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New BERA given vast powers over licence holders

The Botswana Energy Regulatory Authority (BERA) has been given more powers in line with the new law to crack the whip on license defaulters.

The parastatal was formed two months ago subsequent to the passing of the Botswana Energy Regulatory Act of 2016 by parliament. BERA is responsible for the economic regulation of the energy sector being; electricity, petroleum products, coal, natural gas, solar energy and other forms of renewable energies. The parastatal is tasked with issuance of licences to the five (5) multinational oil companies (Botswana Oil Ltd., Vivo Energy, Puma Energy, Engen Oil Marketing, Chevron Botswana and Total Oil Botswana) including a number of citizen based companies (Excess Petroleum, Stol, Afritech, Tswana Petroleum).

This extends also to a number of international and local Gas Supply and Distribution Companies (Total, Afrox Botswana, Easigas Botswana, Pula Energy, Airliquide, and Simsagas). BERA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rose Seretse told the press this week in the inaugural media pitso since the instigation of the organisation that “the parastatal may amend, suspend or revoke a licence and impose such fines as it may consider appropriate at the end of the investigations – if the Authority is satisfied that there is a contravention of the Act.”

She emphasized that in terms of Section 53 (1) of the Act, the Authority is conferred with powers to initiate or receive and investigate any complaint from any person against a licensee.  She said the investigation should be based on the existence of reasonable grounds that a contravention of any of the provisions of the Act has occurred or that the conditions of a licence are not adhered to.
    

According to the ex-Director of Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) the Authority has the power to enter and search the premises of any licensee it intends to investigate (give a licensee four (4) days’ notice of the intended search and reasons for searching the premises). She stated that however if the Authority decides to investigate it shall inform the licensee or affected person in writing of its intention to investigate. “Before the search, the Authority shall obtain a search warrant from the Magistrate Court. Notwithstanding, the Authority may enter and search any premises, other than a private dwelling, without a warrant (followed by an ex post notice),” Seretse pointed out to the pack of journalists at the briefing.

The BERA CEO warned that the authority has power to require information from any person that it considers necessary to enable it to carry out its functions under the Act, and it is an offence to unreasonably refuse to furnish the Authority with information when required to do so under Section 66 of the Act. According to Seretse, it is important to note that an application for a licence may if the authority considers necessary be done through a tendering method determined by the authority.

“Additionally, it is worth noting that licences will be issued at a fee which includes application fees and annual licence fees among others.  However, these fees should be reasonable, justifiable and appropriate for the type of activity. The annual licence fees in aggregate should not exceed one and half percent of the combined gross turnover of the licence or regulated entity,” she said.  

BERA is also mandated to ensure that there is competition in the energy sector and that there is energy security in Botswana. Nonetheless, Seretse highlighted that in terms of Section 62, the Authority shall refer all issues relating to competition to the Competition Authority.
In terms of their responsibilities on the tariffs, Seretse said the authority may review a tariff where it considers it necessary to do so in the interest of customers, consumers and other users and where the tariff is due for periodic review as determined by the authority from time to time.

“The Authority shall, from time to time and by notice in the gazette publish the tariff review methodology and considerations that the Authority apply when reviewing a tariff. The Authority shall, when reviewing tariffs, take into account any direct subsidies by government to support energy or cross subsidies between different consumer classes.” Already it was reported that BERA is inundated with reports on mishandling and smuggling of fuel out of the country. It is said that consumers and other informal fuel resellers purchase fuel from various fuel filling points with containers not recommended for safe handling and transportation of fuel.

“Containers used include, 20 litres and 25 litres plastic containers, 200/210 litres drums and in certain instances; worn out jerry cans. It has been observed that this practice is particularly rife in the northern part of the country; Francistown, Kasane and the surrounding areas.” It has also been noted that the fuel being smuggled outside the country is for re-sale in the neighbouring countries to the northern part of Botswana, and that BERA will continue to put such unwanted conduct on line. The Ministry of Minerals Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security (MMGE) through the Department of Energy is responsible for the formulation, development and coordination of the National Energy Policy.

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State forged Kgosi’s arrest warrant

22nd July 2021
FORMER DIS BOSS: ISAAC KGOSI

In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).

The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.

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UDC parties discuss by-elections

22nd July 2021
UDC

Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.

Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.

The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.

This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).

The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.

The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.

In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.

Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.

Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.

“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.

Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.

“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.

The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.

UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.

Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.

Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.

Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”

Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.

FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS  

With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.

BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.

BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.

It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.

Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”

It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.

At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.

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DIS infiltrates Police fingerprint system

22nd July 2021
Makgope

Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.

Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.

BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.

The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.

By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.

In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.

“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.

“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.

The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.

All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.

“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.

Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.

Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.

COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE

As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.

“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.

The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.

“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.

The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.

“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.

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