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Friday, 19 April 2024

Saleshando defends DIS boss

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Opposition stalwart Dumelang Saleshando has stated that the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) Director General, Isaac Kgosi is absolutely right in the stance he has adopted at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) interrogation.

The PAC which is tasked with examining government’s books is interrogating Kgosi’s DISS involvement in the ongoing P250 million pula National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga. The fund is also the subject of a current High Court case in which prominent figures and political kingpin Bakang Seretse and two other accused Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang are charged for money laundering.  

In the PAC cross-examination, Kgosi’s subpoena follows the appearance of Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Sadique Kebonang as well as his Permanent Secretary Dr. Obolokile Obakeng. The spy chief has maintained his posture of out rightly declining to divulge vital information relating to his involvement in the NPF loot particularly issues surrounding the instruction from DIS and subsequent disbursement of the P230 million from the NPF to the DIS.

“I cannot discuss or comment on anything that is classified unless it is de-classified,” maintained the notorious Kgosi at the PAC committee. The chairperson of PAC who was caught between a rock and a hard place in dealing with Kgosi, Dithapelo Keorapetse summoned him (Kgosi) to give more evidence again this week with the possibility of compelling him to reveal the information he refused to divulge before the committee.

Keorapetse, who is also legislator for Selibe Phikwe West said the committee will also summon the Botswana National Archives and Records Services accounting officer to give evidence and advice on classified information, which Kgosi used as an excuse not to share information with the committee.

Keorapetse further stated that the committee will invoke the Standing Order relating to the Powers and Privileges of the National Assembly to compel Kgosi to give information that he refused to give, failing which it will be contempt, which will attract the wrath of the law.

In light of the PAC matter, Saleshando told WeekendPost, this week in an interview while defending Kgosi’s refusal to divulge more information he deemed “classified” saying he is not really the one to blame. At the time when the Act was passed in 2008, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) two-time law maker said people did not really apply their minds and they deliberately chose to be stupid.

“So, I think Isaac Kgosi has a point, he has been correctly advised,” the BCP leader told WeekendPost adding that if anything “he is simply abusing the Act which does not conform to the modern standards of mere checks and balances.”
Saleshando reiterated: “we can’t blame him for it, just like his mentor ex President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama when he looked at the loopholes in the Botswana constitution and used them to his advantage and benefit.”

He reminisced that when asked why he (Khama) was abusing the constitution, Khama insisted he did not write the constitution. This, he stressed, was Khama’s weapon from day 1 of his presidency. He said he then started applying the law willy-nilly by being the first to go on sabbatical leave. So in terms of utilizing the loopholes of the law, the former Gaborone Central legislator emphasised that Kgosi learnt from the best.

“So, Kgosi is just looking at the DISS Act. Anything he does not want to comment on, he “classifies” it. There is no provision if classifying was done in best interest of the organisation or country.” However Saleshando further observed that the problems this country has about corruption are bigger than the spy chief who he described as “just an individual”; adding that “he can either drop or die tomorrow”.

According to Saleshando, whoever assumes the position of DISS Director General after Kgosi under the current DISS Act and circumstances could also become a problem as allowed by the existing law. Saleshando therefore added that the real test for Masisi as the new president of the country is that: “he has a DISS Director General; and he walks in and there is a mess created by the DISS.”

“Does he have the courage to act by suspending Kgosi to allow for full investigations? Can he fire him? Is Masisi also afraid of Kgosi? If he doesn’t act I think it will also show that he (Masisi) is also afraid of him (Kgosi) as some Ministers have been purporting recently.” DIS Director General, Kgosi was appointed by President Khama on such terms and conditions as he, on the recommendation of the Council, determined. He is responsible for the direction, control, administration and expenditure of the Directorate.

Just last week, former Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Sadique Kebonang revealed to PAC that members of the executive (Cabinet), the public and; corruption busting agency Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) “fear” the intelligence organ (DIS).

The organ was started through the unlawful assistance of the Disaster Funds which were diverted despite strong resistance from some in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) backbench like Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Botsalo Ntuane as well as opposition legislators like Saleshando. DIS was instigated following a strict instruction in 2008 upon ascension to the Presidency by President Khama.

Saleshando remembered this week that: “it was when their messiah, Khama was coming to the presidency so they wanted to pass the DISS Act come rain or sunshine as Khama wanted it so badly.” Saleshando said the problem with the said law, as its flaws started to play out in the public and lately at the PAC, is that there were no attempts to build on mechanism to provide checks and balances.

The BCP leader said the law does not force to reveal the classified information at PAC whereas the top leadership of the country supported the motion to review the NPF as moved by Mephato Reatile at the close of last year. Saleshando said it is a pity that Masisi, as Vice President supported the said motion together with Prince Maele, Guma Moyo, Botlogile Tshireletso and Polson Majaga for the parliamentary committee PAC to take up the matter “but PAC is now appearing helpless as we can all see”.  

Intelligence and Security Services Act prohibits disclosure of information

In light of Saleshando’s sentiments of the law, WeekendPost perused through the controversial Act and has some few highlights of the monster law with regard to prohibiting disclosure of information. In terms of section 20, outlining the prohibition of unauthorized disclosure of information subsection (1) states that “without prejudice to any other written law, an officer or support staff shall not disclose or use any information gained by him or her by virtue of his or her employment otherwise than in the strict course of his or her official duties or with the authority of the Director General.”

It continues at subsection(2) that “no officer or support staff shall be required to produce, before any public body other than a Parliamentary Committee established under the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, any document or other evidence where – (a) it is certified by the Director General- (i) that the document or other evidence belongs to a class of documents or evidence, the production of which is injurious to public interest, or (ii) that disclosure of the evidence or of the contents of the document will be injurious to public interest.”

The contentious section further posits that; “or (b) the Central Intelligence Committee certifies- (i) that the document or other evidence belongs to a class the production of which is prejudicial to national security, or (ii) that disclosure of the evidence or of the contents of the document will be prejudicial to national security.”  

According to subsection (3) of the said DISS Act: a person aggrieved by a decision of the Director General or the Central Intelligence Committee may apply to the High Court for determination whether the production, or the disclosure of the contents, of the document or other evidence would be injurious to the public interest or, as the case may be, prejudicial to national security.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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