The National Assembly has this week passed the Trust Property Control Bill No 16 which was tabled by minister of Defence, Justice and Security Shaw Kgathi. The bill, according to Kgathi seeks to establish an act to regulate the control of trusts; and to provide for matters connected therewith.
When presenting the bill which was tabled as a matter of urgency Kgathi pointed out that there has been no statutory law regulating the property of trusts and foundations in Botswana hence stating that this provides possible crimes such as money laundering. He pointed out that the bill is also in alignment with the Financial Intelligence Amendment Bill.
The bill targets trusts and foundations across the country. There have been concerns some trusts are established with the aim of pursuing a certain mandate only to be used to launder funds. Kgathi further reiterated that the bill proposes that all trusts should register with the Master of High Court as this will ensure efficient accountability as to what the trusts do as well as auditing of the trusts’ accounts.
He added, “There are too many trusts and foundations which have cropped up and this is a cause for concern. Some of the trusts are associated with fraud and swindling Batswana large sums of money while they are pushing their own interests to get riches at the detriment of Batswana.”
He continued to state that clause no 7 and 25 of the bill calls for any trust or foundation to furnish the Master of the High Court with all the details of its activities performed by the trust or its trustees, adding that clause 16 and 17 empowers the master of High Court to call for an investigation against any trust based on provision of reported irregulaties or misconduct by a foundation.
The members of parliament expressed diverse views while debating the bill. Maun East lawmaker, Kostantinos Markus said the bill is a good development. He pointed out that of recent, there have been cases of stealing money from Batswana by some trusts especially law firms. He also said law firms should be the most regulated and overseen. He called for stiff action against those found to be in illicit conduct, including termination of their trading licences.
Another Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse said the bill is a step in the right direction as the trusts tend to acquire money from sponsors claiming that they are running charity organizations whereas they are serving interests of certain politicians. “These so called trusts and foundations have become problematic. They have been less regulated and are mostly associated with senior government officials as well as funding the ruling party activities such as the reports of BDP’s camp Dubai team which was funded by a certain trust during the party congress last year,” underscored Keorpetse.
The youthful legislator further added that, “to fight corruption, senior government officials should be investigated and be excluded from doing business with the government in terms of being given tenders including their relatives as well.” For his part the leader of Alliance for Progressives (AP), Ndaba Gaolathe also pointed out that it is very clear that trusts need to be regulated not only to control the risk with money laundering but to control fraudulent activities carried by some trusts.
Gaolathe also cautioned that the powers being given to the Master of High Court as stipulated by clause 17 should be reduced. “The clause 17 calls for the master to cause investigation as they deem fit to do so is overly broad and they need to be specifics set to enable a master to cause investigation might leave room for abuse of power to some extent.”
MP for Mahalapye West, Michael Molefhe is of the view that the law will seek to bring in place adequate accountability and transparency of notorious activities conducted by the trusts. He called for the law to be implemented equally amongst all trusts and foundations without only cracking on certain trusts and leaving outside others owned by the high class and elites.
BOKO DEFENDS LAW FIRMS
However, Gaborone Bonnington North MP and leader of UDC, Duma Boko came with guns blazing defending law firms who some pointed out as the major source of controversy in relation to swindling Batswana money. Advocate Boko highlighted that law firms and their trust accounts are audited annually by professional auditors with the auditing overseen by Law Society of Botswana.
“I stand to debunk demonic myths that the trust accounts of law firms are not audited. Don’t tarnish the image of the law firms and question professional ethics because every commencement of the legal year the law firms are audited and the list of all compliant law firms is published in the local newspapers,” said the emotionally charged Boko.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.