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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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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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