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.
Slumber Tsogwane, the chairman of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), has effectively ursurped Mpho Balopi’s functions of secretary general. He has also taken over the preparations for the party’s national congress, which is scheduled to be held in August.
The role of the secretary general is to oversee the activities of the party, and according to its constitution, he or she is the accounting officer. Throughout his career, Balopi has been the link between the various structures of the party, including the central committee and sub committees. However, since he has been replaced by Tsogwane, Balopi has become an onlooker.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) Tymon Katholo has revealed why he took a decision to engage private lawyers against the State. The DCEC boss engaged Monthe and Marumo Attorneys in his application to interdict the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing files and dockets in the custody of the corruption busting agency.
In his affidavit, Katholo says that by virtue of my appointment as the Director General of the DCEC, he is obliged to defend the administration and operational activities of the DCEC. He added that, “I have however been advised about a provision in the State Proceedings Act which grants the authority of public institution to undertake legal proceedings to the Attorney General.” Katholo contends that the provision is not absolute and the High Court may in the exercise of its original jurisdiction permit such, like in this circumstance authorise such proceedings to be instituted by the DCEC or its Director General.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has gone through transformation over the years, with new faces coming and going, but some figures have become part and parcel of the furniture at Tsholetsa House. From founding in 1962, BDP has seen five leaders changing the baton during the party’s 60 years of existence. The party has successfully contested 12 general elections, albeit the outcome of the last polls were disputed in court.
While party splits were not synonymous with the BDP for the better part of its existence, the party suffered two splits in the last 12 years; the first in 2010 when a Barataphathi faction broke ranks to found the now defunct Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). The Barataphathi faction was in the main protesting the ill-treatment of then recently elected party secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi, who had been suspended ostensibly for challenging the authority of then president, Ian Khama.