MilkAfrica, a joint project between Lobatse Town Council and a Zimbabwean refugee, which was expected to create around 500 jobs and supply the country with milk as from early 2015, has not started operations and is currently facing a lawsuit over a mere P16 000 debt.
The project was estimated at the value of P100 million. The town council’s political wing has also started casting doubt over the project which was given 1375.4470 hectares of land by the Council. Molaodi Mantle, who sits in the MilkAfrica board and representing the council, had admitted in an interview that pressure is mounting on the Council leadership to produce a full report as to what is happening to the project or release the land back to be distributed to the general public for residential purpose.
“It is true that councillors are demanding answers, but we are still waiting for Mr Matibe to brief us. He is the one who can answer all the questions. As you know, we just have 10 percent share of the project and the 90 percent belong to the company,” explained Mantle. The Councillors fear that the council could have been sold a dummy right from the beginning.
Allegedly, the company’s founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Philemon Thambatshira Matibe, a Zimbabwean refugee, who lives in the United States of America had no or very little money to invest in the project, but planned to get loans from the local bank using the leased land as security. However, the council is said to have refused to sign off the land into his name or that of his company, Lobatse Dairy (PTY) Ltd, thus the delay of funding and launch of production.
The Council leased the big chunk of land to Lobatse Dairy for a duration of 25 years, a period which started in January 2013. According to the agreement, the company is to payout a minimum of P2 Million over that period to the council. At the end of the lease the land is to revert back to the Council, with an option to a single renewal of this lease.
As of this year the project should have already injected P100 000 to the council, but instead it is entangled in minor debts. “The whole project is misguided, everything is so confused. The workers have abandoned the premises, the owners are not always around and the council always washes its hands from the debt,” revealed Charles Tafa, a contractor who was hired to do some jobs for the construction.
Tafa who said he had collected his machinery from the seemingly abandoned project site, revealed that there are other contractor who are owed more money, like the one who supplied manure for the site. Tafa’s matter is currently before the Lobatse Magistrate court. The former Member of Parliament for Lobatse, Nehemiah Modubule has also expressed doubt on the project.
This is what he had to say about the project which at inception, enjoyed the support of the former Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, “At the time when I was in parliament, I went to see Rre Kedikilwe about this project. At the time, some farmers, especially white farmers were complaining that MilkAfrica project was given such a big land such that it had closed passages to their farms, but I was told that the council is doing appraisable job.
My question to him was, since this man (Matibe) is a refugee on transit was it wise to invest this much on this project, was he to be trusted.” Modubule added that, he never believed in the project from the beginning but the council and the Vice President had a different view and even sent several employees to be trained for the job overseas, “some of who have not been able to complete their training because sponsorship is no longer coming through. Those from the Ministry of Agriculture have returned and resumed working from the Ministry.”
The Ministry of Agriculture was to partner or had partnered with the council on this project to ensure that the cultivation of the leased land is in accordance with good husbandry and the laws of Botswana, “in particular the Lessee shall comply with the provisions of any laws concerning the conservation of natural resources and good husbandry as defined by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism from time to time.”
The town clerk, Malebogo Kruger could not be reached for comment. Nonetheless, Councillor Mantle who sits in the MilkAfrica board had confirmed that the council still trust that the project will take off as promised. In fact, Mayor Kruger together with Mantle recently travelled to Kimberly, South Africa where they were to view the cattle stocked for the milk project. Mantle confirmed that they indeed saw the 580 cows, which were 3 months pregnant, but maintains that he does know whether they have been bought or not.
“It is Mr Matibe who can confirm the payment part,” Mantle pointed out. However one Councillor revealed that, “the Council leadership went to Kimberly under wrong impression that the cattle had been bought, only to learn from the seller that they have a blank cheque.” But Mantle maintains that the allegation is not true and added that, from Kimberly they were to travel to Capetown to view the water purifying machines which are to form part of MilkAfrica plant. Nonetheless he declined to explain why the trip did not materialise rather saying it is the Mayor who has to answer some of the questions.
Meanwhile Councillors are breathing hard on the Mayor and her team and demand that the land be taken back and distributed to members of the public for residential purposes. The project was expected to bring back life to Lobatse following the transfer of High court and court of Appeal headquarters to Gaborone, which left the town almost abandoned. According to records the leased land shall be used solely for a dairy milking parlour, paddock and pasture establishment, milk processing, offices, staff housing and related amenities only. The lease of the land is to continue for a period of twenty five years.
POWER GAMES BEHIND THE PROJECT The MilkAfrica project was not without impediments from the word go. Sponsors of the project had to force their way into the office of the then Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe for the project to go ahead. The Minister of Environment Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama had refused to give the project and Environmental Impact Assessment certificate. He was first not convinced by the pitch from the Lobatse Council and the Zimbabwean investor. He made it clear that he will not grant the project an EIA.
Kedikilwe had to use his muscle reportedly reasoning that the Council was trying its best to create jobs. With all the drama unfolding Tshekedi Khama will feel vindicated and it remains to be seen whether the project will ever take off.
In a classic and shocking case of disgrace and dishonour to this country, the law enforcement agencies are currently struggling to cover up a damaging and humiliating scandal of having conspired to forge the signature of a Palapye Chief Magistrate, Rebecca Motsamai in an unlawful acquisition of the much-publicised 2019 warrant of arrest against Isaac Kgosi, the former director of the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS).
The cloak-and-dagger arrest was led by the DIS director, Brigadier Peter Magosi supported by the Botswana Police, Botswana Defence Force (BDF), with the Botswana Unified Revenue Services (BURS) which accused Kgosi of tax evasion, in the backseat.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) constituent members are struggling to reach an agreement over the allocation of wards for the imminent ward by-elections across the country.
Despite a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) and Alliance for Progressives (AP) are said to be active, but the nitty-gritties are far from being settled.
The eight bye-elections will be a precursor of a somewhat delayed finalisation of the brittle MoU. The three parties want to draw a plan on how and who will contest in each of the available wards.
This publication has gathered that the negotiations will not be a run off the mill because there is already an impasse between the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) which is a UDC constituent and AP (currently negotiating to join umbrella).
The by-elections joint committee met last week at Cresta President Hotel in a bid to finalise allocation but nothing tangible came out of the gathering, sources say.
The cause of the stalemate according to those close to events, is the Metsimotlhabe Ward which the two parties have set their eyes on.
In 2019, he ward was won by Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) Andrew Sebobi who unfortunately died in a tragic accident in February last year.
Sebobi had convincingly won by 1 109 votes in the last elections; and was trailed by Sephuthi Thelo of the UDC trailed him with 631 votes; while Alliance for Progressives’ Innocent Moamogwe got 371 votes.
Thelo is a BCP candidate and as per UDC norm, incumbency prevails meaning that the BCP will contest since they were runners up. On the other hand, AP has also raised its hand for the same.
“AP asked for it on the basis that they have a good candidate but BCP did not agree to that request also arguing they have a better contestant,” one UDC member confided to this publication.
Notwithstanding Metsimotlhabe Ward squabble, it is said the by-election talks are almost a done deal, with Botswana National Front (BNF) tipped to take Boseja South ward in Mochudi East constituency. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) will be awarded Tamasane Ward in Lerala/Maunatlala constituency, sources say.
“But the agreement has to be closed by National Executive Committee (NEC),” emphasized the informant.
The NEC is said to have been cautioned not to back the wrong horse but rather rate with reason and facts.
UDC President, Duma Boko has told this publication that, “allocation is complete with two wards already awarded but with only one yet to be finalized,” he could not dwell into much details as to which party got what and the reasons for the delay in finalisation.
Chairperson of the by-elections committee, Dr. Phenyo Butale responded to this publication regarding the matter: “As AP we contested and as you may be aware we signed the MoU with UDC and BPF to collaborate on bye-elections. The opposition candidate for all bye-elections will be agreed by these parties and that process is still ongoing,” he said when asked if AP is interested on the ward and how far with the talks on bye-elections.
Butale, a former Gaborone Central Member of Parliament, who is also AP Secretary General continued to say, “As the chairperson of the bye-elections committee we are still seized with that matter. We should also do some consultations with the local structures. Once the process is complete we will issue a notice for now we cannot talk about the other two while the other is still pending the other one”.
Butale further clarified: “There is no such thing as AP and BCP not in agreement. It is an issue of signatories discussing and determining the opposition candidates across the three wards.”
Apart from the three wards, there are five more council wards that UDC is yet to allocate to cooperating partners.
FROM PALAPYE MEET: BPP CAUTION NEC MEMBERS
With the UDC cheerful from last weekend’s meeting in Palapye, the meeting however was very tense on the side of both BCP and BNF, with only BPP flexing its muscle and even lashing out.
BCP going into the meeting, had promised to ask difficult questions to the UDC NEC.
BCP VP and also acting Secretary General, Dr. Kesitegile Gobotswang, presented their qualms which were addressed by UDC Chairperson Motlatsi Molapisi, informants say.
It is said Molapisi is fed up and concerned by some UDC members especially those in the NEC who ‘wash party’s dirty linen in public’.
Insiders say the veteran politician cautioned the NEC members that they “will not expel any party but individuals who tarnish the image of the UDC.”
It is not the first time BPP play a paternalistic role as it once expressed its discontent with BCP in 2020, saying it should never wash UDC linen in public.
At first it is said, BPP, the oldest political formation in Botswana, claims disappointment on BCP stance that UDC should be democratised especially by sharing their stand with the media. Again, BPP was not happy with BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando’s decision to air his personal views on social media regarding the merger of UDC party.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe, has of late been dousing raging fires from various quarters of society following the infiltration of the police fingerprint system by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security (DIS), WeekendPost has learnt.
Fresh information gleaned from a number of impeccable sources, points to a pitiable working relationship between the two state organs. Cause of concern is the DIS continuous big brother role to an extent that it is now interfering with other institutions’ established mandates.
BPS which works closely with the DIS has been left exasperated by the works of the institution formed in 2008. It is said, the DIS through its Information Technology (IT) experts in collusion with some at BPS forensics department managed to infiltrate the Fingerprint system.
The infiltration, according to those in the know, was for the DIS to “teach a lesson” to some who are on their radar. It is said the DIS is playing and fighting dirty to win the fights they have lost before.
By managing to hack the police finger print system, a number of renowned businessmen and other politically exposed persons found their fingers in the system. What surprised the victims is the fact that they have never been charged of any wrongdoing by the police and they were left reeling in shock to learn that their fingers are on the data-base of criminals.
In fact, some of those who their fingerprints were falsely included in the records of those on the wrong side of law learnt later when other errands demanded their fingerprints.
“We learnt later when we had to submit and buy some documents and we were very shocked,” one politician who is also a businessman confided to this publication this week.
“We then learn that there are some fabricated criminality recorded for us, as to when did we commit those remained secret to the police, but then we had to engage our lawyers on the matter and that is when we were cleared,” said the politician-cum- tenderpreneur.
The lawyers have confirmed engaging the police and that the matters were settled in a gentlemen’s agreement and concluded.
All these happened behind the scenes with the police top brass oblivious only to be confronted by the irked lot, police sources also add. The victimized group who most of them have been fighting lengthy battles with the DIS read malice and did not blink when it was revealed that these were done by the DIS.
“And it was clear that they (DIS) are the ones in this dirty war which we don’t understand. Remember when we sue, it will be the Police at the courts not the DIS and that is why we agreed to a ceasefire more so they also requested that be kept under carpet,” said the victim.
Nonetheless, the Police through its spokesperson Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, briefly said: “we do not have any system that has been hacked.” On the other hand DIS mouthpiece Edward Robert was not in office this week to comment on the matter.
Reports however say DIS boss, Peter Magosi, who most of the victims accuse of the job, is said to have met his police counterpart Makgophe to put the matter to bed.
COVID-19 RAVAGES POLICE
As frontline workers, Police have not escaped the wrath of Covid-19. Already the numbers of those infected has reached the highest of high and they suggest that they be priorities on vaccine rollout.
“Our job is complicated, firstly we arrest including those who are non-compliant to Covid protocols and we go to accidents and many more. These put us at risk and it seems our superiors are not bothered,” said one police officer this week.
The cops further complain about that working spaces are small, as such expose them to contact the virus.
“Some tests positive and go for quarantine while the rest of the unit will be left without even test carried out. If at all the bosses are serious all the police officers should every now and then be subjected to testing or else we will be no more because of the virus,” added another officer based in Gaborone.
The government has since placed teachers on the priority list for the vaccines, it remains to be seen whether the police, who also man road blocks, will be considered.
“But our bosses should convince the country leadership about this, if not then we are doomed,” concluded a more senior officer.