United Refineries Botswana (URB), a company that has the directorship of Tati East Member of Parliament, Samson Guma Moyo and the Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) and three others is at the centre of a row between some CEDA’s Structured Finance Department employees and their seniors over questionable financing despite not meeting the basic requirements.
In the last seven years the company has been financed four times to the tune of close to P40 million but fit has not paid a dime towards the loan repayment. CEDA exposure with URB currently stands at P40 million and in November 2017, URB put forward a proposal requesting a P9 million loan from CEDA through which they claimed they wanted to refinance a short term facility as payment.
The CEDA department of Structured Financing found the request to be problematic at the word go because there was no board resolution supporting the application, there were no minutes to confirm a Board sitting; URB also failed to avail audited financial statements at the time, and when they were submitted they were not signed by their auditors – which raised eyebrows with those tasked with appraising the application by URB. Further to compound the URB request conundrum was the fact that the financials were only for the year 2015/16 but the company was first financed in 2012/13 hence the CEDA officers wanted a record of what has been happening in the company since being financed.
Things came to a head when the CEDA officials further discovered that the 40 percent shareholding of the parastatal in URB has been diluted to a paltry 18 percent – with the difference being transferred to Guma Moyo. “What concerned us the most was that there was no board resolution supplied to us to explain the shareholding dilution and the transfer of the same shares to Mr Moyo,” said a source within CEDA. He said it is very easy to track share transfer and or sale but in this instance there was “zero record”.
On asking for the subscription shareholding agreement as well as a valuation report that determined the value of the shares, and proof of payment from Guma Moyo to CEDA the officials also hit blanks. Those tasked with appraising the request by URB also got wind of the fact that the same company has financial obligations with Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) where they secured P15 million and P25 million from First National Bank Botswana who were also demanding their monies from URB. “At the time we were doing this appraisal URB was technically insolvent,” he said.
“Our view was that you can’t continue to throw money into a company that is technically insolvent. URB had also never serviced any loan that they took with us,” said our source. On the 23rd of November 2017, upon realizing that their request was not being fast tracked Guma Moyo is said to have shown up at CEDA offices where he interacted with the Head of Department – Structured Financing, James Moribame “to talk about URB request”.
In subsequent days the CEDA officers were under pressure and they approved the request on condition that URB supplies a board resolution, minutes of the board meeting, signed audited financials among other things. These demands were an impossible undertaking on the part of URB hence a difference officer was then assigned to look into their request. The appraisal was submitted on the 15th of December 2017 and was acceded to by management after one of the Structured Finance staff members, who has allegedly been dismissed put a disclaimer to the appraisal.
In her original assessment the said staff member is said to have highlighted risks faced by URB and possible mitigation measures. The Department of Structured Finance was of the view that it should get someone or a firm to manage the money on behalf of URB. Currently the company is failing to service its debts despite millions of Pula pumped into the project. Scores of its employees have not been paid in the last eleven months or so. On the other hand BDC is suing the company for failure to settle a loan of P11 million.
At the inception of the project, P40,7m was successfully raised which was intended to finance the scope of the project in full. However, the business experienced cost overruns due to the following challenging factors Depreciation of the Pula by over 37% from the inception of the project as the cost of plant and equipment was in US Dollars; Unplanned material expenditures, namely excavation and civil works on the plant site, driven by the need to hire the earth moving equipment which has been resident on site since the project started. In addition there were material additions to the plant specifications.
Subsequent delays in disbursements resulting in movement of prices at a rate similar to the depreciation of the currency to the dollar. Against these constraints, P25, 1m was raised from FNB; BWP 12.7m from CEDA to fund the gap that developed following these material changes. The above achieved a 98% completion of the factory. Over and above the contributions, subsequent contributions were made by the founding shareholders to meet the funding requirements of the business via shareholder loans and capital calls that CEDA did not participate as indicated below as follows:
One of the original promoters of the project who spoke to Weekend Post this week Mr Tiedze Chapi explained that the company was formed by Guma and Tibe back in 2010/11. He said the two approached him and asked him to avail his plot as surety so that they could access funds to kickstart the project. He was convinced that he will become part of the company with a 40 percent shareholding while Guma was to hold 40 percent and Tibe was to own 20 percent of the business.
According to Chapi the two availed documents which had his name on them to demonstrate that indeed he was a shareholder and they went on to ask for P11 million from BDC. Although BDC approved their request it was on the condition that they produce proof that they have assets that match that value. Unfortunately Chapi’s land valued less (P608 000) and still with infrastructure on it only went up to P4.3 million way less than the P11 million required hence BDC could not release the whole amount.
Chapi shared that the promoters then went to CEDA where they were given the P11 million. At this point Chapi was not happy with the whole operation and he threatened to pull out only to be intimidated. “I wanted to pull out because I was not sure if I am a shareholder in this company.” Chapi said at this point CEDA came into the picture and injected P7.33 million and a shareholders agreement was prepared by Armstrongs Attorneys.
CEDA then paid another P7.33 million as debenture and the project took off. “My concern is that the money that was injected by the money funding institutions was not traceable in most cases. BDC put in money, it finished, CEDA put in money, it finished and FNBB put in money and it finished, CEDA came back to inject money and it finished and I hear the company is back at CEDA asking for more funds. We have not been audited and I am concerned that my name is in this project and public funds are being used without due process,” said Chapi. Chapi further stated that CEDA has guaranteed a loan of P9.5 million acquired by URB from FNBB at 100%. He stated that BDC has issued a letter of demand to URB and they want their money back.
“I have tried to seek legal advice on the matter and I cannot take it any further because the legal costs are prohibitive on my side. As for BDC, they are suing in the basis of an agreement that I did not sign as a one of the parties and I do not think they will succeed on my part. At some point I was kicked out of the Board and I was being threatened with political influence but I did not budge,” continued Chapi. According to Chapi, he has asked for a forensic audit of the business, “to my surprise one of the firms that was engaged to prepare the report put a disclaimer that it did not meet the required standards but URB still paid P250 000 for it.
Chapi is concerned that employees at the cooking oil plant have been going for up to eleven months without pay. “Some are at seven months without payment,” he added. He added: “Another thing that concerns me is the dilution of shareholding, something that contravenes the shareholders agreement. He said CEDA’s share has dropped from 40% to 18%; his from 12% to 7%; while Guma’s has picked from 16% to 53%.
EFFORTS TO CONTACT KEY PLAYERS
When reached by this publication, Mmoloki Tibe , who is also a shareholder, to inquire about Unified Refineries, declined to discuss the affairs of his company because its “a private entity.” When this publication pressed forward with the matter, putting it to him that, Unified Refineries’ dealings with CEDA maybe of public interest since CEDA is public enterprise, Tibe remorsefully agreed to share more light on the matter with this publication at later time.
His phone then later rang unattended and he could not reply inquiries sent through SMS. Dr Alfred Tsheboeng, Chairperson of the CEDA Board’s mobile phone rang unanswered the entire day, while Cynthia Sebonego, Secretary of the Board referred this publication to CEDA communications chief, Anno Tshipa. WeekendPost team managed to get hold of Tshipa but she was unable to respond to this publication’s inquiry. Weekend Post has promised to give her a right of reply next week. Meanwhile Guma Moyo’s mobile were unreachable because he was said to be in South Africa.
Despite the President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob giving an impression that the borderline security disputes are a thing of the past and that diplomatic ties remain tight, fresh developments from Namibia suggest otherwise, following Geingod’s close confidante’s attack on Botswana and its army.
Giving a Zambezi region state of the affairs last week, a Geingob-appointed governor of Zambezi region, Colonel Lawrence Ampofu, a retired Colonel in the Namibian Defence Force, former plan combatant during the liberation struggle of Namibia, in a written speech, charged at the BDF and condemned their killings of the Namibians as unacceptable.
“The security situation within our borders remains calm. The incidence of the Botswana Defence Force shootings and wanton killings on the Nchindo Brothers on 05 November 2020 and other 37 Namibian lives lost since independence remain a serious challenge with our neighbor, Botswana.
Our residents living along the Chobe, Linyanti and Kwandu rivers are living under constant threats, harassment, fear, intimidation and killings and such activities are condemned and not acceptable,” he said under the safety and security title.
The attack suggests that Namibia has not bought Botswana’s story. Ampofu was part of the entourage that accompanied Geingob to the three Nchindo brothers and their cousin who were gunned down by the BDF, and is reported to be privy to the details of the unpublished Botswana-Namibia joint investigations report about the killings as a governor or political head of the region which has eight electoral constituencies.
The report contains the sensitive details of how the three Namibians referred as poachers by the BDF – and Fisherman by the Namibian government were gunned down on 5 November last year along the Chobe River. They were Tommy (48), Martin (40) and Wamunyima Nchindo (36), and their cousin Sinvula Muyeme (44).
His views are not really in contrast to his President’s views who also described the BDF as trigger happy in a scripted report to his cabinet.
The Zambezi region is located in the extreme north east part of Namibia and covers a total of 14,667.6 square kilometres. “We share borders with Angola, Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east and Botswana to the South,” he said.
Sampofu was first appointed governor of the former Caprive Region in 2010 by the former Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba and was reappointed as Zambezi governor by President Dr.Hage Geingob in 2015, a term running to 2025.
37 Namibia residents killed by Botswana army so far
Sampofu is a man who continues to insist that Botswana has killed 37 residents of his region. A video posted by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) shows him alleging that at least 37 Namibians were killed by the BDF, after he met with the community at Impalila.
“It is true, the BDF started long ago. As we speak 37 lives have been lost here in Impalila along the Chobe river going to Linyanti and Kwado rivers up to Lizauli. All those families lost their loved ones,” Ampofu said in the video posted by NBC.
It is not known how the BDF, which has maintained their position that the Namibians were engaging in illegal activities of poaching, treats the constant attacks by the Namibian authorities, but they have repeatedly vowed to continue protecting the country’s sovereignty and natural resources.
Botswana’s premier brewer and leading distributor of beer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), this month dragged the government of Botswana to court after President Mokgweetsi Masisi imposed an alcohol ban with immediate effect. KBL labelled the decision as unjustifiable, irrational and that it overrides the rights that are enshrined in the constitution.
This week, Masisi through attorneys representing the government disparaged the case in his written affidavit of KBL’s application, referring to it as frivolous and that it ought to be dismissed with costs on a punitive scale.
In his court papers, Masisi reminded KBL that Botswana is a Republic whose laws find validity from the constitution, and in terms of Section 17 of the constitution the President is empowered to declare a State of Emergency and that it is a common cause that Botswana is under such state.
“It is common course that there is in existence emergency powers (Covid-19) Regulations 2020 as amended from time to time which is solely designed to regulate the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Masisi pointed out that he denies that the application before Court is proper such as to challenge the lawfulness and validity of a regulation made and a notice published in the exercise of a legislative function in accordance with the Emergency Powers Act which empowers the President to make regulations as appear to him to be necessary and expedient for securing public safety.
Furthermore, the President revealed that the decision to ban alcohol sales was not arrived at willy-nilly, but rather that there had been careful considerations that the risks posed by Covid-19 had increased and therefore it was expedient and necessary to suspend all liquor licenses.
Moreover, Masisi denied that the decision to reinstate the ban should be made by the Director of Health Services as indicated by KBL in their nature of the application, “the Director is to cause the notice to be published in the Gazette after consultation with the President.”
Masisi indicated that the role of the Director of Health Services is to publish a regulation made by the President.
He further, reminded KBL that the power to make regulations in a State of Public Emergency in accordance with the EPA lies with the President, “such power includes the amendment of any enactment, suspending the operation of any enactment or modification of an enactment.”
According to Masisi, his decision to ban alcohol sales was based on evidence provided by the Director of Health Services who indicated to him that there was a sudden spike in the transmission of the Covid-19 virus following the reinstatement of liquor licenses.
Another piece of advice tendered by the Director of Health to Masisi was that bars and other liquor outlets were some of the major hotspots in the sense of such being high-risk areas at which the virus spread rapidly.
“Alcohol was one of the major causes of non-compliance with the health protocols that were put in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Further, there was an indication that more arrests were made on people failing to adhere to Covid-19 protocols more particularly at places where there were gatherings,” he contended.
He pointed out that therefore, it was expedient and or necessary to preserve lives and to reduce the risks of transmissions of the virus to reinstate the suspension of liquor licenses.
Moreover, the President says that it must be noted that he avers that the Director of Health Services is a credible source on matters of public health of which he also accordingly gave due weight to the Director’s advice on deciding to reinstate the ban through the impugned notice.
“I am aware and was always aware at the time of promulgating the regulation complained of that it shall negatively affect some sectors of the economy. However, after due consideration and receipt of advice, I decided to give priority to the safety and health of the nation,” Masisi said.
He presaged KBL that it would not be prudent and in the best interest of the nation to ignore a health emergency such as Covid-19 and gave preference to trading and making of profits by the applicant. “The results would only be catastrophic to the extent that when we emerge from the scourge we would be left with a depleted and ailing nation from Covid-19 and its side effects.”
Furthermore, his written affidavit further pointed out that the decision to reinstate the ban on alcohol was taken notwithstanding understanding and appreciation of the economic hardships that would befall the country.
However, he said he deliberately made the decision based on the evidence provided to him by the Director of Health, whose evidence he believes to be credible to give public/safety and health priority over economic considerations in some sectors.
In making the decision, Masisi states that he was and considered different options including allowing for sale of alcohol consumption off premises, however the evidence he had been provided with suggested that such other alternatives would not achieve the overall objective of securing public safety and health by reducing the risk of the spread of the virus.
“By the time I imposed the ban, alcohol was already being sold for consumption off-premises. This did not work. The information provided to me by the Director and the Presidential Task-Force team demonstrated that consumers purchased alcohol and then loitered and consumed it within the peripheries of bars and other liquor outlets,” he said.
Attached to the affidavit as emphasis, were photographs and videos of Gaborone West, Phase 4 in mid-June 2021, which he explains circulated on social media and was brought to his attention.
“I need not say much about the photos as they depict a crowd exceeding 50 gathered at the parking area of a bar. There is little or no regard to Covid-19 protocols. It was clear to me and my advisors, including the Director of Health Services and members of the Presidential Task-Force team that the total ban of alcohol was necessary to manage the risk of increase in infections, to understand what seems to have led to an increase in the risk of infection when alcohol is present I was advised by the Presidential Task-Force team that scientifically there has been evidence that alcohol narrows physical distance,” he argued.
Masisi says that allegations made by KBL are serious allegations of infringement of fundamental rights yet they fail to state how imposition and reinstatement of the suspension of liquor licenses out of necessity and expediency of the health of the nation infringes on the rights as alleged.
In an embarrassing turn of events that depicts disintegration in government communication on the fight against COVID-19, President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Assistant Minister of Health & Wellness, Sethomo Lelatisitswe gave two conflicting statements on the same matter, same day, just minutes apart.
The Commander-in-Chef told health practitioners and residents in Ramotswa that the COVAX facility has scammed African countries after billions were paid in a crowd funding effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines in bulk.
“We have pumped money as developing countries of the African continent into the COVAX Facility but the returns were not satisfactory, they cheated us,” the President said in Ramotswa.
According to President Masisi, the COVAX facility Vaccine only came in bits and pieces, frustrating the continent ‘s head immunity targets amid rapidly spreading Delta Variant which is currently reversing all progress made by Africa in containing the contagious virus.
“What we are getting is very small portions of the vaccine, they keep telling us that there is shortage of supply, this is not fair, but we have paid in advance, however what can we do, we have no choice but to spend more money and look for other avenues of securing other available vaccines,” he said.
Meanwhile in Gaborone, Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness told Parliament that vaccine from COVAX facility is anchoring Botswana’s vaccination program.
“I am not aware of such information that COVAX facility is not delivering as expected, we are actually bolstered by COVAX facility in this country,” he said responding to a question from Mahalapye West Member of Parliament David Tshere who is also Chairman of Parliament Committee On Health and HIV/AIDS.
“We have received doses as ordered from the COVAX facility, and we are still receiving more, I have not seen that information which is purported to have been revealed by the President, unless its new information, we as the Ministry we are not aware of any frustrations by the COVAX facility,” he said.
COVAX is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), alongside key delivery partner UNICEF.
Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The facility is a global coalition that works to ensure fair and equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. So far, 190 countries have joined the COVAX initiative, including all 22 countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
The COVAX Facility aims to have 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution across the globe by the end of 2021, targeting those most at risk (e.g. frontline health workers) and most vulnerable severe diseases and death (e.g. elderly and people with co-morbidities).
On other vaccination issues President Masisi revealed, still in Greater Gaborone vaccination centre visits, that Botswana has placed orders with Pfizer, a United States vaccine producer noting that they have promised to deliver next year.
Meanwhile, government kick-started phase two of the Covid-19 vaccination program this week, opening up for ages between 30 and 54.
President Masisi revealed that this was done because some elderly were reluctant to be inculcated.
“We can’t take forever trying to convince people to take vaccine, we moved to the next age segments because we cannot afford to have vaccines-which are already in shortage supply to just lie there,” he said.
On Friday, Ministry of Health revealed that it was receiving large numbers of people below the age of 55 lining up to be vaccinated.
In a statement the Ministry of Health said it, “acknowledges the huge turnout that marked the commencement of the Phase two COVID-19 vaccination program”.
Given this high turnout, especially in the Greater Gaborone region, the ministry announced an extension of operation hours in order to serve the huge crowds that had come for vaccination.
Of the nearly 85 000 doses that were being doled across the country as first doses, the majority of the Greater Gaborone vaccination sites were already getting depleted by 1800hrs on 22 July 2021.
As a result of this development, the ministry took a decision to discontinue the extended hours of operation announced yesterday for vaccination sites in Gaborone.
This means that vaccination sites in Gaborone and elsewhere in the country which still have some vaccines, will offer them in the normal working hours and days of the week.
The Ministry says it appreciates the great desire to be vaccinated shown by thousands of citizens and residents of this country and wishes to assure them that it will continue to expedite their vaccination every time vaccines become available. As has been communicated in various fora, more vaccines are expected in August 2021.
As at July 2021, Botswana has so far received 62, 400 doses of AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD bought through the Covax facility, 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Republic of India, 19, 890 doses of the Pfizer vaccine bought through the COVAX facility, 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by the Peoples Republic of China and another 200, 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine bought through bilateral negotiations with Sinovac company in China.
“We encourage Batswana to remain hopeful that although it’s taking longer than anticipated, enough COVID-19 vaccines will eventually arrive in our country. We urge them to always strictly abide by all COVID-19 protocols so that they protect themselves and others from this deadly virus,” the ministry said.