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CEO faces 60 days in Jail

The Chief Executive Officer of Itekanele Medical Health Scheme, Solly Reikeletseng has decided not to go down without a fight against the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (NBFIRA), which of late is on gear five, shutting down a number of local businesses for alleged non-compliance.

Reikeletseng, whose company started attracting the attention of NBFIRA in July this year, has particularly taken aim at the Chief Executive Officer of the NBFIRA, Oaitse Ramasedi, whom he has cited for contempt in his urgent court application filed on Thursday. Through Maphakwane and Partners, Reikeletseng wants an Order granted declaring NBFIRA and Ramasedi to be liable and in contempt of the Court Order dated 14th July 2017 by refusing to authorize urgent transactions of the Applicant, Itekanele, as ordered.

He is also seeking an Order directing NBFIRA and Ramasedi to specifically authorize urgent transactions of Itekanele relating to the payment of rent, employees’ wages and service providers’ claims within 24 hours. He further wants the court to grant an order directing that should Ramasedi fail to comply within the said 24hours, he be committed to prison for at least 60 days until compliance.

The genesis of the NBFIRA/Itekanele tiff is such that on 13th July 2017, NBFIRA lodged an urgent application before court through which it sought to confirm the temporary closure of Itekanele business; they also soguht to freeze the accounts. However, NBFIRA was further instructed by the court to authorize urgent transactions of Itekanele and that the latter be entitled to conduct such business activities, which shall from time to time be authorized by NBFIRA, pending consideration of the temporary closure of the business.

The judge made it clear that “in the interim the Applicant shall authorize urgent transactions of the Respondent to allow it to maintain its financial obligations”. The Judge had also stated that Itekanele shall be entitled in the interim to conduct business activities it is already handling which shall from time to time be authorized by the NBFIRA pending the resolution of the matter. Furthermore, the Judge said the “Respondent’s existing clients shall continue to be adequately serviced by the Respondent during the period of the temporary closure.”  
In an affidavit he deposed on Thursday, Reikeletseng notes that NBFIRA has flagrantly disregarded it and inexplicably refused to comply with the Order to authorize urgent transactions of Itekanele to allow it to maintain its financial obligations.

NBFIRA has refused to pay salaries for Itekanele employees for two months; refused to pay rent for two months and the landlord wants Itekanele out of his building; NBFIRA is also refusing to pay the medical ad scheme’s service providers and on Thursday five of them terminated their relationship with the medical aid scheme. In his affidavit, Reikeletseng points out that he wrote NBFIRA a letter through which he requested that they authorize the payment of employees’ salaries from Itekanele’s BanABC account, the letter was ignored by NBFIRA. The Itekanele Chief wrote a similar letter on 1st August 2017 and it was responded to by NBFIRA attorneys on 9th August 2017 “with a lukewarm and indifferent correspondence”.

Reikeletseng further writes that on 31st July 2017, in pursuit of the said Court Order, he issued a letter to NBFIRA requesting for authorization of certain payments to service providers in the form of medical practitioners, which were due for payment. “I state further that, despite due and repeated demand, Respondents have unwarrantedly refused to authorize urgent transactions in relation to certain payments owing to service providers. Instead, Respondents have employed myriad excuses and delay tactic s, which fly directly in the face of the above mentioned Court Order. It follows, therefore, that the Applicant’s service providers have not been paid for months of July and August 2017, bringing Applicant’s business to a grinding halt.”

The situation has worsened at Itekanele, the landlord’s patience with non-payment of rent has expired. In his affidavit, Reikeletseng indicates that: “..On 31st August 2017, Itekanele received a letter from COLLINS NEWMAN & CO. indicating that –following the award of a default judgement against the Applicant for unpaid rental arrears and the amicable conclusion of a payment plan in relation thereto – Applicant’s (Itekanele) landlord’s patience had expired, owing to Applicant’s inability to honour the aforesaid payment plan, and Applicant was put to terms to make immediate payments plan, or face eviction by 14th September 2017.”  Reikeletseng argues that transactions relating to employees’ salaries, rental payments and payments to service providers – undoubtedly constitute urgent, if not essential transactions and fall well within the scope of the court order. “Therefore, the Respondent’s undue and inexplicable failure, neglect or refusal to authorize the same consequently constitutes contempt of court.”

Reikeletseng also reads an insidious agenda on the part of NBFIRA. He writes that on 5th September 2017, NBFIRA filed a replying affidavit in the main application wherein they annexed certain financial statements – and purported to rely on the same as proof of Itekanele’s non-compliance. I state that the aforesaid financial statements were erroneously submitted to NBFIRA and that on 25th August 2017, being well before NBFIRA filed its Replying Affidavit, Itekanele supplied NBFIRA with appropriate financial records and thereby substantially complied with what was required of it.”

According to Reikeletseng Itekanele accounts are liquid and is now and has been, at all relevant junctures, capable of meeting financial commitments, save for NBFIRA’s undue and unreasonable contemptuous conduct. The Itekanele Chief Executive Officer tells the court that the ongoing state of affairs is occasioning immeasurable and irreparable hardship on Applicant’s employees. “In fact, owing to Applicant’s inability to pay its employees’ salaries for two months, the said employees are facing eviction, financial distress and ruin – as monthly rentals have gone unpaid, monthly stop orders have not been honoured and various expenses have not been met, inter alia. In this respect, Itekanele employees have encapsulated their hardships in various formal complaints tendered.”

According to Reikeletseng as a result of the ongoing financial distress, one of the company’s employees – having reached a state of utter despondency – has unsuccessfully attempted suicide and is currently recovering in hospital. He further states that he has been forced to discharge the labour force and allow employees to remain home, pending the resolution of the matter instant, for a lack of a better option.

He further indicates that what NBFIRA has done has caused immeasurable and irreparable harm to the business and finances, as service providers – who Itekanele has been unable to pay – consequently refuse to service clients and this has spurred an unprecedented and catastrophic exodus of Itekanele clients, who are now terminating their membership en masse for lack of service. He states that the initial court order was meant to curtail this very situation. Reikeletseng and his lawyers want an order granted declaring NBFIRA liable and in contempt of Court Order dated 14th July 2017 by refusing to authorize transactions of Itekanele as ordered. He wants NBFIRA to comply failing which Oaitse Ramasedi must be jailed for 60 days.

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Motamma Horatius on politics and motherhood

13th January 2021
motamma

While it takes a lot to penetrate and thrive in the male dominated political space in Botswana, Block 3 Ward councillor Motamma Horatius, is one of the few females defying the odds.

Driven by passion, Horatius has always worn many hats and today she has become one of the few women who are thriving in the political space in Botswana. Prior to pursuing politics, she was an active participated in the creative space.

Horatius, a beauty queen, notably famous for her reign as Miss World Tourism Botswana represented Botswana in a television show famously known as Big Brother Africa. During her stay in the house, she got termed darling of the continent for an outstanding performance that promoted unity, humility and culture.

After serving for some time in public space, and making a name for herself as well as serving as a brand ambassador she decided to step in a career that will forever challenge her. This was after she had travelled the world and demonstrated her unique leadership skills and brilliance.

“I stopped and asked myself why am I not incorporating this brilliance back home. And wherever you go worldwide Botswana with all her faults is a beacon of hope in everything. And even successful countries came here to benchmark and implemented our policies and are flourishing such as Rwanda. So I decided to join active politics and go straight to the ruling party to add a youthful feel to an already existing force and help modernise it to serve better not from afar but from within,” she clarified.

“So my ample experience in civic leadership across countries around the world catapulted me to join active politics because I wondered, if I can do as much as an individual even across nations, how much can I do whilst in office, locally. And I chose to start from the ground up, in order to avoid leaving the locals behind.”

The stern and tenacious young leader, currently sit as the Chairperson of Finance Committee at Gaborone City Council, and also chairs Performance Monitoring Committee.

While a typical girl would dream of becoming either a nurse or choose a ‘girl’ orientated deemed career, she had a heart for politics from a very young age.  By the time she left the creative space, she had already made a name for herself, that she needed no introduction.

“I had to acknowledge first that I am a woman, and being a woman means you have to work 200 percent more than your male counterparts. So it took sleeplessness nights, and a massive amount of working smart to win legitimately,” she said.

She acknowledges that she faced a lot of challenges during the 2019 elections which she had to overcome through the assistance of her loved ones and family.

“Politics is expensive but I managed by God’s grace, family, friends, acquaintances and good Samaritans but my mind helped. I am a very good planner when it comes to execution,” she said.

“Another hurdle is, being a young woman, I had conceived during the time of primary elections; so campaigning whilst expectant, managing your emotions through betrayals, insults, stress, house-to-house then giving birth and having to hit the ground in less than two weeks having given birth via C-section, was a hurdle I overcame by God’s mercy and I am thankful to my family for helping me with the kids because politics means a lot of time away from home.”

“Another hurdle was to portray an all rounded culturally grounded Motswana woman soft but yet stern, respectful but can articulate issues well. Because even though we are civilized our society still upholds unwritten yet practiced values of what a woman is and what a man is, and if you defy societal expectations, it judges you harshly. But thankfully I remained focused on who I was and didn’t try alternate anything When I lost some of the original members of my campaign team. The pain was deep. But I wiped my tears. Soldiered on, and God increased twice the initial number.”

At some point she had to face demeaning words from other male contestants, but the best to do at the time was to shun negativity and stay focused. Male intimidation never tugged her down.

“My experience with 2019 elections was rather inclined to learning as it was my first time running for office as a politician, so I wanted to see if really hard work has results because I always hear stories of how people are bought,” she said.

“So since I was not buying anyone, I was on a learning curve to test my hard work style of delivery against what is believed out there. So it was exciting and again I say it was a learning curve as most NGOs fighting to increase women participation in politics were continuously training us.’

Despite everything she feels women political participation in Botswana is still low. She has pleaded with the media to cover them more often as she believes maybe it will help more women to run for office.

Botswana has few women in parliament, giving men dominance in policy decisions. In a 63-seat parliament, Botswana has only seven female MPs, four of them being specially elected lawmakers.

According to the 2019 edition of the biennial Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Map of Women in Politics. Among the top African countries with a high percentage of women in ministerial positions are Rwanda (51.9%), South Africa (48.6%), Ethiopia (47.6%), Seychelles (45.5%), Uganda (36.7%) and Mali (34.4%).

The lowest percentage in Africa was in Morocco (5.6%), which has only one female minister in a cabinet of 18.

Other countries with fewer than 10% women ministers include Nigeria (8%), Mauritius (8.7%) and Sudan (9.5%).Other African countries with high percentages of women MPs include Namibia (46.2%), South Africa (42.7%) and Senegal (41.8%), according to the report.

Though a slight increase, Botswana is still lagging behind when it comes to women political participation.

According to a report made by IEC for the 2019 elections, there is 11.1% women representation in parliament. There has been a 1.6% slight increase from the 2019 election compared to the 2014 elections.

According to United Nations, there are two main obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life.

These are structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office, and capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to become effective leaders.

As it stands though, Botswana has continued to recognize gender equality as central to socio-economic, political and cultural development through its National Vision 2036.

Following the adoption of the National Policy on Gender and Development in 2015, the National Gender Commission was established in September 2016, to monitor implementation of the policy.

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Gov’t imposes austerity as financial year closes

11th January 2021
President Masisi

Government ministries and departments have moved to cut expenditure in the last quarter of financial year in order to survive the economic hardship occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak, Government and the private sector have been hard hit financially due to limited economic activity brought about by government response to fighting the pandemic.

In an urgent savingram by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Molefi Keaja addressed to all council secretaries and town clerks, the government informs that it is facing unprecedented budgetary challenges for Financial Year 2020/2021.

“This has necessitated measures to be put in place to conserve cash and ensure that government is able to honour its financial obligations in the remaining (3) months of the financial year,” said the savingram dated 24 December 2020.

The Government has cut all travel by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including State owned entities (SOEs) and Local Authorities until the next financial year in April 2021.
It has also taken a decision that all meetings, interviews, seminars, workshops, conferences, retreats, annual ceremonies and hospitality events should be conducted virtually, which save on the cost of securing venues, conference facilities and meals/refreshments.

“No replenishment of refreshments for the Executive Cadre (E2 salary scale and above) until the end of the financial year,” Keaja directed. Last year government also resolved that due to the financial effects of Covid-19 the government will no longer recruit for any jobs during the 2020/2021 financial year.

The Cabinet directed that the 2020/2021 provision for vacancies be withdrawn from Ministries, Departments and Agencies recurrent budgets to cater for supplementary estimates. According to the saving gram then by the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) said the country faces fiscal challenges which have been accentuated by the emergence and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amongst key ministries and departments affected were the Botswana Defence Force, National Strategy Office, Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS), Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Prisons, Clerk of National Assembly and the Directorate on Corruption & Economic Crime (DCEC).

It further deliberated that all various institutions that had begun recruitment for existing vacant positions be frozen for the remaining period of the 2020/2021 financial year. “Since funds for the vacancies will only be recruited in the next financial year 2020/20121, Ministries, Department and Agencies are advised to discontinue recruitment into such vacancies until 1st April 2021. Those who are already at an advanced stage of recruitment process are advised to withhold appointments until further notice.”

The Director of Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM), Goitseone Mosalakatane, told the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in September that despite the high unemployment rate, they cannot hire for the posts because part of the funds have been withdrawn to fight the Coronavirus.

With just a few days into the New Year, Covid-19 seems to be taking its toll and its effects will be felt vastly in the long run. Countries worldwide, including Botswana are injecting in millions of money in the fight against the deadly virus therefore placing immense uncertainty on country’s economy.

When delivering his speech at last year’s State of Nation Address President Mokgweetsi Masisi said during 2020, the domestic economy was expected to contract by 8.9 percent indicating that this is attributed to an expected sharp decline in major sectors such as mining, (minus 24.5 percent); trade, hotels and restaurants (minus 27.4 percent); construction (minus 6 percent); manufacturing (minus 3.9 percent); and transport and communications (minus 2.5 percent).

However, he assured that the economy is expected to rebound during 2021, with overall growth projected at 7.7 percent. The anticipated recovery will be driven by a rebound in growth of some major sectors such as mining (14.4 percent), trade, hotels and restaurants (18.8 percent), and transport and communications (4.2 percent).

Furthermore, Masisi pointed out that the recovery will also be supported by the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan currently being implemented by Government. “It is critical to note that these projections are dependent on, among others, the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.

These containment measures have the effect of reducing spending by firms and households and causing supply-chain disruptions. Beyond this, the recovery phase will be influenced by confidence effects on households and businesses; sectoral transformation and changes in work patterns; as well as prospects for the recovery of global financial markets and commodity prices.”

Emphasising this, he explained that despite the challenges of COVID-19 there still remains the delicate balance of opening the economy whilst containing the disease burden. “Inflation according to the latest data from Statistics Botswana, inflation fell significantly from 2.2 percent in September 2019 to 1.8 percent in September 2020, remaining below the lower bound of the Bank of Botswana’s medium-term objective range of 3 to 6 percent,” he said.

The significant decline in inflation mainly reflects the downward adjustment in fuel prices in June 2020. However, inflation may rise above the current forecasts if the international commodity prices increase beyond current projections and in the event of upward price pressures occasioned by supply constraints due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.

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BDP readies for Congress

11th January 2021
BDP congress

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) last year had to cancel its elective congress due to the strict measures that had to be put in place due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Two other party events Women’s Wing Congress including the much anticipated victorious election celebration were also postponed due to the pandemic as gatherings were cancelled indefinitely.
However the BDP is adamant that the party will be able to hold its National Congress and all other events that had been frozen this year.

Speaking to this publication chairman of BDP Communication & International Relations Sub-Committee Kagelelo Kentse said that the party was readying itself for the congress with the main objective being to review resolutions that were taken at their 38th National Congress in Mochudi in 2019. Emphasising this, Kentse said it was commendable that most of the resolutions taken in 2019 have by far been fulfilled.

Moreover, he said it would mean a lot for the party to be able to meet at the congress, this he said would give them the opportunity to introspect and reflect with regards to their manifesto. In 2019 the BDP made about eleven resolutions of which five of these were resolved and gazetted. The abridged resolutions were that the amendment of the law to allow agricultural land owners to use up to 50 percent of their land for non-core purposes, to amend the law to cancel transfer duty on property transferred between the spouses.

President Masisi also passed a law to allow married couples to be independently allocated land and increase threshold for non-payment of transfer on property acquired from P250k to P750k. On the resolution in the tourism sector, Kentse said efforts are very advanced to have local play a part. He said there is ongoing work with the Ministry of Lands on concessions that will be allocated to citizens.

According to the BDP communications chair the Ministry of Tourism has availed more opportunities in dams for tourism thus far, having already issued expression of interest for Letsibogo, Dikgatlhong, and Gaborone dams. Citizens are said to have applied for tenders which are currently under evaluation. There are about 45 campsites set aside for citizens in game reserves and forest reserves for tourism.

The resolution on the declaration of assets and liabilities law which was passed and amended this year, was supported by all legislators including those from opposition. Emphasising this he explained that contentions were on issues to do with valuations, and leaders have started declaring.

With the Congress comprising of the elective congress, the BDP is yet to embark on it an objective Kentse said is on their to do list this year even though the calendar of events has not yet been made.
The elective congress has aroused interest, especially the Secretary General position which has attracted a number of participants of which observers believe will accord the incumbent, Mpho Balopi, the current secretary general, the opportunity to buy time if at all he will seek re-election in the position.

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