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BPOPF pushes arbitration in P400 million trailblazer

Capital Management Botswana (CMB) is playing hardball with Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) following the High Court’s rejection of an application by Non-Bank Financial Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA) through which it had wanted to appoint a Statutory manager (Peter Collins) over CMB.

The Partnership Agreement between BPOPF and CMB gives the latter a trailblazer status because they are likely to be the first company to be get over P400 million from a ‘partner’ with little sweat. BPOPF had issued an Arbitration Notice in a bid to recover over P400 million whose whereabouts have not been disclosed and it belongs to the 150 000 pensioners of the Botswana public service.

On 14 May 2018 BPOF lawyers wrote to the Botswana Institute of Arbitrators (BIA) for intervention after CMB failed to honour the Arbitration Notice within the recognized 20 days. CMB has instead made hard demands on the part of BPOPF. “The 20 day deadline has passed. Despite BPOPF having engaged with CMB and with the statutory manager who was appointed to CMB, CMB has, to date, neither accepted the arbitrators proposed in the Arbitration Notice, nor has its suggested any alternative arbitrators.

CMB has, in court papers, suggested that an arbitration should be held in the United Kingdom, but it seems to us that the terms of the Partnership Agreement are clear. CMB have not raised any formal dispute in relation to the forum of arbitration and this would, in any event, be a dispute as defined in the Partnership Agreement which would need to be dealt with, perhaps as a preliminary issue, at an arbitration in Botswana. In any event, the Partnership Agreement does not require that the BIA be instructed by both parties but merely requires that the BIA appoint the Arbitrators if the parties have not agreed within 20days,” wrote BPOPF lawyers, Werksman Attorneys.

BPOPF has asked the Botswana Institute of Arbitrators to appoint three arbitrators in accordance with the terms of the Partnership Agreement. They want the arbitrators to be Senior Counsels to preside over the arbitration in respect of the disputes declared. “The subject of the arbitration is a matter of national importance notably given that the BPOPF represents more than 150 000 pensioners of Botswana public service and that more than P400 million is at risk. It is urgent that the Disputes be resolved efficiently.

We therefore look forward to your prompt response,” further stated the BPOPF lawyers. BPOPF had suggested the names of Mr Virgil Vergeer; Mr Kwadwo Osei Ofei; Ms Pepsi Sibanda; and Mr Sifelani Thapelo as possible arbitrators. BPOPF Acting Chief Executive Officer, Moemedi Malindah had indicated that any three of the listed four could be selected to act as arbitrators.

The Partnership Agreement states that “Any dispute between any of the Parties arising in connection with this Agreement or its subject matter shall be submitted to an finally resolved by arbitration in accordance with arbitration rules of Botswana Institute of Arbitrators (BIA)…”
BPOPF entered into a Partnership Agreement with Capital Management Botswana (CMB) Limited in November 2014. CMB was a general partner of the Botswana Opportunity Partnership (the ‘Fund’) for the period commencing on its formation of the Fund and terminating on 1 December 2017 by BPOPF who are the sole Limited Partner of the Fund.

The Disputes which are to be taken for arbitration arise from the fact that CMB, which has been terminated as General Partner (GP) is yet to transfer the Fund Assets held by it in its own name to the Fund hence BPOPF wants to ensure that all of the Fund Assets are registered in the name of the Fund. Furthermore BPOPF wants CMB to handover to the newly appointed General Partner, Viltry (Proprietary) Limited.

BPOPF is also demanding all documentation relating to the Fund and to each of the Fund’s Investments that are in its possession and which ought to be within its possession in terms of the Partnership Agreement both as its erstwhile General Partner and erstwhile Manager. In addition, BPOPF demands the details of each service provider to the Fund as well as each service provider to CMB as the erstwhile General Partner and the erstwhile Fund Manager in relation to the Fund, including the name of the service provider, the contact details of the service provider, a list of deliverables pending issue from each service provider (if any)), the service level agreement concluded with that service provider and the correspondences with each service provider.

The Pension Fund also procures that any persons nominated and appointed by CMB to represent the Fund on the Board of any Portfolio company pursuant to the Partnership Agreement resign from such office with effect from the date of the Removal Notice and authorize General Partner to nominate and appoint replacement with effect from the date of Removal Notice.

“On 18 December 2017, BPOPF wrote to CMB demanding confirmation of, amongst other things, the identity and contact details of the person or entity to whom BPOPF’s interest in the Fund had purportedly been sold and the purchase price. As at date of this notice, CMB has not complied with these demands. The replacement GP requires the requested information in order to discharge its fiduciary obligations to the Fund, and it is accordingly, in terms of common law and under the Partnership Agreement, entitled to the information and documentation demanded in the Removal Notice as well as the letter dated 18 December 2017,” further writes Moemedi Malindah, Acting BPOPF CEO.

WHY BPOPF SHOULD BEG FOR ARBITRATION

The BPOPF invested the sum of P477 million in the Botswana Opportunity Partnership (BOP) to be managed by CMB in terms of the BOP agreement between the two. CMB then disposed of the investment and only paid P50 million to BPOPF. The BPOPF has tried to tell the court that a balance of P400 million was at stake. But Judge in the NBFIRA case, Justice Motumise has argued that “the question before me is not the recovery of the P400 million or to secure it, wherever it is and thus to protect it from loss. In fact, I have not been told where it is so that I can secure it from such loss. What I am called upon to do, in these proceedings is to decide whether to confirm the appointment of a statutory manager over CMB.”

The money at stake was an investment made in terms of the BOP Agreement which states that: “The General Partner shall be entitled, and is hereby irrevocably authorized by defaulting Limited Partner, to dispose of the Defaulting Limited Partner’s interest in Botswana Opportunity Partnership to one or more third parties at such price and on such terms and conditions as the General Partner, in its sole and absolute  discretion, deems fit, provided that the General Partner first offers such interest, at the same price and on the same terms, first to the non-Defaulting Limited Partner pro rata to their respective Capital Commitments and then (if any remains) to the non-defaulting Fund LPs of any Parallel Fund pro rata to their respective capital commitments to such.”  

The Agreement further reads: Except as provided in clause 26 or any loss suffered due to any grossly negligent, reckless, fraudulent or willful misconduct activities by the General Partner, neither the General Partner nor the any of its affiliates shall be liable for the return of the Capital Commitments of any Partner, and such return shall be made solely from available Fund Assets, if any, and each Limited Partner hereby waives any and all claims it may have against the General Partner or any Affiliate thereof in this regard.”  

It is evident that BPOPF authorized the disposal of its investment or interest under the agreement and the Agreement itself prescribes that resolution of all matters and or claims is through Arbitration. Some BPOPF insiders question the decision to sign such an Agreement and are wondering where the Board and the management were when such a deal slipped through!

WHY THE P400 million is GONE
Except as provided in clause 26 or any loss suffered due to any grossly negligent, reckless, fraudulent or willful misconduct activities by the General Partner, neither the General Partner nor the any of its affiliates shall be liable for the return of the Capital Commitments of any Partner, and such return shall be made solely from available Fund Assets, if any, and each Limited Partner hereby waives any and all claims it may have against the General Partner or any Affiliate thereof in this regard.” 

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BONELA speaks on same-sex decriminalization case

18th October 2021
BONELA

In June 2019, a case involving the Attorney General was brought before the High Court, in which the applicant Letsweletse Motshidiemang challenged Sections 164 (a) and 167 of the Penal Code. The applicant contended that these sections are unconstitutional because they violate the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy. 

The applicant argued that these sections violated his right and freedom to liberty as he was subject to abject ignominy. These laws subjected the LGBTIQ community to brutal and debasing treatment through social control and public morality. On the 1st of November 2017, the Botswana High Court further allowed Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to join the case as amicus curiae.

However, in July 2019, the respondents, in this case, i.e. the Government, filed an appeal against this iconic High Court ruling seeking re-criminalization of homosexuality. Human Rights Group has criticized this move of the Government all over the world.  The appeal was heard before five judges at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The State was represented by Advocate Sidney Pilane, while LEGABIBO and Letsweletse Motshidiemang were represented by Tshiamo Rantao and Gosego Rockfall Lekgowe, respectively.

Non-Governmental Organizations advocating for the LGBTIQ+ community joined the two parties at the Court of Appeal during this case. They argue that the minority group should enjoy their rights, especially the right to privacy and health. Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Kelemi says the issues being raised by LEGABIBO are that as individuals belonging to the LGBTIQ community, they have and must share equal rights, including the right to privacy, which also speaks to being able to involve in sexual activities, including anal sex.

“Those rights are framed within the constitution, and therefore a violation of any of those rights allow them to approach the courts and seek for redress. We do not need the law to be regulating what we do in the privacy of our homes. The law cannot determine how and when we can have sex and with who, so the law does not have any business in that context. What we are saying is that the law is violating the right to privacy,” she said on the sidelines of the decriminalization case in Gaborone on Tuesday.

The first case involving the homosexual act was the Utjiwa Kanane vs the State in 2003. Contrary to section 164(c) of the Penal Code, Kanane was charged with committing an unnatural offence and engaging in indecent practices between males, contrary to section 167. The conduct at issue involved Graham Norrie, a British tourist, and occurred in December 1994. (Norrie pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and left the country.)

Kanane pleaded not guilty, alleging that sections 164(c) and 167 both violated the constitution. The High Court ruled that these sections of the Penal Code did not violate the constitution. Kanane then appealed to the Court of Appeal. BONELA CEO recalls that in its judgment then, the High Court indicated, Batswana were not ready for homosexual acts. Twenty years later, the same courts are saying that Batswana are ready, she says.

“They gave the explicit example that shows that indeed Batswana are ready. There are policies and documents in place that accommodate people from marginalized communities and minority populations. The question now is that why is it hard now to recognize the full rights of an individual who is of the LGBTI community?” She further says intimacy is only an expression. The law that restricts homosexuality makes it hard for LGBTIQ members to express themselves in a way that affirms who they are.

“We want a situation where the law facilitates for the LGBTIQ community to be free and express themselves. The stigma that they face in communities is way too punitive. They are called names; some have been physically violated and raped at times. It shows that the law doesn’t not only prevent them from expressing themselves, it also exposes them to violence.” The law on its own, Kelemi submits, cannot change the status quo, adding that there is a need for more awareness and education on human rights and what it means for an individual to have rights.

“As it is now, it is very tough for some to do that because of a legal environment that is not enabling. We also want to see a situation where LGBTIQ+ people can access services and be confident that they are provided with non-discriminatory services. It is challenging now because health care providers, social workers and law enforcement officers believe that it is illegal to be homosexual. What we are saying is that if you have an enabling law, then that will facilitate for people to be able to express themselves, including accessing health services,” Kelemi said.

“As we are doing this advocacy work, one of the issues that we picked up is that there is lack of capacity, especially on the part of healthcare workers. We noted that when we provide services or mobilize Men who have sex with other men (MSM) to access health facilities, health care workers are not welcoming, forcing them to hideaway. We must put an end to this to allow these people the freedom that they equally deserve.”

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Masisi warns Gov’t officials

18th October 2021
President Masisi

The President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, has declared as an act of corruption the attitude and practice by government officials and contractors to deliver projects outside time and budget, adding that such a practice should end as it eats away from the public coffers.

For a very long time, management problems and vast cost overruns have been the order of the day in Botswana, resulting in public frustrations. Speaking at the commissioning of the Masama/Mmamashia 100 Kilometres project this week, Masisi said: “There is a tendency in government to leave projects to drag outside their allocated completion time and budget. I want to stress that this will not be tolerated. It is an act of corruption, and I will be engaging offices on this issue,” Masisi said.

In an interview with this publication over the issue, the Director-General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), Tymon Katholo, says, “any project that goes beyond its scope and budget raises red flags.” He continued that: “Corruption on these issues can be administrative and criminal. It may be because government officials have been negligent or been paid to be negligent by ignoring certain obligations or procedures. “This, as you may be aware has serious implications on not only of the economy but even the citizens who use these facilities or projects,” Katlholo said, adding that his agency is equally concerned.

According to the DCEC director, the selection, planning and delivery of infrastructure or projects is critical. In most cases, this is where the corruption would have occurred, leading to a troubled project. A public finance expert at the University of Botswana (UB), Emmanuel Botlhale, attributes poor project implementation to declining public accountability, lack of commitment to reforming the public sector, a decline in the commitment by state authorities and lack of a culture of professional project management.

In his research paper titled, ‘Enhancing public project implementation in Botswana during the NDP 11 period,’ Botlhale stated that successful implementation is critical in development planning. If there is poor project implementation, economic development will be stalled.
Corruption is particularly relevant for large and uncommon projects where the public sector acts as a client, and experts say Megaprojects are very likely to be affected by corruption. Corruption worsens both cost and time performance and the benefits expected from such projects.

Speaking during this week’s Masama/Mmamashia pipeline commissioning, Khato Civils chairman said Africans deserve a chance because they are capable, further adding that the Africans do not have to think that only Whites and Chinese people can do mega projects.  During his rule, former president Ian Khama went public to attack Chinese contractors for costing the government a move that ended up fuelling tensions between China and Botswana after Khama dispatched the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, to China to register Botswana’s complaints with Chinese government-owned construction companies.  Botswana had approached the Chinese government for help in its marathon battle with Chinese companies contracted to build, among others, the failed controversial Morupule B power plant and refurbishment of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (SSIK).

 

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Guma’s battle for millions of Pula give Court headache

18th October 2021
Guma Moyo

A legal battle between former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) legislator Samson Moyo Guma and First National Bank (FNB) over a multimillion oil refinery project intensified this week with Justice Zein Kebonang referring the matter to Court of Appeal for determination.  The project belongs to Moyo Guma’s company called United Refineries which he has since placed under judicial management.

The war of words between Moyo Guma and FNB escalated after the company’s property worth millions of Pula were put up for sale in execution by the bank and scheduled to take place on 8th October. It emerges from Court papers that the bank had secured an order from the High Court to place the company’s property under the hammer.

Moyo Guma then also approached the High Court seeking among others that the public auction scheduled for 8th October 2021 be stayed. He contended that the assets that were to be sold belonged in reality to United Refineries and that as the company had been under judicial management at the time of the attachment, the intended sale in execution was unlawful.

He also sought the Court to declare that the writs of execution against the properties of guarantors and sureties of United Refineries Botswana Holdings Propriety Limited (the company) are unlawful.  Moyo Guma also sought a stay of the execution against the property known as Plot 43556 in Francistown, that is, the land buildings, plant and machinery which make up the property and any all immovable or movable property belonging to the guarantors and sureties of the company pending finalization of the winding up of United Refineries.

But FNB disputed Moyo Guma’s assertions and submitted that the properties in question belonged to TEC (Pty) Ltd and not United Refiners. TEC Pty Ltd which is one of the shareholders in United Refineries is one of the sureties and co-principal debtors of a debt amounting to P24 million owed by United Refineries to FNB.  FNB argued in papers that the properties belonged to TEC because it was TEC which had passed a covering mortgage bond in its favour over the property it now sought to execute.

Moyo Guma submitted that the covering mortgage bond passed in favour of FNB did not tell the full story as the property in question was in truth and fact owned by United Refineries and not TEC Pty Ltd. He maintained that the shares had been had been passed by the company in exchange for the properties in question and that the parties had always been guided by the spirt of the share agreement in dealing with each other despite delays in the change or transfer of ownership of plots 43556 and plot 43557 in Francistown.

Kebonang said it was clear to him that the two plots (43556 and 435570 belonged to United Refineries notwithstanding that TEC (Pty) Ltd had passed a mortgage bond over them in favour of FNB.  “For this reason the properties were immune from attachment or sale in execution so long as the judicial management order was in place,” he said.

The background of the case is that Moyo Guma together with five other investors, namely Elffel Flats (Pty) Ltd; Mmoloki Tibe; TEC (Pty) Ltd; Profidensico (Pty) Ltd and Tiedze Bob Chapi, each bound themselves as sureties and co-principal debtors in respect of a debt owed by a company called United Refineries Botswana Holdings (Proprietary) Limited (the Company), to First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) (1st Respondent).

FNB had extended banking facilities to the company in the amount of P24 million which was then secured through the suretyship of Moyo Guma and other shareholders.  Court records show that Moyo had on the 11th February obtained a temporary order for the appointment of a provisional judicial manager in respect of United Refineries and it was confirmed by the High Court on 24th September 2019.

In terms of the final court order by the High Court issued by Justice Tshepho Motswagole all judicial proceedings against the company, execution of all writs, summons and process were stayed and could only proceed with leave of Court. Court documents also show that First National Bank had sued the company and the sureties for the recovery of the debt owed to it and through a consent order, the bank withdrew its lawsuit against the company.

But FNB later instituted fresh proceedings against Moyo Guma and did not cite the company in its proceedings.  “There is no explanation in the record as to why the Applicant was now reflected as the 1st Defendant and why the company had suddenly been removed as the 1st Defendant. There was no application either for amendment or substitution by the bank,” said Justice Kebonang.

FNB had also argued that it sought to proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship they signed and that by signing the suretyship agreement, Moyo and other sureties had renounced all defence available to them and could therefore be sued without first proceedings against the principal debtor (United Refineries).  The question, Kebonang said, was that can FNB proceed to execute against Moyo Guma and other sureties on the basis of the suretyship contracts they signed?

“The starting point is that the Applicant (Moyo Guma) and others by binding themselves as sureties became liable for debts of the principal debtor and such liability is joint and several. He said the consequences of placing the company under judicial management means that every benefit extended to it should also extend to sureties.

“If the company is afforded more time to pay or its debt is discharged, reduced or compromised or suspended the obligation of sureties is to be likewise treated. It follows in my view that where judicial proceedings are suspended or stayed against the company, then any recourse against the sureties is similarly stayed or suspended,’ said Kebonang.

He added that “In the circumstances of this case, it seems to me that so long as the company is under judicial management, the moratorium that applies to it must also apply to its sureties/guarantors and no execution of the writs should be permitted against them. Any execution would be invalid.”

“Mindful that there is judicial precedent on this point in Botswana, at least none that I am aware of, and given its significance, I consider it prudent that the Court of Appeal must provide a determinative answer to the question whether a creditor can proceed against sureties where a company is under judicial management,” said Kebonang.

Pending the determination of the Court of Appeal, he issued the following order; the execution of writs issued in favour of FNB against Moyo and other sureties/guarantors of United Refinery are hereby stayed pending the determination of the legal question referred to the Court of Appeal.

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