The Land Tribunal has this week dismissed an appeal following an objection raised concerning the controversial allocation of some ranches located near Banyana farms in the vicinity of Southern District Council (SDC).
WeekendPost has turned up information suggesting that the members of Basimane Syndicate; the Secretary Makgekgenene Neelo Kwape and Chairperson Lephatsimile Kwape were questioning the allocation- in particular of a ranch dubbed JN14A. Basimane syndicate’s contention was that the allocation of the ranch, which was since allocated to a well known Kanye business mogul Stephen Phirinyane, was irregular and unlawful.
They said he was disqualified on equitable considerations as he failed to disclose that he was a member of a syndicate known as Tsepane, which held rights over an existing borehole point. They further said he had also not applied for the disputed ranch but had only applied for ranch JN 14 B. Both ranches are in SDC locality in Rajakopo in the Ngwaketse tribal area. However, when making judgement this week Messr. Kebalepile Rutherford dismissed the appeal saying it lacks sufficient evidence and was full of unsubstantiated allegations.
Rutherford made the ruling subsequent to heated arguments made before him, Tribunal President Boitumelo Kaisara and Messr Gordon Lecoge, who were also part of the bench of the matter. According to Rutherford, from available records, as at December 2005, the Tsepane Syndicate borehole, which Phirinyane was said to have used at the time, belonged to the Council (SDC). He said in terms of the records, it was used by the Syndicate on leasehold basis from Council.
“The court is therefore not convinced that such constituted a right that could disqualify an applicant from allocation or warrant disclosure. This ground therefore fails,” Rutherford said when reading the judgement. The court maintained that there was insufficient evidence also on whether Phirinyane was a member of the syndicate at the material point stressing that it was upon the appellant to prove the point. The Judge however further pointed out that, following the findings that he is not a member of Tsepane syndicate, the argument therefore automatically falls away.
This was said after allegations were made by Basimane Syndicate to court that Phirinyane held borehole rights at Tsepane Syndicate at the time. Another point they alluded to was that, the allocation was contrary to the spirit of equitable land allocation as contained in section 10 of the Tribal Land Act. Rutherford in return stated that in terms of the advert, syndicate applicants did not necessarily have an edge over individual applicants and therefore the argument failed.
Basimane Syndicate had argued that in allocating, Syndicates should have been preferred over individual applicants. It was however explained that the advert package did not even categorise applicants as such. The tribunal was required to determine whether the business tycoon’ cum farmer’s allocation of the disputed ranch was proper in light of the points raised by the appellants (Basimane Syndicate) in objecting to the allocation.
During prior arguments, Counsel Kgalalelo Monthe on behalf of Basimane Syndicate had maintained that the allocation was irregular, unlawful and contrary to the provisions of Tribal Land Act on equitable allocation, and that the allocated applicant did not adhere to the advertisement prerequisites. Monthe argued that the allocation be set aside as a nullity. Further, he said that the Tribunal should make appropriate orders such as allocating the appellant the disputed ranch or an alternative site.
“He said the appellants deserve to be allocated as the only party before the tribunal and also as only two applicants applied for the disputed ranch.” On the other side, representing Ngwaketse Landboard at the time, Counsel Laba Mokete, stressed that in terms of Ngwaketse Landboard minutes, on the procedure used for allocating ranches, there was no particular procedure which they failed to follow. In addition, when speaking on behalf of Phirinyane, attorney Doreen Khama said it would not be fair for Phirinyane’s allocation to be set aside when he had developed it over 10 years.
Justice Rutherford emphasised that the court is required to determine the validity of the disputed allocation based on applicable laws and procedures as opposed to the magnitude of improvements on site. “To illustrate this, in the selection process, allocations were not based on the ranches applied for but rather on the scoring system. Ngwaketse land Board’s explanation in this regard prevails. This also means the issue of addition of farm JN14A to Phirinyane’s application form becomes irrelevant,” Rutherford ruled.
Ngwaketse landboard advertised 4 ranches for allocation being KN33A, KN33B, JN14A and JN14B on 16 July 2006. A total of 104 applicants’ responded to the advert. The four successful who were later called for interviews includes Popagano Syndicate who scored 38.83 points, Stephen Ntirelang Phirinyane (37.33), Kgosikhumo Gofhamodimo (36.50) and Thomas Mhenyi Kwape (36.50).
Phirinyane was one of the 4 successful applicants to be allocated based on marks scored, and was consequently allocated. Basimane Syndicate then objected to his allocation. The objection was however dismissed by Ngwaketse landboard, but the Syndicate then appealed to the Tribunal under case no. 10/2007. In October 2011, the tribunal later on, in turn remitted the matter to Ngwaketse Landboard for “re-consideration”.
Ngwaketse landboard then resolved to, at its meeting of February 2015; dismiss the objection made by Basimane Syndicate on the basis that the Syndicate failed to substantiate their allegations concerning Mr. Phirinyane’s allocation of ranch JN14A. The land board felt that the allocation was in order. Aggrieved by the decision, Basimane Syndicate filed the Appeal which consequently was disimissed this week in favour of business magnate Phirinyane and Ngwaketse landboard.
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.