Justice Godfrey Dijeng has reserved judgement on whether accounts belonging to disgraced businessman, Bakang Seretse and his co-accused should be unfrozen. Seretse is entangled in a multimillion money laundering case along with other who’s who of this country.
The attorneys of the two parties had to fight tooth and nail at the Gaborone High Court last week to convince the judge to allow Seretse access to his personal accounts. The Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) was recently granted a restraining order by the High court to freeze several of Seretse’s accounts while awaiting investigations into his landmark money laundering case.
In the landmark case that rocked the country towards the end of last year, Seretse and two other co-accused, Botho Leburu and Kenneth Kerekang were alleged to have between September, 05, 2017 and November, 27, 2017 in Gaborone, illegally received over P320 million from the National Petroleum Fund (NPF). The trio was granted bail by the Gaborone Regional Magistrate and will appear in court on January 25, 2018 for mention.
Appearing before Justice Dijeng last week, the respondent’s attorney, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae implored the court to discharge the restraining order against his client, saying that his client should be allowed access to his personal accounts. The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on 13 December applied for an ex parte application against Seretse’s properties and credit account balances. Ngakaagae contended that though it was not in dispute that the P69 million belonged to government, the money should not be released to the government, but be kept in the government’s account as the receiver pending the determination of whether the funds are proceeds of crime. “All we want is what we are entitled to, not what government is entitled to,” Ngakaagae argued.
He went on to argue that the key players in the ‘money laundering movie’ were walking free men, saying the law enforcement officials were afraid of them. “The DIS boss, Isaac Kgosi and permanent secretary in the ministry Dr Obakeng who were authorising the transactions have not been charged or accused.” Ngakaagae further said he had filed as evidence in court, letters of communication which show that the deal was above his clients, Seretse and Kerekang.
“It was a ministerial issue which involved people at the top. My clients were just working on instructions.” Ngakaagae argued that if indeed this was a money laundering scheme, it should then involve the source. If it is a money laundering scheme, why have Kgosi and Dr Obakeng not been charged?” he questioned. “Kgosi has paid P118 million to a company in Israel, and DPP is just running away from this reality.”
According to Ngakaagae, the money was properly released in all the transactions that involved his clients as transactions were made with the best knowledge of the ministry. “If not, then Kerekang and Kgosi have stolen the money as they were the ones authorising the transactions. And they should be put to jail,’’ Ngakaagae submitted. He said to his surprise, the DCEC had instead of taking Kgosi to task, spoke gloriously of Kgosi and praised him saying allegations levelled against Kgosi by the respondent were uninformed and amounted to gossip. “This is really lack of integrity by the DCEC,” decried Ngakaagae.
On his part, the attorney for DPP, Ernest Mosate urged the court to throw out Ngakaagae’s submissions saying Ngakaagae was misleading the court as to what was supposed to be argued on the preliminary stage. Mosate cited that Ngakaagae’s arguments were immaterial to the case at hand. “The question of whether anyone has been charged with what is immaterial at this stage. “We should confine ourselves with issues that need to be addressed at this point in time,” he charged.
Mosate further told the court that at the preliminary stage, “prove beyond probability is not applicable. What is required is that that there might be a conviction”. He also stated that in the applicable test for the restraining order it was not applicable for them to talk about charges. It was then that Judge Dijeng asked Mosate what evidence then should the court consider if there were no charges, to which Mosate’s responded the investigating officer had to point out the alleged criminal activity. “The IO will identify the possible legal violations of status, possible offences that arise,” before adding, “And clearly he has done that.”
Mosate stressed that “who wrote to whom, did not matter, as two wrongs do not make a right”. “The point is there has been a violation of the Fund Order,” he said. Mosate told the court that Seretse was also involved in a conflict of interest as he was a managing director of Kgori which dispersed the shares to Khulaco PTY (ltd) which Seretse is also a director in.
The court also heard that Seretse took the P42 million belonging to the DIS and laundered it, and put it in different accounts. “This is money laundering…we need not to go further,’’ submitted Mosate, further praying that Ngakaage be dismissed as he dealt with the matter as if he was dealing with the substantive case.
The court will deliver the judgment on the 12th January.
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.