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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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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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