CoA confirms Poloko will hang
A panel of three Court of Appeal (CoA) judges has yesterday sentenced to death the Francistown born Uyapo Poloko, 37, for killing Vijeyadeyi Kandavanam in 2015. Poloko is now waiting upon the hang man’s time at the Maximum Prison.
He had on January 25, 2010 at Ntshe in Francistown, murdered Vijeyadeyi Kandavanam and stole from Balasingham Kandavanam cellphones worth P3 500. He was last year convicted and sentenced to death by the High Court. Poloko then tried his luck before the CoA last appealing his conviction and sentence. But the three judges would not spare him the hang man’s nose as they confirmed his death sentence.
Delivering the judgment, Judge Gaongalelwe carried that neither the accused nor the prosecution bears any duty to convince the courtof the existence of extenuating circumstance. He noted that the court is entitled to travel far and wide completely unrestricted by considerations of procedure and strict admissibility. He however dismissed the existence of such factors that would warrant leniency in Poloko’s case. ”In this case there is nothing to suggest anything in relation, for example to provocation, intoxication nor immaturity,” ruled Judge Gaongalelwe.
Judge Gaongalelwe stated that Poloko had come to the deceased’s house to rob. He knew that Balasingnam had been paid P8000 for the car. “He equipped himself with a length of rope with which to strangle Balasingham . having immobilized Balasingham, he ransacked the house after strangling the deceased. He was prepared to use violence, even fatal violence, to achieve his purpose,” Judge Gaongalelwe noted.
The background of the case is that Balasingham and Poloko were known to one another all along prior to the day of the incident. They were both in the building industry though working for different companies. Balasingham used to do works for his own company where he was a managing director, while Poloko used to be employed by other private companies. The two were ordinarily resident in Francistown.
In his heads of arguments Poloko had through his attorney Tshekiso Thekiso of Tshekiso Ditiro & Jani Legal Practice complained that his right to a fair trial by an impartial court had been violated. He said the trial court failed to exercise its discretion for it to administer justice and arrive at a just and fair decision by subpoenaing witnesses who were not called by the state and the then defence attorney whose evidence was crucial to the case.
On their part the state had urged the court to dismiss Poloko’s agruments and hang him to death. The Court Of Appeal (CoA) will on Tuesday hear the arguments in a case in which a two year -death row inmate wants his death sentence to be set aside, insisting that the trial court erred in convicting him. The man was in 2015 convicted of a single count of murder without extenuating circumstances, attempted murder and theft and was subsequently sentenced to death.
He had on January 25, 2010 at Ntshe in Francistown, murdered Vijeyadeyi Kandavanam, attempted to kill Balasingnam Kandavanam and stole cellphones worth P3 500. In his heads of arguments filed before the CoA, Poloko had through his attorney Tshekiso Thekiso of Tshekiso Ditiro & Jani Legal Practice complained that the appellant’s right to a fair trial by an impartial court had been violated. He said the trial court failed to exercise its discretion for it to administer justice and arrive at a just and fair decision by subpoenaing witnesses who were not called by the state and the then defence attorney whose evidence was crucial to the case.
These, he said, were the security officers employed by the person whom his client is said to have attempted to kill as well as the officer who attended the site visit and project handover. “The evidence of these witnesses was crucial to the issue of whether the appellant went to the complaint’s premises on the morning of 25th January 2010. It matters not that the state and the defence in their own wisdom chose not to call these witnesses. What matters is that the trial court had a duty to render a just decision and in doing so, it had discretion to call these persons to testify,” states Thekiso in his arguments.
Thekiso stressed that though he has no doubt as to the integrity of the trial judge and his ability as a judge, “this appears to me to be a case in which the judge made an innocent error in judgment. The error of judgment does however; create an impression that he had prejudged the matter that served before him before it was concluded. It does create a reasonable likelihood of bias.”
He went on to argue that the state was allowed to submit inadmissible confession before court. They went out on a deliberate plan to squeeze an inadmissible confession in to the record through the back door, he decries. He said the allegation by the state that his client confessed to strangling Balasingnam was not a statement to the witness but a statement to the police. “The alleged confession, he said might have been told to the court by a non-police officer, but on the record, it was made to a police officer.”
Thekiso had during the last session of the CoA applied to be granted permission to give additional evidence but was dismissed. The appellant was represented by a different attorney during trial.
On their part the state has urged the court to dismiss Poloko’s agruments and hang him to death. The state added that the extenuating factors that the defence claims apply in their case; do not fall in the criteria of factors to be taken to account.
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Mascom, Letshego partner to deliver the MyZaka instant loan
Letshego Botswana has recently partnered with Mascom to launch the Mascom MyZaka Instant Loan, a customer focused mobile money microloan service designed to provide customers with swift and convenient access to funds, driven by the underlying theme of “Ithuse” meaning “help yourself”
The loan is said to have been developed through a partnership driven by a deep customer focus with the key objectives of access, convenience and flexible financial support to customers of Letshego Botswana and Mascom through instantly disbursed short-term loans from P50 to P1 500 over the period of one month.
Letshego’s head of transformation, Molebogeng Malomo highlighted that working through agile methodologies, the partnership was able to develop and be released as what they call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or solution. “In keeping up with the spirit of design thinking and agile methodologies, the experiences and viewpoints of both Letshego Botswana and Mascom’s customers will be valuable to inform further enhancements to the Mascom MyZaka solution,” he said.
He further noted that the partnership and the development of the MyZaka instant loan will provide both the organizations to diversify their offering and customer base, while also offering the customer more choices and flexibility to initiate and be in control of their loan requests through the self-service mobile based application.
Mascom’s Chief Executive Officer, Dzene Makhwade-Seboni also alluded that their origins, priorities and initiatives are firmly rooted in Botswana and in the success of all Batswana, and that their strategy and intent is supported by embracing innovative problem-solving.
“The speed with which Letshego has grown over the years gives us confidence that we have partnered with the right service provider. Their expertise and most of all, innovation, a value we both share, will be beneficial to MyZaka Mobile Money for growth and for the convenience of our subscribers,” she concluded.
DCEC granted warrant to arrest Khama twins
The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) has been granted permission to apprehend the former Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama, and his twin brother Anthony Khama.
Information gathered by this publication suggests that the DCEC is actively searching for the Khama brothers, this is in connection with events that transpired whilst Tshekedi was Minister of Environment. The duo is currently in exile in South Africa together with their elder brother, and former President Lt Gen Ian Khama.
Approximately two weeks ago, the corruption-busting agency discreetly filed for an arrest warrant that was approved by the Broadhurst Magistrate Court for the two to be taken into custody, according to a highly placed source within the government enclave.
DCEC is also said to have filed an affidavit signed by a high-ranking officer known to this publication. Reports indicate that after being presented with details of the case, the Broadhurst magistrate issued the agency an arrest warrant.
It is also believed that the agency has been conducting extensive investigations into the supposed suspects for quite some time. Furthermore, Weekend Post has it on good word that the DCEC has been looking for methods to summon the two for questioning but has been unsuccessful.
According to unconfirmed reports, DCEC met with attorney Victor Ramalepa, who refused to accept the summons, saying that he is not their attorney. Furthermore, it is believed that DCEC has enlisted the assistance of the Botswana Police Service (BPS) in flagging the suspects’ names in the International Criminal Police Organisation INTERPOL.
Responding to WeekendPost enquiries, DCEC spokesperson Lentswe Motshoganetsi said, “I am not in good position to confirm or deny the allegation,” adding that such allegations may fall within the operational purview of the DCEC.
When contacted for comment, Ramalepa briefly stated that he is unaware of the purported arrest warrant. “I know nothing about the warrant and I haven’t been served with anything,” he said.
Meanwhile, former president Lt Gen Ian Khama recently issued a statement stating that DIS is intensifying the harassment and intimidation of him, family, friends and office employees.
“It is reprehensible for state officials and agencies to abuse government resources to terrorise their own citizens for personal gain,” said the former president in a statement.
He also stated that his brother TK’s staff and security were ordered to falsely implicate him. “Their desperate tactics will never work, it only serves to motivate me more to pursue regime change and free Botswana from tyranny,” he said
This comes after the corruption busting agency wants to interview the alleged suspects as they are still hiding in South Africa since last year.
Despite the hostility between government and Khama family going unabated, last month, Masisi extended an olive branch to Khama in political rally, indicating that he hopes the two of them settle their differences, of which the former responded by welcoming the gesture.
Khama further said his brother, Tshekedi, will facilitate the reconciliation of his behalf. Many have indicated that Masisi did not say what he said in good faith, and was only scoring political brownies since he was in Khama’s territory in Shoshong.
DCEC’s Tshepo Pilane still has his mojo
Tshepo Pilane silenced his critics after being named the head of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) in May of last year and served his opponents humble pie. Many believed he would only last for a month, but almost a year later, he is still standing.
Pilane, a trained soldier whose appointment surprised both the general public and some officers within the DCEC walls, has never glanced back in his duty to steer the DCEC ship forward.
It is alleged that immediately after his appointment the man embarked on a nation-wide trip touring the DCEC offices across the country in order to confirm and reaffirm the DCEC’s mandate. Sources from inside the DCEC claim that Pilane won the hearts of many DCEC employees due to his humility and plain message; “people at the top of the DCEC will come and go but the mandate of the DCEC remains relevant and unchanged.”
Pilane was appointed the Acting DCEC Director General at a time when the organisation was undergoing turbulence through court proceedings in which the suspended Director General Tymon Katlholo had interdicted the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) from accessing the DCEC premises. At the time, the DIS had raided the DCEC offices in the absence of Katlholo claiming to be looking for high profile corruption cases allegedly held by Katlholo.
At the time Pilane was Head of the DCEC Intelligence Division holding the position of Senior Assistant Director General reporting directly to the Deputy Director General Operations Ms Priscilla Israel. Contrary to his detractors, Pilane who is a reserved and humble person by nature won the support and backing of many DCEC officers due to his unassuming nature.
In a recent questionnaire sent to the DCEC regarding Pilane’s term in office, the DCEC was resolute on its commitment towards the fight against corruption. When quizzed on allegations of rife corruption since he took over, Pilane through his Public Relations (PR) office stated that the corruption landscape in Botswana remains unchanged as the DCEC continues to receive reports on allegations of corruption with sectors such as procurement (tenders and supplies), Transport (licensing and certificates), and land (dubious allocation and collusion) still leading issues reported. This trend has been consistence in the DCEC database for more than 10 years.
When further quizzed on accusations that suggest that due to the infighting at the agency, particularly at the top management, Investigations of cases has dropped significantly the DCEC claimed ignorance to the matter, stating that they are not aware of any “infights” at the DCEC “at the top management”, further stating that, investigations of cases has increased significantly, contrary to the allegations raised. “The DCEC is currently seeking new ways of expediting the investigations in order to fast track its enforcement role,” said the DCEC Head of Public Relations Lentswe Motshoganetsi. He further stated that the DCEC is in pursuit of high profile cases involving money and assets valued over P900 million. Three companies are involved in the scandal and two cases have already been committed to court while on one, investigations are about to be completed.
When WeekendPost inquired about Pilane’s roadmap, the DCEC stated that in the past, anti-corruption interventions were reactive, particularly in dealing with national projects that involve large sums of money. It was further started that in most instances investigating such matters takes a long time and in most instances, the money looted form Government in never recovered. As a result, the DCEC has taken a deliberate stance to attach its officers from the Corruption Prevention Division to be part of the implementation of these projects before, during, and after implementation.
The DCEC cited the Economic Stimulus Programme which, although meant to grow the economy and uplift Batswana from poverty, yielded incidents of corruption and poor workmanship. To date, the DCEC is still grappling with cases as some projects were not done, or were completed with defects beyond repair. Currently the DCEC is involved at the Ministry of Education conducting project risk management in the Multiple Path Ways Program at Moeng College and Maun Senior School. This intervention will spread to other sectors of the economy as part of the DCEC’s corruption prevention strategy.
Of recent, the DCEC has been in the media for all the wrong reasons following leakage of high profile cases and allegations claiming that the executive management is at war with each other more particularly with some within the agency harbouring ambitions to dethrone Pilane from the Directorship.
Although the infighting was denied by Pilane’s Office, he acknowledged that leakage of information is a problem across Government and stated that it is a pain at the DCEC. He however stated that Staff has been cautioned against leakage of investigation information and that they have roped in the Botswana Police to assist in investigating incidents of leakage. He further stated that they have increased continuous vetting and lifestyle audits for DCEC employees in order to enforce discipline.
Pilane’s term comes to an end in May 2023 after serving the DCEC for a year on acting basis. It will be in the public interest to see who will be given the baton to continue the anti-corruption journey if Pilane’s contract is not renewed. The DCEC has seen arrival and departure of Director Generals having alternated the top seat five times in less than seven years.