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Debswana caught up in displaced communities brawl

The world’s leading diamond producer by value, Debswana, could soon be forced to compensate families which were displaced when mining activities began in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Boteti.

The Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Minerals, Eric Molale has resorted to launching a joint investigation with Debswana into the matter to see the impact of displacement of some families in Boteti during the early exploration of diamonds in the area.
Debswana is a joint venture between mining giant, De Beers and Government of Botswana, each having a 50 percent stake in the company.

Debswana, then De Beers Botswana, discovered its first diamond at Orapa in 1967, with mining operations commencing in 1971, while Letlhakane Mine was opened four years later. In 2003, Debswana also added Damtshaa Mines as part of its mining operation in the area. The trio forms part of the Orapa, Letlhakane and Damtshaa Mines, with Orapa Town being the administrative centre.  

The battle involving some Basarwa communities who were displaced by mining activities in the Boteti region reached the legislative house last week when area Member of Parliament, Sethomo Lelatisitswe inquired on the compensation due to the affected homesteads. Although the complaints of mistreatment by those who were affected by government have been rife, the Minister of Minerals has indicated that there are no records or evidence of people relocated from the land allocated for Letlhakane DK1 Mine and Orapa Mine.

“Debswana and my ministry will embark on a process of inquiry to address the issues raised in the question [compensation]. Therefore, it will stand referred in the future to the Assurances Committee to give progress to what has been found,” Molale told parliament last week.
“All issues that relate to this matter are dealt with as guided by the Constitution with talks of fair and adequate compensation. That is what would be guiding us in the review of all these.”

Ministry of Lands, Water and Sanitation as the land authority in Botswana, will also be brought on board during the investigation to offer insight in relation to land acquisition. Although Molale said he could not provide the time frame, he assured that investigations into the matter will be completed in less than three months.

The youthful Lelatisitswe challenged government on whether it had done enough to ensure that the affected communities, which mostly involve the people of Basarwa tribe did directly benefit from the mining activities area. He also enquired if government could provide detailed information on the affected people with regard to their level of wealth; access to water; whether there was any offspring of the families who now work for Debswana; the number from these families that were directly sponsored by Debswana to appreciate what their forefathers did for Debswana shareholders; and how Debswana will identify these families.

Government however indicated that until its investigation with Debswana has been carried out, it has no records of the purported people working for Debswana as well as of any relocation that ever took place during the establishment of Debswana. The displacement of some families, mostly Basarwa by the Debswana mining operations is linked to the growing number of squatters in the periphery of Letlhakane.

According to Minister of Lands, Water and Sanitation, Kefentse Mzwinila, the number of squatters profiled in Letlhakane village from 2015 to December 2017 is 361. As per the admission of the minister, most of the affected individuals are Basarwa. Member of Parliament of Jwaneng-Mabutsane, home to the world’s most valuable diamond, Shawn Nthaile, has advised government to develop a comprehensive policy, beside the constitution which will guide government in future on what should be done to communities which are displaced by mining activities.

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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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