Land Board, Ex BDP chief in conflict of interest row
Ngwato Land board members are caught up in a conflict of interest row with a key Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) member. The row stems from a tender invitation for ranches in the Ngwato tribal territory.
The axed BDP Executive Secretary Thabiso Masalila has accordingly dragged the Land board to court for flouting basic procedures in tendering for ranches. This follows Ngwato land board’s decision in May 2015 to float an invitation to tender for the allocation of commercial ranches in the Sandveld, Kaka, Xere and other areas in the Ngwato tribal territory. The case is before Justice Omphemetse Motumise.
The conflict of interest arises from the understanding that the officials who crafted the requirements of the tender for the commercial cattle ranches then proceeded to apply and compete for the same ranches as they knew what to expect. “It is highly conceivable that the Ngwato Land Board officials had access to the exact details of the area and as such completed their application forms while others like Masalila were prejudiced,” the court papers indicate.
According to an attorney representing Masalila in the matter, Kabo Motswagole of Motswagole and Companies: “the record is clear that: the Ngwato Land Board was compromised of conflicted and interested persons, those ‘conflicted persons’ before they recused themselves crafted the rules and the qualifications criteria of the tender in the commercial ranches, appointed a Technical team to evaluate the submissions (including those of the conflicted board), received a report of the evaluation and then decided to excuse themselves.”
The Board members recommending the requirements for the tender and applying for the same made it fairly seamless for the Technical team to recommend candidates possessing their personal attributes in that regard, Motswagole argued. The well regarded attorney also indicated that the Ad Hoc board was appointed some 5 months later only to allocate while stressing that “appellant (Masalila) submits that this is a non procedural issue as it goes to the substance of who considered eligible. The proceeds were irregular and ought to be set aside.”
In light of this, he observed that the mere fact that the process of tendering, scoring and short listing of the interviewees was done under the auspices of members of the board which were replaced with an ad-hoc board proves to pose a sensible possibility of conflict of interest given that after setting the requirements and rules of the tendering process they went on to participate in it and compete with the public.
“Bias is widespread and is a problem even for well-meaning professionals while adding that the human reasoning is easily pressed into the service of one’s own interests,” the distinguished lawyer pointed out. Consequently he requested the court to direct that the Land board Tribunal erred and misdirected itself in holding that the decision of the Ngwato Land board (respondent) to exclude the appellants (Masalila) from the shortlist of people to be interviewed for the Advertised Commercial ranches was lawful even though it was made by a Board comprised of members who were conflicted and interested parties in the ranch allocations.
Furthermore he asked the court to order that the judge in the court a quo erred in holding that the decision of the Ngwato Land board to exclude Masalila and not call him for an interview is set aside as being irrational, illegal, unlawful and ultra vires. According to Masalila’s attorney, the tendering process in relation to category 3.1.2 (farmers’ category) should be done afresh. “We submit that the decision of the Ngwato land Board was irrational and promoted a miscarriage of justice, fairness and equality,” he emphasised.
Applicants asked to provide list of neighbours at the ranches
Meanwhile Motswagole said it was shocking that the land board asked applicants to provide a list of neighbours at the ranches being applied for and therefore emphasised that it was unreasonable and irrational. “The Land Board had a duty to distribute a representation for the location of the ranches and most importantly for applicants, where each bidder is likely to be placed” adding that “this was done in part and as such the appellant could not have been able to identify the neighbors.”
He argued: “it is therefore becomes an irrational decision to disqualify the appellant for not listing neighbours to the farm applied when there were none. Disqualifying a bidder in a tender on the basis of neglecting to fill in a paragraph that the Land Board ought to have furnished particulars on and neglected to do so is an unreasonable and/or irrational decision.”
He complained that the Land board clearly acted in constructive contempt as while the matter was still resolved they proceeded to grant and allocate the ranches in issue which the Land Tribunal had not made its decision in an appeal filed only days after the alleged completion.
“The Ngwato land board has undermined the authority of the Land Tribunal which is an authority of a court of law by proceeding to allocate the commercial livestock ranches in question despite ongoing legal proceedings and impeded the appellant’s right to access court. Thus ridiculing the fundamental principle of the rule of law in its supremacy,” he said.
Landboard attorney explains why the BDP cadre was disqualified
Meanwhile Gosego Lekgowe of Dinokopila Lekgowe Attorneys told court in his oral arguments that there is no evidence of prejudice or favour to those allocated stressing that there was a proper tendering process that took place. He said “the evaluation process was to be done in 3 stages. Stage 1 – the assessment team was to assess and screen all the applications for compliance with the requirements of paragraph 2.12 of the tender and any application not in compliance was to be disqualified.”
He highlighted that Masalila bid for the tender and the assessment team found that Masalila’s submission not to be responsive and he was disqualified. Masalila then filed an application to interdict the short listing process and for review of the Land board’s decision but was also dismissed in December 2015. Lekgowe said, in light of the fact that the successful applicants were not joined in the proceedings this court cannot cancel the contracts that already have been concluded without them being parties to these proceedings.
“Accordingly, we submit that the appeal is ill-conceived and falls to be dismissed with costs.” In any event, he maintained that the tender has been substantially performed in the sense that allocations have been made and those to whom the allocations were made hold personal rights to such ranches.
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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 Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
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).
“It 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,” 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 “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” 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. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We 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.”
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.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’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.”
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.
“In 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 “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
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.
“Communities 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.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’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 couldn’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 elephant’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. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The 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.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There 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.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly 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.”
Gov’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.
“It 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.”
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 “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I 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.”
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.
“There 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.”
“These 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.”
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.
“These 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 country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”