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Friday, 19 April 2024

Khama takes jab at over-funded DISS

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The Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Tshekedi Khama has expressed disdain for the Directorate on Intelligence Security Services (DISS), mocking it for its recent involvement in the recent P250 million money laundering scandal.

Khama, who was appearing before Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises could not resist from ensnaring DISS in his deliberation to the committee until he was warned by the committee chairperson Samson Guma.
Khama had told the committee that, he has normalised operation at Botswana Tourism Board (BTO) following months of operation with a properly constituted Board of Directors. Ordinarily the Board of Directors is responsible for running the BTO, but its lack of quorum saw Minister Khama assuming the roles of the board, something which infuriated Guma.

“I want things done correctly. We are correcting everything we did wrong. As we speak we now have a Board. Ga re batle go tshwana le bo-DISS ba gotweng batsere P250 million bare ba aga fuel storages, whatever it is,” Khama told the committee. Guma however, forced Khama to withdraw the statement because the matter is before the courts, which legally prevents the committee, which is an extension of parliament, from discussing the matter.

Later at the end of the proceedings, Khama shared with the media that, while he had been subjected to scrutiny by the committee over the operation of the BTO and over a ‘mere’ appointment of a UK company to provide services to BTO, the likes of DISS who are involved with millions of pula always go untouched, both by the committee and by the law. “We need that money [DISS money] for anti-poaching missions. Poachers are having a field day and we are not able to combat their actions.”

The fallout between Tshekedi and DISS first came into play a earlier this year when the former, in an unexpected turn of events refused to support DISS supplementary funding, insisting that it was a misplaced request. He pointed out that for the good of the country, the government should get its priorities right.  

Tshekedi’s  reasons for rejecting the DISS request for additional funding was that the money that his ministry always requests to compensate Batswana who lose lives and livestock due to wild animals attacks is always lower than what they require and it has been so for the past few years.

“I become surprised that for the DISS, P15 million can be passed to fix the computers. What are we saying to Batswana? Are we telling them that we cannot compensate them for the damages caused by wildlife or when they have lost a family member yet we can afford to fix computers?” he told parliament then.

There has been a battle between Tshekedi Khama and DISS over its involvement in anti-poaching missions, something which Khama and his lieutenants at the ministry believe is the preserve of the Wildlife Anti-Poaching Intelligence Unit, and none of the DISS business.

Earlier this year, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Jimmy Opelo told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the Wildlife anti-poaching unit was capable of pursuing its mission given the resources at its disposal. He informed PAC that the wildlife department had eight aircraft and eight special vehicles used in combating poaching in Botswana.

The Wildlife anti-poaching intelligence is the brainchild of Tshekedi himself. In a clear sign that he would do everything to get what he wanted, Tshekedi went on to appoint Brigadier Peter Magosi to head the wildlife intelligence unit. Brigadier Magosi had just been fired by President Khama from the army at the time of his appointment, following a perceived battle between him, Kgosi and others close to President Khama. His expulsion came on the back of the recommendation of the then commander of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Lt Gen Gaolathe Galebotswe.

Meanwhile the Director General of DISS, Isaac Kgosi has a different view over DISS involvement in the anti-poaching mission. He also told PAC during the same sitting that the DISS role in the anti-poaching mission was complementary. “We are not in competition with them [Wildlife Anti-poaching Unit]. The role of the DISS is to gather intelligence for its consumers. We are not only limited to our country as we even go international to gather intelligence,” he said.

He further told the PAC that the DISS anti-poaching missions are also sanctioned by the Central Intelligence Committee (CIC). It is believed that the P250 million which is subject of a money laundering court case was meant for the purchase of DISS equipment that would have helped in anti-poaching missions.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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