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Ngwaketse Land Board accused of favouritism in ranch allocation

Ngwaketse Landboard has been put on the spotlight following allegations of misappropriation in allocating some commercial ranches near Banyana farms in the Southern District.  


The matter reached the Land Tribunal in Gaborone and the Tribunal President, Boitumelo Kaisara, who is assisted by Messrs. Gordon Lecoge and Kebalepile Rutherford (as members) are expected to make a ruling on it following arguments submitted this week by all the concerned parties.


At the heart of the matter is an objection raised by a Syndicate named Basimane who contend that the land board flouted some basic procedures in allotting of ranch JN 14B located at Rajakopo, to a prominent business tycoon in Kanye, Stephen Ntirelang Phirinyane. The Syndicate that had also applied for the same ranch alleges that as per advertisement, which required that a package would cost P100.00 per application per ranch, Phirinyane flouted the specification.


The Land board advertised four ranches on the 16th June 2006 being KN33A, KN33B, JN14A and JN14B. Out of the 105 who responded to the advert, only four were successful as they were said to have scored high marks after going through interviews. They include; Popagano Syndicate (38.83 points), Stephen Ntirelang Phirinyane (37.33), Kgosikhumo Gofhamodimo (36.50) and Thomas Mhenyi Kwape (36.50).    


In the assessment, particular emphasis was placed on documents submitted by the applicants which include management plans, environmental issues, funding and investment, ranch development, skills and existing rights. WeekendPost has turned up confidential documents including minutes of Ngwaketse land Board special meeting held from the 23rd to the 26th February 2015 at the Main land board Chamber at Kanye in which hard-hitting decisions were taken on the matter.   


One of the procedures, which Basimane syndicate pointed out as having been flouted was that, “2nd respondent (Phirinyane) applied for both JN14B and JN14A using one package whereas he should have bought 2 packages.” The Sydicate further observed the business mogul was allocated the ranch without disclosing any borehole rights elsewhere in the country, even though the rules required him to have done so, “2nd respondent (Phirinyane) withheld information about having a borehole at Makapane and Tsepane.”


When reached for comment, Phirinyane denied that he is and was a member of Tsepane Syndicate, but was quick to point out that Tsepane borehole belongs to the Southern District Council (SDC) and therefore there was no way he could have had the borehole rights through it.  


One of the pre-requisite to application to the ranches was to declare to the land board whether you have boreholes rights elsewhere or was a member of any syndicate. Phirinyane pointed out to this publication that as far as he is concerned Ngwaketse land board awarded him the ranch impartially and lawfully. “It went well. There was no favour at all,” the business magnate stressed further.  


Nonetheless, Kgalalelo Monthe of Monthe Marumo attorneys representing members of Basimane Syndicate including its Secretary, Makgekgenene Neelo Kwape and Chairperson, Lephatsimile Kwape, pointed out certain irregularities in the tendering process.
He said initially the business tycoon in question applied for JN14B but his application was later ‘amended’ with a different hand writing to add JN14A.


The Senior Counsel alluded to the fact that, by withholding crucial information on borehole rights and applying for two ranches with a single application, led to Phirinyane gaining unjust advantage over other applicants because it hindered the board’s intention to allocate the ranches equitably. Marumo emphasised that the ranch should have been allocated to Basimane Syndicate since they applied for it and even scored higher than other applicants who applied for it.


According to the minutes, one of the representatives of Basimane Syndicate also made the board aware that Phirinyane did not submit some of the required documents during application such as the ecology report; hence he should not have been shortlisted. In the minutes, Ngwaketse landboard defended the allocation of the ranch to Phirinyane citing that Basimane Syndicate did not satisfactorily substantiate their allegations.  


Attempts to get hold of Landboard Secretary, Molebedi Khuduego were unsuccessful as he was said to be out of office at a kgotla meeting at Mabule where President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama was said to be visiting. His deputy, Thabo Tshipinare told this publication that he was “uncomfortable” with commenting on the matter and instead referred this reporter to the Land board attorneys.  


Both lawyers refused to comment citing that it will be “contemptuous” as the Tribunal has yet to decide on it. Meanwhile according to a subsequent letter the WeekendPost is in possession of, dated 10 April 2015, Ngwaketse Land Board wrote to Basimane Syndicate that during its Special Board Meeting it considered the matter and resolved to “dismiss” it. The reasons they advanced was that the application by the entrepreneur cum farmer was proper as the invitation to tender (ITT) allowed for one to indicate his preference.


“Tsepane Syndicate which Stephen Phirinyane is alleged to have been a member of at the time of ranch allocation did not have borehole rights; therefore Mr Phirinyane did not have rights to disclose.” According to the letter signed by Masego Selemogo on behalf of the Land board Secretary, the allocation was proper as assessment of applicants was done with respect to a specific ranch. The applicants were only required to indicate their preference.


Selemogo pointed out that “the request to be allocated an alternative ranch by Basimane Syndicate is rejected. The claim of foul play in the allocation of ranch to Phirinyane is dismissed. You are informed of the right to appeal to the land Tribunal within one month from the date of this resolution if aggrieved.” The aggrieved, Basimane syndicate have thereafter this week submitted oral arguments before the land Tribunal led by President Kaisara.


When arguing the matter orally, Ngwaketse Land board Principal Attorney Laba Mokete stated that they properly followed procedure and there were no irregularities in awarding the ranches to the franchise wholesale ‘Save Rite’ owner, Phirinyane. “There has never been any point where applications were categorized as to whether you are an individual or a syndicate. It is clear competition, and was fair to all with bidding documents.”


Mokete emphasised that the tender documents did not require application for a particular ranch only and as such one could apply for both and be allocated any of the available ranches. “Therefore I cannot say your worship, that Ngwaketse Landboard was bound to allocate a particular individual with his preference because the mode which was used was the scoring mode and the one with the highest marks was given the available ranches,” the land board attorney told the Tribunal.


Mokete told court that they looked at their minutes and the rankings were given as per the score and were subsequently allocated as per what they attained. “Phirinyane is one of our clients who from the word go, developed the ranch and fully utilised it. His rental is fully paid. It is up to standard. This is a serious developer whom we believe we have indeed followed the procedures of allocating to and we do appreciate the responses we get with this allocation.”


Long time lawyer, Doreen Khama of Doreen Khama attorneys who was representing the Phirinyane family said that the Kwape family had registered their dissatisfaction in the allocation of the ranch. She was however worried that the matter had been going back and forth for the past 10 years the appellants came to court complaining about a perceived favouritism in awarding Phirinyane but without providing a mole of evidence against their claim.


She said the matter was long dismissed in 2007 at the same land tribunal and therefore there was no how Ngwaketse Land board could stop developments at the ranch, which have since ensued, following the 2007 court order. The Basimane Syndicate lawyer, Marumo also orally insisted to court that in light of the irregularities, the land board ought to have disqualified the industrialist. He said preference should have been given to a Syndicate as opposed to an individual.


The syndicate wants to be allocated the ranch in question, failure of which they be issued an alternative ranch. A judgement was reserved to a date to be announced in due course.

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Veteran journalist Karima Brown succumbs to COVID-19

4th March 2021
Karima-Brown

South Africa’s veteran journalist and broadcaster, Karima Brown has died on Thursday morning from COVID-19 related complications.

Media reports from the neighbouring country say Brown had been hospitalized and on a ventilator.

Brown anchored eNCA’s The Fix and was a regular political analyst on the eNCA channel.

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Botswana imports in numbers

1st March 2021
Botswana-imports

For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.

Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.

In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.

Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.

When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.

The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.

According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.

Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.

Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.

Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.

Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).

The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.

He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.

“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”

Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.

“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”

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Sheila Tlou: On why women don’t get votes

1st March 2021
Sheila Tlou

BARAPEDI KEDIKILWE

Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.

Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.

Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.

Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.

There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.

The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.

And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.

Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.

Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”

Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.

Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.

On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.

The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.

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