Member of Parliament for Tati East, Samson Guma Moyo has revealed during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sitting this week that the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) should not bring back its P1 billion request to parliament because it is a closed matter.
Moyo, who is the Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises found the opportunity to relay his message to BDC this week when the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry Peggy Serame appeared before the PAC. BDC is one of the eleven public enterprises under the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry. “Go and tell BDC that they should not come back with that request now. A decision has been taken and it is a closed matter,” said Moyo.
Last year Moyo had to move swiftly to prevent BDC from acquiring the P1 billion request from parliament when he convinced MPs to divert the matter to his committee to examine the request. A decision has since been reached by the committee that the request by BDC was not in line with what the institution was created to do. The “new BDC” under the stewardship of Bashi Gaetsaloe had managed to convince cabinet about its investment plan but Guma succeeded in preventing a guarantee for the P1 billion loan request.
BDC wanted government to guarantee a loan of P1 billion to invest in different projects of which the investment was expected to produce P1300 jobs locally. Gaetsaloe had presented before Guma’s committee that BDC needed P1 billion of which 70% was to be spent on investments and the seven percent be reserved as a buffer when there is need to pump money into a project in need.
Among the proposed projects which were brought before Guma’s committee were; on P45 million Milk Africa, a milk factory; P200 million on Ba Isago University, a private owned tertiary institution; P250 million on Letshego, a budding micro-lending company; P270 million in construction of Private Estate in Francistown; P30 million on paper project and 280 million on Auto Mobile plant.
BDC has been a centre of debate in recent years with former cabinet ministers being among its critics. BDC was established in 1970 as the country’s investment arm and main agency for commercial and industrial development. BDC’s primary mandate is to drive the Industrialisation of the country by providing financial assistance to investors with commercially viable projects. BDC provides both debt and equity financing to commercially viable project.
Former Assistant Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Charles Tibone last year spoke in support of privatising some public enterprises because government was not getting value of money. He said, public enterprises were prone to slow growth and inefficiencies mentioning BDC as one of them. Tibone, who resigned as Assistant Minister of Finance in 2011, and left his law making position in 2014, argued that if compared, growth profiles of the BDC and BIHL, both of which are in property and financial services, among other investments, one will notice that one zigzags up and down while the other has an upward trajectory.
Property magnate and former Cabinet Minister David Magang has not spared it either. Magang has continually expressed dissatisfaction with the output of BDC as government’s investment arm. He previously stated that In the 46 years that it has been in existence, BDC’s impact in relation to helping foster the well-being of the economy has been marginal if not wholly inconsequential. The arrival of Gaetsaloe at the once controversy troubled quasi-government institution saw the approach in investment strategy shifting. BDC’s new corporate strategy envisions a BDC that is more flexible, more innovative and that will invest in commercially viable projects in Botswana and internationally.
This week PAC members grilled the Serame over operations of public enterprises including the BDC. One of the committee members, Ndaba Gaolathe argued that there was no need for BDC which was created to spearhead the industrialisation to invest in ventures which do not speak to that or in ventures which are already having good markets and can access funds elsewhere. BDC is also part of envisaged government plan to merge some of its institutions with similar mandate such as CEDA, SPEDU and LEA.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP)’s decision to reject and appeal the High Court’s verdict on a case involving High Court Judge, Dr Zein Kebonang has frustrated the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Judge Kebonang’s back to work discussions.
JSC and Kebonang have been in constant discussions over the latter’s return to work following a ruling by a High Court panel of judges clearing him of any wrong doing in the National Petroleum Fund criminal case filed by the DPP. However the finalization of the matter has been hanged on whether the DPP will appeal the matter or not – the prosecution body has since appealed.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) top brass has declined a request by Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to negotiate the legal fees occasioned by 2019 general elections petition in which the latter disputed in court the outcome of the elections.
This publication is made aware that UDC Vice President Dumelang Saleshando was left with an egg on his face after the BDP big wigs, comprising of party Chairman Slumber Tsogwane and Secretary General Mpho Balopi rejected his plea.
“He was told that this is a legal matter and therefore their (UDC) lawyer should engage ours (BDP) for negotiations because it is way far from our jurisdiction,” BDP Head of Communications, Kagelelo Kentse, told this publication.
This spelt doom for the main opposition party and Saleshando who seems not to have confidence and that the UDC lawyers have the dexterity to negotiate these kind of matters. It is not clear whether Saleshando requested UDC lawyer Boingotlo Toteng to sit at the table with Bogopa Manewe, Tobedza and Co, who are representing the BDP to strike a deal as per the BDP top echelons suggested.
“From my understanding, the matter is dealt with politically as the two parties are negotiating how to resolve it, but by far nothing has come to me on the matter. So I believe they are still substantively engaging each other,” Toteng said briefly in an interview on Thursday.
UDC petitioners saddled with costs after mounting an unprecedented legal suit before the court to try and overturn BDP’s October 2019 victory. The participants in the legal matter involves 15 parliamentary candidates’ and nine councillors. The UDC petitioned the court and contested the outcome of the elections citing “irregularities in some of the constituencies”.
In a brief ruling in January 2020, Judge President Ian Kirby on behalf of a five-member panel said: “We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals. These appeals must be struck out each with costs including costs of counsel”. This was a second blow to the UDC in about a month after their 2019 appeals were dismissed by the High Court a day before Christmas Day.
This week BDP attorneys decided to attach UDC petitioners’ property in a bid to settle the debts. UDC President Duma Boko is among those that will see their property being attached with 14 of his party members. “We have attached some and we are on course. So far, Dr. Mpho Pheko (who contested Gaborone Central) and that of Dr, Micus Chimbombi (who contested Kgalagadi South) will have their assets being sold on the 5th of February 2021,” BDP attorney Basimane Bogopa said.
Asked whether they met with UDC lawyers to try solve the matter, Bogopa said no and added. “Remember we are trying to raise the client’s funds, so after these two others will follow. Right now we are just prioritising those from Court of Appeal, as soon as the high court is done with taxation we will attach.”
Saleshando, when contacted about the outcomes of the meeting with the BDP, told WeekendPost that: “It would not be proper and procedural for me to tell you about the meeting outcomes before I share with UDC National Executive Committee (NEC), so I will have to brief them first.”
UDC NEC will meet on the 20th of next month to deal with a number of thorny issues including settling the legal fees. Negotiations with other opposition parties- Alliance for Progressives and Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) are also on the agenda.
Currently, UDC has raised P44 238 of the P565 000 needed to cover bills from the Court of Appeal (CoA). This is the amount in a UDC trust account which is paltry funds equating 7.8 per cent of the overall required money. In the past despite the petitioners maintaining that there was promise to assist them to settle legal fees, UDC Spokesperson, Moeti Mohwasa then said the party has never agreed in no way to help them.
“We have just been put in debt by someone,” one of the petitioners told this publication in the past. “President’s (Duma Boko) message was clear at the beginning that money has been sourced somewhere to help with the whole process but now we are here there is nothing and we are just running around trying to make ends meet and pay,” added the petitioner in an interview UDC NEC has in December last year directed all the 57 constituencies to each raise a minimum of P10, 000. The funds will be used to settle debts that are currently engulfing the petitioners with Sheriffs, who are already hovering around ready to attach their assets.
The petitioners, despite the party intervention, have every right to worry. “This is so because ‘the deadline for this initiative (P10, 000 per constituency) is the end of the first quarter of this year (2021),” a period in which the sheriffs would have long auctioned the properties.
President of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Duma Boko’s alliance with former President Lt Gen Ian Khama continues to unsettle some quarters within the opposition collective, who believe the duo, if not managed, will once again result in an unsuccessful bid for government in 2024.
While Khama has denied that he has undeclared preference to have Boko remaining as leader of UDC, many believe that the two have a common programme, while other opposition leaders remain on the side-lines.