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Khama name used as shield in BTO tender row

President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s name has allegedly been used to scare off police officers who were inquiring about potential corruption that could have taken place at the Botswana Tourism Board (BTO), following the awarding of a P 1 million tender to a company called African Points Solutions (APS) without due process.

The controversy prone organisation found itself implicated in yet another tender scandal when reports emerged towards the end of 2017 that the quasi-government institution, under the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism casually awarded the management of the P1 million Heart of the City Carnival event to a company owned by individuals with links to the Khamas.

The company is linked to the Khama family in various respects among them through association with the Lady Khama Charitable Trust, which has been cited as among the beneficiaries of the company. Sources are also of the view that the Lady Khama Charitable Trust is being used as a conduit to ‘clean’ the money that was acquired through inappropriate means from government. There is wide belief that the actual beneficiary is Tshekedi Khama.  

Company documents reveal that one of the shareholders of the company is Nathaniel Tlhalerwa, who works directly under President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s office as the director responsible for the Presidential Inspectorate Task Team. His duties among others are to inspect, asses and advice the president [Khama] on the viability and risks associated with flagship programmes. Tlhalerwa previously also worked as deputy coordinator for BOT50, and was vital in preparations leading to the celebrations.

A whistle blower within BTO has reportedly talked to the police about the happenings at the BTO following this publication’s breaking of the story in its 2017 last edition. According to sources, when approached for questioning by the police, Thalerwa deployed intimidation tactics telling the police “not to be involved in a matter which was being dealt with by the Office of the President”.

According to sources, Tlhalerwa spit on the faces of the junior police officers, telling them that he would only entertain their bosses who are at senior level. WeekendPost has also been informed by insiders that there are employees within the procurement division who opposed the awarding of the tender to APS because it did not meet basic procurement requirements.

This publication indicated that APS had no compliance documents upon awarding of the project to them. The company only got the documents after they were given the tender. The compliance documents include the trading licence, tax clearance, and PPADB registration. The tender was also not advertised.

The Purchase Orders that this publication has seen show that they were issued before compliance documents were submitted. The company had its first tax clearance on the 15 November 2017 and exemption for licence from the Gaborone City Council (GCC) while BTO on the other hand made its first Purchase Order to the company on the 26th of October 2017. Despite opposition from BTO staff the deal when on, and the company was awarded the management of the event.

Heart of the City, which was held on the 16th of December 2017, is an annual event that happens at the end of the year staged to herald the Christmas Season. The event is aimed at reviving and celebrating the history of the Main Mall as well as showcasing the diverse cultures of the people of Botswana.

BTO itself has been subject of probing by the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises since 2016. It has been established that incidences of undermining public procurement laws and procedures are on the rise, with ministers and boards engaging on contracts with their preferred companies contrary to the Public Procurement and Assets Disposal Board (PPADB) procedures.

Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama has recently been forced to cancel some of the procurement decisions he was involved in at BTO without following due process. This included the planned opening of an office in Dubai because it was not budgeted for, and a proper process relating to use of public money was not followed.

Recently Khama also got his way with a British company called ASUIA, which was brought on board as a technical partner in collection of the planned tourism levy to be collected from visiting tourists in the country’s entry points. Under the new proposal, ASUIA would have been entitled to one third (33.3 percent) of the total collection every month. This translated to about P2.5 million monthly and P30 million annually.

Again the engagement of the company failed to meet the basic procurement requirements. WeekendPost has also learnt that another plan, to give APS management rights of the popular Khawa Dune Challenge was being hatched. The Khawa Dune Challenge is being sponsored by BTO.

This publication is in possession of email communication with details of how APS would be handed on a silver platter the management tender. Three BTO staff members were to benefit from the deal. The three (names known to this publication) were to be given P20 000, p15 000 and P10 000 respectively for apparently playing their part in facilitating the deal.  

TLHALERWA TELLS HIS SIDE OF THE STORY

According to the centre man, Nathaniel Tlhalerwa, there is a lot of misinformation with regards to the management of the event and how the APS ended up being involved with the BTO.  He said their partnership was not a tender because the company already had its own initiative when the BTO asked to be part of it.

“We had our own event planned for that day, and BTO proposed to partner with us. Even the P1 million that is being mentioned, did not actually come to the company but majority of the money went to the service providers. Also as a public servant, I am obliged to declare my business interest, which I have done.” Thalerwa said he is being victimised unfairly because he is an employee of the Office of the President.

“I have never been called for questioning by the Police. Even if they wanted to do so, there is a clear process to follow. For someone at my senior position, they would have to write to my supervisor informing them of their intentions. No one has done so as far as I know. Reports that I was questioned are wrong.”

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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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