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.
While there is no hard-and-fast rule in politics, former Molepolole North Member of Parliament, Mohamed Khan says populism acts in the body politic have forced him to quit active partisan politics. He brands this ancient ascription of politics as fake and says it lowers the moral compass of the society.
Khan who finally tasted political victory in the 2014 elections after numerous failed attempts, has decided to leave the ‘dirty game’, and on his way out he characteristically lashed at the current political leaders; including his own party president, Advocate Duma Boko. “I arrived at this decision because I have noticed that there are no genuine politics and politicians. The current leaders, Boko and President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi are fake politicians who are just practicing populist politics to feed their egos,” he said.
Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) parliamentary hopeful, Lawrence Ookeditse has rejected the idea of taking up a crucial role in the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) Central Committee following his arrival in the party this week. According to sources close to development, BPF power brokers are coaxing Ookeditse to take up the secretary general position, left vacant by death of Roseline Panzirah-Matshome in November 2020.
Ookeditse’s arrival at BPF is projected to cause conflicts, as some believe they are being overlooked, in favour of a new arrival. The former ruling party strategist has however ruled out the possibility of serving in the party central committee as secretary general, and committed that he will turn down the overture if availed to him by party leadership.
Ookeditse, nevertheless, has indicated that if offered another opportunity to serve in a different capacity, he will gladly accept. “I still need to learn the party, how it functions and all its structures; I must be guided, but given any responsibility I will serve the party as long as it is not the SG position.”
“I joined the BPF with a clear conscious, to further advance my voice and the interests of the constituents of Nata/Gweta which I believe the BDP is no longer capable to execute.” Ookeditse speaks of abject poverty in his constituency and prevalent unemployment among the youth, issues he hopes his new home will prioritise.
He dismissed further allegations that he resigned from the BDP because he was not rewarded for his efforts towards the 2019 general elections. After losing in the BDP primaries in 2018, Ookeditse said, he was offered a job in government but declined to take the post due to his political ambitions. Ookeditse stated that he rejected the offer because, working for government clashed with his political journey.
He insists there are many activists who are more deserving than him; he could have chosen to take up the opportunity that was before him but his conscious for the entire populace’s wellbeing held him back. Ookeditse said there many people in the party who also contributed towards party success, asserting that he only left the BDP because he was concerned about the greater good of the majority not individualism purposes.
According to observers, Ookeditse has been enticed by the prospects of contesting Nata/Gweta constituency in the 2024 general election, following the party’s impressive performance in the last general elections. Nata/Gweta which is a traditional BDP stronghold saw its numbers shrinking to a margin of 1568. BDP represented by Polson Majaga garnered 4754, while BPF which had fielded Joe Linga received 3186 with UDC coming a distant with 1442 votes.
There are reports that Linga will pave way for Ookeditse to contest the constituency in 2024 and the latter is upbeat about the prospects of being elected to parliament. Despite Ookeditse dismissing reports that he is eying the secretary general position, insiders argue that the position will be availed to him nevertheless.
Alternative favourite for the position is Vuyo Notha who is the party Deputy Secretary General. Notha has since assumed duties of the secretariat office on the interim basis. BPF politburo is expected to meet on 25th of January 2020, where the vacancy will be filled.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) big wigs have decided to cancel a retreat with the party legislators this weekend owing to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. The meeting was billed for this weekend at a place that was to be confirmed, however a communique from the party this past Tuesday reversed the highly anticipated meeting.
“We received a communication this week that the meeting will not go as planned because of rapid spread of Covid-19,” one member of the party Central Committee confirmed to this publication. The gathering was to follow the first of its kind held late last year at party Treasurer Satar Dada’s place.