings with various ministers especially that of Investment, Trade and Industry. This is expected to ensure the Chinese business agrees to the terms and conditions that will be set whenever they are given a project.

BDP Secretary General, Mpho Balopi confirmed the developments to this paper albeit in a philosophical way. “When you build a relationship you should work on the things you agree on and that were the main courses of the meeting. But yes the VP was concerned but the continued maintenance of national projects over a short time which ends up being costly to government.”

Tsogwane’s remarks follow other grievances by government officials over Chinese companies. It has always been believed that the response from Chinese construction companies in Botswana in relation to the failed projects was not satisfactory hence the matter needed to be handled at a strategic party level, not government as it has always been the case. It is understood that Botswana believes that the Chinese government is not doing enough to restrain construction companies that are doing shoddy workmanship in the country.

Former President Ian Khama has in the past also launched a scathing attack against Chinese Companies. In an interview with the South Africa’s Business Day three years ago, Khama was quoted as saying, "You know, we have had some bad experiences with Chinese companies in this country. The best way I can put it is that we are very, very particular now; we are going to be looking very carefully at any company that originates from China in providing construction services of any nature."

Projects of serious concern were the two projects that were intended to turn around the country’s economy such as the Morupule B Power Plant project and Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. It is said the projects were intended to be economy drivers through exporting electricity to other countries and boosting the tourism industry respectively.

Apart from this matter which is potent enough to harm the ongoing cordial relations between the two political parties which extends to diplomatic relations they discussed their own affairs. It is said the Chinese party has agreed to assist BDP with resources in the campaign for the 2019 elections.

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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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