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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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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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