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Explosive land deal pits Minister against Lobatse Councillors

A plot by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security who doubles as Member of Parliament for Lobatse, Advocate Sadique Kebonang, is allegedly working in cohorts with Lobatse Town Council (LTC) under the mayor-ship of Malebogo Kruger, to influence the leasing of the town bus rank.


At the time of going to print, the lease was at adjudication process, but the political wing of the Council was abuzz with allegations that all stakes were high for one preferred company (name withheld) to undertake the mega project of building the mall at the site. Kebonang is said to be desperately trying to tilt the scales for selfish ends in this matter.


“The project will be allocated to this particular company because of its association with the area MP and Minister. The awarding of the tender is expected any time soon,” Lobatse Town Councillor for Tsopeng North, Gofaone Kedise, leveled the allegations in a recent interview.


The Council has drafted tender notice and invitation to tender, tender data, standardized condition of tender for the development of the mall and already five companies have tendered. Information reaching this publication suggests that the tender is a restricted internal tender to only five companies and other companies are out of bound to tender.


Reasons for considering only the five is said to be that they have applied before, and at the time of going for press the tenders for the five have been submitted and awaiting adjudication results. The restricted companies for the mall include Star Petroleum (Pty) Ltd, EMRE (Pty) Ltd, KIP (Pty) Ltd, DSP (Pty) Ltd, and Botanka and company.


Councillor Kedise mentioned that out of the five restricted companies bidding for the tender, the four others are just used as pawns to appear like there is an element of transparency. Further, information turned down by this publication suggest that in 2014 February, Kebonang announced at a kgotla meeting that they will be a company to be revealed in due process that will construct the shopping center. Allegedly, it was before Civic leaders knew about where the mall will be built.


However, Kebonang has dismissed suggestions that he is a shareholder in one of the companies bidding for the tender and stressed that he also has no influence in the tendering process, but has interest in it in his capacity only as area MP: “The process is fair and transparent. As an MP, I also talk to many people to come invest in Lobatse but I have no personal interest at all to tilt scales in the tender.”   


The Lobatse lawmaker insisted on his support for the erection of the new mall since it will bring developments, create employment, and arouse economic activity to his constituency. He emphasised that there is no alternative plot to construct the mall and hence they used the bus rank space. He did admit however that he is aware about the discontentment by some. He underscored that developments come with inconvenience but at the end the benefits outweighs the inconvenience.


The new shopping centre is said to be enrooted to contradict the grander development plan for the town, dubbed Lobatse Regeneration Scheme. In the scheme the disposition was to upgrade the existing mall as is. Lobatse Regeneration Scheme has already been funded at the tune of 2 billion pula by the government but Lobatse legislator, Kebonang and LTC appears to have bypassed the grand initiative by moving to erect the mall at the bus rank.


The new-fangled mall will be instituted right on the same bus rank plot 333 under supposedly a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement. It will be constructed in an open area of approximately 1.2 hectares which contributes to the 3.36 hectares of the area in totality.
According to the Tsopeng North ward Councillor, Kedise, many proposals were submitted to the Council before, with one by Cambridge Investments (Pty) Ltd who possessed the much needed land and just wanted to meet the Council to sign the Memorandum of Understanding, but were made to wait and rejected.


Further, the new development is expected to take its toll on the informal sector and small business people at the existing bus rank as they will be most disadvantaged and displaced. “The informal sector will be seriously affected by this. The mall near the bus rank will also be negatively affected. The PPP takes its toll on the public because it displaces bus rank and the informal sector but only a few will benefit,” Kedise highlighted.  


But, Lobatse Mayor, Malebogo Kruger, confirmed that the Council will indeed lease the land to what she termed “deserving” investors under PPP arrangement through a transparent tendering process. She said as the Council they support the building of the new mall at the earmarked plot at bus rank despite numerous objections. “We initiated and support the project. We are bringing developments in the form of the new mall. Land belongs to the Council and we are leasing it out to serious investors,” she pointed out briefly.


But Councillor Kedise’s concern is that, as far back as 2007, the Council never advised the many applicants who wished to build malls in other areas of the town about the availability of land at the bus rank. The Council had been rejecting such application in recent years.
“We want the developments like the mall, but we want them clean,” lamented Kedise. He further observed that “we are also conjecturing why ‘all incorporating’ Lobatse Regeneration Scheme was overlooked and the new mall preferred.”


He reminisced that sometime in 2011, Councillor Rosemary Bosilong, moved a motion to the effect “that the Lobatse plantation plot be allocated as one plot for the development of commercial sector.” The motion then passed but however the Council sat on it.
The motion was necessitated by a demand by a number of companies whom also wanted to build a mall at the area.  


It is also said that another company had wanted to build the mall at the Lobatse old stadium plot not far from Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) headquarters – but were both turned down on unclear reasons. On the 29th September 2011, there was also a motion at LTC moved by the then Boswelatlou Councillor, Zubeida Raphael, with the intention to request that Lobatse old stadium plot no. 1890 Civic centre/community be turned into a commercial plot. The motion was however defeated with the reasons that the area is already developed and it cannot be changed.


Some companies from South Africa had also wanted to build a state of the art mall at the same old Lobatse stadium of the similar magnitude as of Olimpia stadium in Rustenburg, inclusive of tennis court and other sporting course grounds as well as the mall itself. Indications suggest that the Department of Lands, Town and Regional Planning in Gaborone then cautioned the town Council against submitting peace-meal plans. Instead they advised the Council to compose the Lobatse Regeneration Scheme which is ‘all encompassing.’


Before then, it is understood that some companies also came on board with endeavors to request Council to grant them leeway to build the mall in an area adjacent to Lobatse Town Park but were turned down. Meanwhile Ex Lobatse legislator, Nehemiah Modubule also expressed disapproval of the mall as he smells conspiracy between the incumbent town law maker, Kebonang and the investors of the mall.


He said Lobatse community was only informed of the move and not necessarily ‘consulted.’ Modubule was worried about the informal sector in terms of where they will be placed. According to the former MP, Lobatse does not need a mall but an economic development plan to grow the economy of the town. “There is high unemployment in Lobatse, if they build the mall, who will buy in these malls? Lobatse need industries to attract influx of people to work on those firms,” Modubule pointed out.


He said rumours suggest that Kebomang has shares in the mall and that is why he has been pushing the project so hard to make it see the light of the day. He said while at parliament, he initiated and moved a motion on the formation of Lobatse Economic Diversification Unit (LOBEDU) which is similar to Selebi Phikwe Economic Diversification Unit (SPEDU) which only needs implementation.

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Woman swindled out of P62 000 by fake CID officers

17th June 2021
Motube

Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.

According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.

“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.

The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.

Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.

“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’

They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.

In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.

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BCP walks out of UDC meeting

15th June 2021
Boko and Saleshando

Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.

UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.

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Katlholo wins against DPP

15th June 2021
DCEC DIRECTOR: Tymon Katlholo

The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.

The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.

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