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Kgosi mocks PAC in P250 million probe

The parliamentary committee tasked with examining government books, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was left helpless this week  as Intelligence chief, Isaac Kgosi refused to divulge vital information relating to Directorate on Intelligence Security Services’ (DISS) involvement in the P250 million National Petroleum Fund (NPF) scandal.

When appearing before the PAC on Thursday, the overly confident and resolute Kgosi, who was persistently called to order by committee chairperson, Dithapelo Keorapetse, refused to discuss the correspondences between his organisation as well as that of Ministry of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Security on the issues surrounding the 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,” said Kgosi.

Despite committee members, Ignatius Moswaane in particular, questioning the DIS director about the sensitivity or reasons for classifying information involving transfer of public funds from one government department to another, Kgosi was unyielding, reiterating that the contents of the letters were not subject to discussion until they are de-classified. Moyo Guma, and the acting chairperson of the PAC, Keorapetse were unimpressed by the posture and attitude of Kgosi, telling him several times that he was not cooperative, and to some certain extent ‘rude’.

The letter, which was eventually read by the Tati East legislator who is a member of the PAC, Moyo Guma, reveals that Energy Ministry’s authorities, under the guidance of  then Acting Permanent Secretary  Dr Obolokile Obakeng approved Kgosi’s request for P250 million to build fuel tank reserves in strategic places. Kgosi advised in one of the letters that the money be disbursed to Khulaco Pty Ltd, a company which paid suppliers on behalf of the DIS.

When asked to share with the committee his relation with Khulaco Pty Ltd, Kgosi refused to discuss the matter, saying he will not comment because the company is subject to the ongoing court case regarding money laundering charges laid against Bakang Seretse and Botho Leburu, the directors of the company. Efforts by Guma and Keorapetse to coerce Kgosi to share information with the committee with regards to the company drew blanks as the intelligence chief declined.

Kgosi also refused to reveal to PAC whether if the former president, Lt Gen Ian Khama or then his deputy Mokgweetsi Masisi were aware of the P250 million transactions, insisting that “he does not share information he discussed with his principals”. The DIS boss also declined to give information to the committee with regards to his discussion with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. He was asked by the committee chairperson, Keorapetse what discussions the DIS director had with the Ministry of Finance officials.

Although Kgosi refused to divulge the nature of discussion involving the DIS and Ministry of Finance, there is evidence that the discussions are relating to a cabinet directive issued in February telling Kgosi to return over P110 million he took from the petroleum fund to buy security equipments. The P250 million which is subject of investigation when the money from the NPF which was initially meant to build fuel storages was diverted to buy security equipments that were supposedly meant to help in the anti-poaching mission.

DIS TRANSACTIONS WERE ILLEGAL

According to committee member, Ndaba Gaolathe of Gaborone Bonnington South, in reference to the Public Finance Management Act, the decision to divert the money initially intended for Fuel Storage reserves for another project was illegal. This is so because the NPF can only fund projects which are related to its mandate and not anything else. Gaolathe said the proper procedure would have been a permission sought from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, which is the custodian of public finances in Botswana.

Gaolathe indicated that the Ministry of Minerals, Green Technology and Energy Security officials who approved the transaction did not have the authority to do so. The Gaborone Bonnington South lawmaker further revealed that, the DIS project, which was eventually funded by the Petroleum Fund, did not pass proper requirements for it to meet the funding requirement. Gaolathe said the Act which established DIS compels Kgosi to get approval from the Central Intelligence Committee (CIC) for security assessment such as the one which DIS spent the money on.

Kgosi however said as far as he is concerned he is in charge of matters relating to national security and he may act time to time to divert the threats. Kgosi said he is chief advisor to government on issues relating to national security. The conceited spy boss declined to share with the committee whether DIS had previously sourced money from other government ministries, revealing that the question was improper, and therefore he would not answer.

KGOSI TO RE-APPEAR BEFORE PAC

The acting committee chairperson, Keorapetse said the PAC will summon Kgosi to give more evidence next week, this time around with the possibility of compelling him to reveal the information he refused to divulge before the committee.  Keorapetse, who is also legislator for Selebi Phikwe West said the committee will 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 is he refused to give, failing which it will be contempt, which will attract the wrath of the law. 

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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