Eight years ago, the then Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources funded the construction of petroleum storage facilities around the country; and these were, and still are owned by the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DIS). These were funded from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF).
In August 2017, the DIS proposed that the ministry which has since been renamed Ministry of Mineral Resources; Green Technology and Energy Security releases an amount of P250m for the design and construction of additional sites in a bid to further expand these sites to cater for other essential government organs. The ministry promptly responded by acceding to the request and stipulated the funds within the NPF.
It would appear that prior to 2017 similar funds for similar purposes would have been set aside in the NPF and used strictly for petroleum related projects. “The Fund manager being Kgori Capital appears to have had issues with such an arrangement as it was only mandated to invest for the fund and were becoming uncomfortable with transacting on behalf of the DIS. The CEO of the Fund manager Bakang Seretse then met with the ministry officials and the DIS boss Isaac Kgosi to discuss an alternative,” an impeccable source revealed to this publication.
“It was agreed at this meeting that a private company be created to disburse these funds, in which case the funds would be drawn out of the NPF to such a company. Apparently the DIS argued the angle of national security that such facilities if carried out under the PPADB would become common knowledge and lose their tactical importance. At this meeting, the private company, Khulaco Management Services was agreed to.” This is the company in which the accused Seretse and Botho Leburu are directors.
Following the said meeting, a letter from Khulaco to the ministry accepts the appointment and immediately states that they will charge a fee of 20 percent of the deposited amount. This led to another meeting after which the Ministry attempted to streamline the process of drawdown to include submission of project plans and defined how mobilisation fees would be paid, according to documents seen by this publication. Sources further reveal that the DIS appeared agreeable to the stipulated processes from the ministry and immediately instructed the ministry to pay P250m into Khulaco’s account.
Sadique Kebonang’s ministry subsequently instructed the NPF manager to release P230m to Khulaco. The transaction according to documents seen by this publication took a swift 3 days but the first disbursement out of the Khulaco account was not until three (3) months later.
Somewhere in October, the DIS boss requested a variation to the utilisation of the P230m from approved DIS petroleum projects to security equipment and intelligence gathering platforms. He justified the request based on a change in the national threat analysis which now showed anti-poaching, human and drug trafficking as new threats requiring prioritisation. The day after this request, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security, Dr Obolokile Obakeng granted the DIS the requested variation. “The question now is whether the variation was lawful? Can the Fund money be used for anything that is unrelated to petroleum?” questioned a source close to the developments.
In a letter dated November 7, the DIS instructed Khulaco to pay Dignia Systems in Israel an amount of US$22,640,000.00. This was duly done, and it converted to two transaction of P118 million. The invoice which was seen by this publication included UAVs which reliable sources claim were overpriced, VIP protection Course, VIP protection Commanders course etc. The invoice was addressed not to DIS but to Khulaco Management Services.
EXCHANGE OF LETTERS
According to the documents seen by this publication, on November 23, Dr Obakeng attempted to reverse his variation of the use of P230m now quoting the NPF Order to the extent that it does not provide for variation of the utilisation of the NPF. Shortly thereafter, a very highly classified letter from Kebonang to the minister of Presidential Affairs, Eric Molale provided a blow by blow explanation of the transactions concerning the investigation. The letter further indicated that the highest office of the land was aware of the transaction of the notorious P230m.
On February 26, 2018 Dr Obakeng wrote to the DIS, demanding that it pays back the P250m that was deposited into Khulaco as per DIS instruction and for DIS purposes. “We will be grateful as to when the repayment by DIS would be credited to NPF. This will help us communicate definitive position with our creditors,” reads the Savingram.
Two days later, Kgosi wrote back to explain that it was not P250m but P230m that he was made to understand was deposited to Khulaco accounts on behalf of the DIS and requested documentary proof of all transaction. “We were made to understand that the sum of P230 million NOT P250 million from NPF was deposited into the account of some company called Khulaco on behalf of the DIS. As for repayment of the money, consultation between the Ministry of Finance and Directorate is on-going,” he stated.
On March 1, Dr Obakeng then wrote to the Attorney General, requesting him to take over his defence in a matter in which the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has issued an intention to sue him personally for the P230m, claiming that he acted in his official capacity. UDC recently furnished the AG with a statutory notice of intention to sue Kgosi, Director of Ministry of Minerals Energy and Water Resources Kenneth Kerekang and Dr Obakeng.
WHO IS FOOLING WHO?
According to secretive communiqués from high offices seen by this publication, it is clear from the government Enclave that the P230m has a legal source and all related transactions had proper and legitimate authority. But, ironically the matter is in the courts and not all the participants of the transactions are in the dock. Asked which P230m is being challenged before the court and which one Kgosi is being secretively asked to return and why he is asked to return it if he bought things for the government, the government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay refused to comment saying, “I don’t know, the issue does not involve me and it’s also still before the courts.” Kgosi’s phone rang unanswered while Kebonang’s was not going through.
For a very long time, the courts in Botswana have been faced with corruption cases at an alarming rate, with most of cases specifically the ones involving the who’s who and billions of pulas, dying along the way. WeekendPost has been following the cases from courts and independent investigations. And majority of the people who go through all the investigation and prosecution process are the ‘nobodys’ who usually don’t steal millions. But cases that involve public figures and multi-millions never get arraigned, and in if arraigned the cases never reach final stages. In many instances, freedom of information is so restricted such that reliance will be on what is improperly procured.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.