The Gaborone High Court has been asked to determine whether or not, Professor Lydia Ramahobo-Saleshando influenced the award of the University of Botswana (UB) catering tender to her step son’s company, Boitekanelo catering services.
Boitekanelo Catering Services is the applicant in the case, a move motivated by the University’s decision to cancel the award and retender while also giving the losing bidder, Moghul Catering a three months extension to continue serving the UB community.
In a case that was recently registered before Justice Ketlogetswe, the company, Centre of Clinical Excellence (PTY) LTD, trading as Boitekanelo catering Services, in which the step son, Gagoitsewe Saleshando owns major shares, Professor Saleshando’s role in the tendering process will be explained.
In a battle to save the lucrative tender that was revoked last week, the company has filed affidavits that seek to clear Professor Saleshando’s name. The Affidavits suggest that Saleshando, who was a Deputy Chancellor when the catering tender was awarded had declared her interest and recused herself from the tendering process.
“In terms of section 17 (1) of the UB Act, Professor Saleshando disclosed her indirect interest but was directed by third respondent’s (Finance Committee) Ad hoc Tender Evaluation Committee to participate in the meeting,” Clinical Excellence will hook onto this point, as it appears in its filing affidavit.
The Ad hoc Tender Committee is entitled to do this by provisions of tender processes. Professor Saleshando’s disclosure was duly recorded in the minutes under section 17(2) of the UB Act. The aggrieved company whose tender was unceremoniously revoked has therefore taken the matter to court. What they want is for the court to declare the withdrawal of the tender null and void under section 17(3) of the Act because Saleshando “did not fail to disclose her interest and no decision was made which benefits her directly as she stated.”
According to the minutes of the Tender Evaluation committee, at the meeting of the 15 and 16 July 2015, Saleshando declared her interest on the basis of her relationship with her step-son who has major shares in the catering company.
In declaring the interest, Saleshando stated that she had no financial gain in the company. As a result the Ad Hoc tender Evaluation Committee, according to minutes, agreed that she should be part of the meeting and it will be detected if there is any bias.
This meeting was continued on the 16th July 2015 where she made the same declaration and the committee made the same decision as on the previous day.
At the time of tender award, Saleshando was Deputy Vice Chancellor, Student Affairs and was not a member of the Tender Committee as constituted under Tender regulations.
The company lawyer, Tshiamo Rantao of Kewagamang is expected to argue that as Saleshando explained to the Vice Chancellor in her letter to him dated 25 April 2016, she stayed at the behest of the committee.
Saleshando wrote, “I have read in the newspapers about the catering tender. One of the allegations made is that I did not recuse myself. I have also heard from unconfirmed reports that UB wishes to concede having made a mistake. I write to explain that actually I did declare my interest and recused myself. The committee reasoned that since I had no direct benefits from Boitekanelo, I should stay. The main reason was that the then Director, Student Welfare, under whose Department the catering unit falls and could chair the meeting in my absence, was only a few days in office. The task was too complex even for me,”
“I however, did not stay on to the recommendation stage. At the time the Student Affairs Committee made visitations to a number of shortlisted companies, I was not part of the committee. At the time it set to discuss their visitation findings and made a recommendation to Tender Committee, I was not part of the Committee. I had requested Professor Mokgwathi to join the visitations and take over the chairmanship in October 2015,”
“In this regard, UB could concede having made mistakes/s in some other areas and not on the basis of my involvement. It has to be noted that Student Affairs and the Tender Committees are recommending bodies and not final decision making committees. Thus the tender regulations have to be read in this context.”
Saleshando copied the letter to Acting Chairperson of Council Deputy Vice Chancellors, Student Affairs and Finance and Administration and Directors of Student Welfare and Legal Services.
The tender which was awarded to Boitekanelo was terminated on the basis that Professor Saleshando failed to recuse herself in terms of Tender regulation. The contention was that she should have recused herself after disclosing her interest.
Apart from Saleshando’s involvement Moghul were also throwing in thick accusations against Boitekanelo including allegations that the company could not demonstrate technical ability because it was recently registered. They also threw hearsay from the student community.
How Boitekanelo won the tender
The background of the case is that, in or around February 2015, UB finance committee invited companies and entities with proven record of catering to provide catering services to its main campus for a period of 3 years. The tender was to appoint two caterers to provide catering services in two of its major catering facilities and to provide the service to three staff cafeterias.
The initial deadline was 7 May 2015 noon. Meanwhile on the 23 April 2015, the Professor’s step son’s company, Centre of Clinical Excellence proceeded to register its trading name, Boitekanelo Catering Services with the Registrar of Business names. After winning the tender, the long serving caterer at the University, Moghul catering services protested the award and demanded answers from the University. Among the questions they asked was, “who registered for the UB contract, was it Boitekanelo which was only registered in April 2015, two weeks before the tender closed and why didn’t the Deputy Chancellor recuse herself?”
Moghul further alleged that Boitekanelo was de-registered in November 2015 by the Registrar of companies, about four months after winning the tender. However the certificate of incorporation of Boitekanelo was re-issued in March this year.
Last week the University withdrew the tender despite having given Boitekanelo credit that it was the only company that had meal prices for staff cafeteria hence it was awarded the tender at P20.00 for breakfast and P35 for lunch. Boitekanelo had also won the tender for student refectory at a total price of P40.00 per day, that is, P10.00 breakfast, P15.00 lunch and P15.00 dinner.
On 16 May 2016, the Secretariat of the Finance committee wrote a memorandum to its members inviting them to a meeting on Thursday, 19th May 2016. One of the agenda items was the withdrawal of Tender UBT 2015/2016.07 to Boitekanelo.
Allegedly, on the face of it there was never a meeting of the Finance Committee where a resolution was taken to withdraw or invalidate Boitekanelo tender award.
In a confirmatory affidavit filed in court this week, Nollen Bone, UB’s Secretary General for Student Representative Council (SRC) stated that the Finance Committee never had a meeting where a resolution was taken to withdraw or invalidate the said tender award of Boitekanelo.
“Thus the letter of 11th May 2016, written by Mr Davies Tele, the Secretary of the Finance Committee is untruthful and invalid as there was never a meeting where such a decision was taken leading to the letter. I any event neither any member of the SRC, nor I a member thereof were invited to any such a meeting and therefore, any such purported meeting would be null and void.” Bone explained.
As the conflict rages on, Moghul’s contract was extended up until the end of this Month and is most likely to be re-extended pending the outcome of the court decision.
Section 17 of the UB on conflict of interest is applicable to all committees of the UB council, including the Finance Committee, as provided for in section 17, as read with section 19 of the UB Act.
Papers filed in court, explains that in terms of Regulations 2.1.43 of the Tender regulations, the Tender Committee is a sub-committee of the Finance Committee. So, a Tender Committee is a sub-committee of the Finance Committee, a committee of the UB Council whose conflict of interest situations are covered by section 17 of the UB Act.
To the extent that Regulation 4.4.3 requires one to recuse himself/herself after declaring his/her interest and provides no room for the direction of the committee to permit his or her taking part in the meeting, it is, according to Boitekanelo, ultra vires section 17 of the UB Act because it places on a person more requirements than those required by the Act. The company lawyer maintains that the Act takes precedence both at common law and Part XXXVII of the UB statutes.
The attorney, Tshiamo Rantao is expected to raise legal argument on this point at the hearing.
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.