The defence attorney in the controversial money laundering scandal, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae had to be rescued by Regional Magistrate Christopher Gabanagae for him to freely present his case and name his alleged beneficiaries of the P250m in question as prosecution officials kept interjecting every time he mentions a name of the top government official.
In what initially seemed to be a usual mention, things subsequently took a nasty turn after several futile attempts by Ngakaagae to have his clients’ bail conditions relaxed. The prosecution of three-man team called the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) investigating officer Andria German to brief the court on the complexity of the investigations and the danger of releasing the passports to the accused persons.
German told the court that their investigations have so far been extended to outside the country, “Specifically South Africa, Italy and UK. We uncovered materials that are of evidential value that have been hidden in these jurisdiction. And the materials are linked to Bakang and other persons not before court,” he noted. “If bail conditions were to be relaxed, there would be prejudice on our investigations.”
It was then that Ngakaagae asked the investigator if Bakang’s co-accused Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang occupied any specific accounts and materials in the alleged jurisdictions and the investigator responded in the negative. He also stated that while he did not know whether Bakang also held any account outside, but he was linked to some property in South Africa.
Ngakaagae then insisted that the investigator mention the place and properties in question so that his clients assist him (investigator) with any information and documentation they needed, but the investigating officer refused. Ngakaagae then asked what harm Leburu and Kerekang would do since they did not hold anything outside the boundaries of Botswana, but the investigating officer stated that they were nonetheless a threat to their investigations.
It was then that Ngakaagae charged and asked the investigating officer if he was aware that the DISS boss Isaac Kgosi wired P118m from the money in question to Israel, when the Prosecution Senior Counsel Wesson Mantswe interjected and said it was not in order to talk about Kgosi in his absence.
Ngakaagae then stated that he was trying to prove to the court that his clients were not a threat in any way as the big fish involved in the matter were walking free men. The magistrate then ruled that Ngakaagae should be left to cross-examine the investigator. He then asked the investigator the question again where he responded in the affirmative. His follow up question was whether he has also seized Kgosi’s passport and the response was in the negative.
Ngakaagae went on and revealed that President Ian Khama, his vice Mokgweetsi Masisi, Ministers Thapelo Olopeng and Sadique Kebonang and Satar Dada on behalf of the BDP benefitted from the money at the centre of dispute. He was however told to hold his submissions when he first mentioned Khama, and was again rescued by the magistrate citing that he was only cross-examining the investigating officer. According Ngakaagae, Khama’s caravan as well as a house built for him was financed through the National Petroleum Fund.
Meanwhile Masisi, who will succeed Khama as president at the beginning of April, is reported to have been given P3 million from the fund. Other beneficiaries include Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Thapelo Olopeng, whom the court heard he got P70 000 from the accused; long time party treasure Satar Dada as well as Minister of Minerals, Energy and Green Technology Advocate Sadique Kebonang.
Ngakaagae told Gaborone Regional Magistrate Christopher Gabanage this week that he was still to expose more people to try and help the DCEC with investigations because they were doing a shoddy job. The DCEC chief investigator Andria German confirmed that Masisi was questioned with regard to the money which was given to him, but claimed ignorance on the benefit attributed to President Khama. Khama will leave office at the end of this month.
Yesterday (Friday) government released a statement denying that Khama and Masisi did not ‘withdraw’ money from the Petroleum fund. “This office has noted reports to the effect that H.E the President and His Honour the Vice President have received money from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF),” reads the statement.
“While we are reluctant to comment on allegations emanating from a matter that is currently before the courts, we wish to reassure the Public that His Excellency the President and His Honour the Vice President have not received money and/ solicited funds from the NPF.” Olopeng has also come clean on the matter, as he shared on his media platforms that he has very met or asked for financial help from Seretse. “I have no business with the said fund and I have never asked for financial assistance from anybody who deals with this fund,” said Olopeng.
“So who ever mentioned my name in this matter was malicious, and he obviously has an agenda to tarnish my name. I give him permission to produce evidence and share it with the public.” A statement from Olopeng’s attorneys, Modimo and Associates categorically distances the Minister from Ngakaagae’s allegations.
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.
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.
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.”