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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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UDC founder warns against merger

19th October 2020
Ex UDC Convener: Mpotokwane

Lebang Mpotokwane, one of the conveners who presided over the opposition cooperation talks that resulted in the formation of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), has advised against changing the current umbrella model in favour of a merger as proposed by others.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leader, Dumelang Saleshando recently went public to propose that UDC should consider merging of all opposition parties, including Alliance for Progressives (AP) and Botswana Patriotic Front (BNF).

Saleshando has been vehemently opposed by Botswana National Front (BNF), which is in favour of maintaining the current model.  BNF’s position has been favoured by the founding father of UDC, who warned that it will be too early to ditch the current model.

“UDC should be well developed to promote the spirit of togetherness on members and the members should be taught so that the merger is developed gradually. They should approach it cautiously. If they feel they are ready, they can, but it would not be a good idea,” Mpotokwane told WeekendPost this week.

Mpotokwane and Emang Maphanyane are the two men who have since 2003 began a long journey of uniting opposition parties in a bid to dethrone the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BCP) as they felt it needed a strong opposition to avoid complacency.

Tonota born Mpotokwane is however disappointed on how they have been ejected from participating in the last edition of talks ahead of the 2019 general elections in which BCP was brought on board.  However, despite the ejection, Mpotokwane is not resentful to the opposition collective.

He said the vision of opposition unity was to ultimately merge the opposition parties but he believes time has not arrived yet to pursue that path. “The bigger picture was a total merger and we agreed that with three independent parties, members might be against merger eventuality so the current model should be used until a point where they are now together for as long as possible,” he said.

“UDC should gradually perform better in elections and gain confidence. They should not rush the merger. We have been meeting since 2003, but if they rush it might cause endless problems. If they are ready they can anyway,” he advised. For now the constituent parties of the umbrella have been exchanging salvos with others (BCP and BNF).

“There are good reasons for and against merging the parties. Personally, I am in favour of merging the parties (including AP and BPF) into a single formation but I know it’s a complex mission that will have its own challenges,” Saleshando said when he made his position known a week ago.

“Good luck to those advocating for a merger, it will be interesting to observe the tactics they will use to lure the BPF into a merger,” former BNF councillor for Borakalalo Ward and former BNF Youth League Secretary General, Arafat Khan, opined in relation to BCP’s proposed position.

Mpotokwane, who is currently out in the cold from the UDC since he was ejected from the party’s NEC in 2017, said the current bickering and the expected negotiations with other parties need the presence of conveners.

“We did not belong to any party as conveners so we were objective in our submissions. If party propose any progressive idea we will support, if it is not we will not, so I would agree that even now conveners might be key for neutrality to avoid biasness,” he observed. Despite being abandoned, Mpotokwane said he will always be around to assist if at all he is needed.

“If they want help I will be there, I have always been clear about it, but surely I will ask few questions before accepting that role,” he said. UDC is expected to begin cooperation talks with both AP and BPF either this week or next weekend for both upcoming bye-elections (halted by Covid-19) and 2024 general elections and it is revealed that there will be no conveners this time around.

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BDP attaches Boko’s property

19th October 2020
DUMA BOKO

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) moved through its lawyers to attach the property of Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) President Duma Boko and other former parliamentary contestants who failed in their court bid to overturn the 2019 general elections in 14 constituencies.

WeekendPost has established that this week, Deputy Sheriffs were commissioned by Bogopa Manewe Tobedza and Company who represented the BDP, to attach the properties of UDC elections contents in a bid to recover costs.  High Court has issued a writ of execution against all petitioners, a process that has set in motion the cost recovery measures.

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COVID-19 exposes decay in the education system

19th October 2020
Education Systm

Botswana Sectors of Teachers Union (BOSETU) says COVID-19 as a pandemic has negatively affected the education sector by deeply disrupting the education system. The intermittent lockdowns have resulted in the halting of teaching and learning in schools.

The union indicated that the education system was caught napping and badly exposed when it came to the use of Information System (IT), technological platforms and issues of digitalisation.

“COVID-19 exposed glaring inefficiencies and deficiencies when it came to the use of ITC in schools. In view of the foregoing, we challenge government as BOSETU to invest in school ITC, technology and digitalization,” says BOSETU President Kinston Radikolo during a press conference on Tuesday.

As a consequence, the union is calling on government to prioritise education in her budgeting to provide technological infrastructure and equipment including provision of tablets to students and teachers.

“Government should invest vigorously in internet connectivity in schools and teacher’s residences if the concept of flexi-hours and virtual learning were to be achieved and have desired results,” Radikolo said.

Radikolo told journalists that COVID-19 is likely to negatively affect final year results saying that the students would sit for the final examinations having not covered enough ground in terms of curriculum coverage.

“This is so because there wasn’t any catch up plan that was put in place to recover the lost time by students. We warn that this year’s final examination results would dwindle,” he said.

The Union, which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Union (BOFEPUSU), also indicated that COVID-19’s presence as a pandemic has complicated the role of a teacher in a school environment, saying a teacher’s role has not only transcended beyond just facilitating teaching and learning, but rather, a teacher in this COVID-19 era, is also called upon to enforce the COVID-19 preventative protocols in the school environment.

“This is an additional role in the duty of a teacher that needs to be recognized by the employers. Teachers by virtue of working in a congested school environment have become highly exposed and vulnerable to COVID-19, hence the reason why BOSETU would like teachers to be regarded as the frontline workers with respect to COVID-19,” says Radikolo.

BOSETU noted that the pandemic has in large scales found its way into most of the school environments, as in thus far more than 50 schools have been affected by COVID-19. The Union says this is quite a worrying phenomenon.

“As we indicated before when we queried that schools were not ready for re-opening, it has now come to pass that our fears were not far-fetched. This goes out to tell that there is deficiency in our schools when it comes to putting in place preventative protocols. In our schools, hygiene is compromised by mere absence of sanitizers, few hand-washing stations, absence of social distancing in classes,” the Union leader said.

Furthermore, Radikolo stressed that the shifting system drastically increased the workload for teachers especially in secondary schools. He says teachers in these schools experience very high loads to an extent that some of them end up teaching up to sixty four periods per week, adding that this has not only fatigued teachers, but has also negatively affected their performance and the quality of teaching.

In what the Union sees as failure to uphold and honour collective agreements by government, owing to the shift system introduced at primary schools, government is still in some instances refusing to honour an agreement with the Unions to hire more teachers to take up the extra classes.

“BOSETU notes with disgruntlement the use of pre-school teachers to teach in the mainstream schools with due regard for their specific areas of training and their job descriptions. This in our view is a variation of the terms of employment of the said teachers,” says Radikolo.

The Union has called on government to forthwith remedy this situation and hire more teachers to alleviate this otherwise unhealthy situation. BOSETU also expressed concerns of some school administrators who continuously run institutions with iron fists and in a totalitarian way.

“We have a few such hot spot schools which the Union has brought to attention the Ministry officials such as Maoka JSS, Artesia JSS, and Dukwi JSS. We are worried that the Ministry becomes sluggish in taking action against such errant school administration. In instances where action is taken, such school administrators are transferred and rotated around schools.”

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