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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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Major public services shake-up looms

24th January 2022
Emmah

Public Servants should brace themselves for some changes as the government is in an overdrive mode to overhaul the public sector. The government has also set the tone for the looming changes as it has added the public sector to its looming list of major and sweeping reforms.

This is contained in a savingram from the Permanent Secretary to the President (PSP) Emmah Peloetletse’s office showing how the government intends to “take stock” of all reforms in the public sector through the establishment of an inventory.  Peloetletse’s savingram addressed to various ministries and the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) reveals that the government is working around the clock to implement some changes in the Public Service.

The savingram reminded Permanent Secretaries of various ministries and DPSM that the public sector reforms unit (PSRU) at the Office of the President is mandated with Coordinating Reforms across the Public Service.  “This essentially entails providing the strategic guidance and facilitation in the implementation of reforms across the Public Service. In this endeavour the Unit has in the past with Technical Assistance from European Union developed a template for documenting Reforms in the Public Service and documented ten (10) major reforms across the Public Service,” reads the savingram in part. It added that “The Unit has lately rolled out the Change Management Framework in an effort to facilitate effective and efficient management of change in the Public Service.”

According to the savingram, it has been noted that for a variety of reasons the use of the template for documenting reforms has not been universally used across the Botswana Public Service.  It further states that to facilitate the documentation of the reforms it is essential that an inventory of the various reforms across the Public Service (Central Government, Local Government and State Owned Entities) is established.

“By this correspondent we are seeking your assistance in populating the attached template to provide basic information on the various reforms. The PSRU will, through the various Coordination of focal Persons facilitate the full documentation of the reforms once the inventory is established,” the savingram further stated. The copy of the template among others calls on the focal persons to fill out them form under several headings; they include title of reform, start date, reform objectives, reform components, reform components, progress status.

The savingram echoes President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement last year during his state of the nation address that as a nation Botswana has set itself a lofty goal of becoming a high income country by 2036 and has come up with a list of reforms among them digitisation of government infrastructure. He said the path to achieving this goal dictates that, Botswana takes deliberate steps that will transform its institutions; the way Batswana think and the way they act.

“It is with this in mind, that I presented a Reset Agenda in May 2021, with the following priorities: Save Botswana‘s population from COVID-19, by implementing a series of life saving measures that include a successful and timely vaccination programme, Adherence to COVID-19 health protocols remains key and align Botswana Government’s machinery to the Presidential Agenda, to ensure that the national transformation agenda will be embodied in the public service of the day,” said Masisi. He added that, “this will come with significant Government reforms in all public institutions. We need greater agility and responsiveness like never before in the delivery of public services.”

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Covid-19 Task Force meddled in tenders-report

24th January 2022
Dr. Kereng Masupu

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force reportedly meddled in the awarding of tenders for COVID-19, a new Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has revealed.

The Committee expressed concern that it has noted that there are two centres for covid procurement being the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task team in the Office of the President. The report says the Committee questioned the Accounting Officer on why the COVID 19 task team is usurping the powers of the Ministry of Health by engaging in covid procurement when the Ministry of Health is the one which has the experience and mandate of dealing with the pandemic. The report says clarification was also sought on why direct appointment is the preferred method for covid procurement.

“In her response the Accounting Officer stated that the task team was mainly engaged in the procuring of quarantine facilities and was assisting the Ministry of Health due to the heavy workload brought about by the COVID 19 pandemic,” the report says. The report says the Accounting Officer further stated that direct procurement was used because COVID 19 was treated as an emergency and that procurement was mainly from companies that have been traditionally used by the Ministry of Health.

“This however, is not the case as there has been report of new companies being awarded COVID -19 contracts. The use of direct procurement method should only be used in exceptional cases as it’s a non-competitive method which increases the risk of inflated pricing and close relations with particular suppliers to the detriment of others,” the report says.

It says since most covid procurement fell under emergency, there is need for openness and transparency regarding the procurement.  The PAC recommended that in order to ensure transparency and accountability all COVID 19 related procurement should be periodically published in the PPADB website giving full details of the companies receiving procurement contracts and the beneficial owners of the companies.

It says with the passage of time the impact of covid is no longer unexpected so direct awards should gradually be abandoned as the medium and long-term needs of the pandemic can now be predicted. “Judgement should be used even during direct awards to ensure that prices are not higher than the market prices,” the report says.

In a related matter, the report says the Central Medical Stores (CMS) was unable to cater for the required quantities of medical supplies with order fulfilments of about 35% resulting in shortages and insufficient drugs to Athlone Hospital and the surrounding clinics.
“In his submission the Accounting Officer had indicated that CMS was unable to supply the exact quantities required by the hospital and surrounding clinics due to the fact that supplies from CMS have to be rationed in order to cover other facilities around the country,” says the report.

The committee expressed concern about the inadequate supply of drugs to government facilities which puts the lives of patients at risk due to non- availability of essential supplies. It recommended that the Ministry identifies and prioritise measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is adequate supply of essential medicines which are needed in the public health system.

Meanwhile the report says the Ministry of Health and Wellness coordinates the operations and functions of some institutions which receive government subventions and secondment of staff from the government. These institutions include 10 NGO’s, two mission Hospitals, three mission clinics and two schools of Nursing.

It says in its endeavour to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of government support to NGOs the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development developed some Policy Guidelines for Financial Support to Non- Governmental Organisations.  According to the PAC report, the guidelines were meant to ensure that there is consistency, accountability and transparency in administering public funding to NGOs. However, the Ministry of Health did not comply with the very important guidelines.

“The main areas of non-compliance were the following: (i) There was no Evaluation Committee to vet proposals from NGOs, in some instances NGOs had formed part of the evaluation forum when their requests were being considered,” the report says.  It says there was continued funding of NGOs even when they failed to submit narrative and financial progress reports; and (iv) Continued funding of NGOs that failed to submit audited financial statements and management letters as required. The Committee expressed concern at the lapses in the administration of grants by the Ministry despite the large sums of public money awarded to these NGOs.

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BDF killings of Namibians: Court unable to rule on missing gun

24th January 2022
BDF

The Kasane Regional Magistrate Court refused this week to rule on whether three Namibians and their Zambian cousin shot dead by members of the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) were in possession of a rifle or not prior to their deaths.

Ruling in favour of the BDF members, Regional Magistrate Taboka Mopipi who presided over the inquest said, “It is acknowledged that no rifle has been produced before court to confirm that indeed the deceased were armed and or that there was indeed a gun shot.”  She said the evidence before the court is that search for the rifle(s) that allegedly triggered the gunfire exchange was done by both Namibia and Botswana SCUBA divers and nothing was found. She said when the said search was done, an area of search was demarcated around the scene area which was partly searched due to water animals such as hippos that launched an attack at the area during the search.

“The search was therefore never concluded. This therefore leaves a gap. To that end, the area not extensively searched, the court cannot make a finding whether the rifle in issue was there or not. This is a very crucial piece of evidence,” added Mopipi. She said the joint search did not conclude the exercise and I cannot properly make a finding of fact adding that that the rifle was there as the BDF allege can therefore not be ruled out.

The deceased are Martin Munilweye Nchindo, Ernest Nchindo, Tommy Sinvula Nchindo and Sivula Munyeme. The four deceased persons died on the night of the 5th November 2020, in the waters of the Chobe River (Southern Channel) near Sedudu/Kasikili Island in Botswana. Mopipi said the incident took place at night, in a gloomy atmosphere and that as at the time, movement in that particular area was restricted and or not permitted.

She said it was the evidence of some of the witnesses that the injuries as observed on the four deceased reflected that they were brutally assaulted and or beaten either before or after being shot. “Their evidence gained support from Witness 34, Dr. Bithoma Thotho Amis who observed post mortem on behalf of the families of the deceased and Government of Namibia. This witness however conceded during cross-examination that the injuries as observed have been caused by other contacts and or impacts such as falling and hitting the hard surface of a wooden canoe,” said Mopipi.

She emphasized that inquest proceedings have very serious consequences and therefore, whatever evidence brought before court must be produced by persons of right qualifications particularly the post mortem report which the court has to rely upon.
“The qualification of the expert is crucial in determining the credibility of the report. Upon assessment of both experts, I am inclined to adopt the reports from Witness 18, who is a qualified pathologist. A closer look at the other report indicates that the author, Witness 34 is not a qualified pathologist and it is meddled by issues outside an expert opinion,” she said.

Mopipi said reports compiled by a consultant Forensic Pathologist Dr. Kaone Panzirah-Mabaka show the causes of death as follows; Sivula Munyeme, gunshot injury to the chest and extremities, Martin Nchindo, gunshot wound to the abdomen and pelvis, Ernest Nchindo, multiple gunshot injuries to the chest and extremities and Tommy Nchindo, gunshot wound to the chest and abdomen.

“Medical evidence therefore prove conclusively that the four deceased persons died due to gunshots injuries. It is undisputed that the injuries were inflicted by seven (7) members of the Botswana Defence Force; Lieutenant Moreri Kenneth Mphela, Sergeant Ndingisano Nfazo, Sergeant Puisano Pistor Kgokong, Private Mbikiso Tafila, Private Emmanuel Moganetsi Majuta, Private Barulaganyi Rannosang and Private Oromilwe Motlhabi,” said Mopipi.

Mopipi found that there was a gunshot from the direction of the men to the direction of the BDF section.  “The BDF members retaliated and returned fire. This was done in accordance with Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) within the BDF. According to the SOPs, in case a soldier is being fired at, they fire back and do not have to wait for a command,” she said. She added that “The gunfire exchange was brief and after it ceased, they used a torch to light where the men were and established that all the four men were motionless, two in one canoe, one in the other and the other man lying on the edge of the river on the Island.”

She said, “The evidence of the witnesses is that, when they followed the intel, the intent was to conduct an investigation. There was clearly no intent on their part to shoot the deceased, they did that as an act of retaliation.”

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