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.
Despite being hailed and still regarded as a hero who saved many lives through his decision to crash the BF5 fighter Jet around the national stadium on the eve of the 2018 BDF day, the deceased Pilot, Major Clifford Manyuni’s actions were treated as a letdown within the army, especially by his master-Commander of the Air Arm, Major General Innocent Phatshwane.
Manyuni’s master says he was utterly disappointed with his Pilot’s failure to perform “simple basics.”
Manyuni was regarded as a hero through social media for his ‘colourful exploits’, but Phatshwane who recently retired as the Air Arm Commander, revealed to WeekendPost in an exclusive interview that while he appreciated Batswana’s outpouring of emotions and love towards his departed Pilot, he strongly felt let down by the Pilot “because there was nothing wrong with that Fighter Jet and Manyuni did not report any problem either.”
The deceased Pilot, Manyuni was known within the army to be an upwardly mobile aviator and in particular an air power proponent.
“I was hurt and very disappointed because nobody knows why he decided to crash a well-functioning aircraft,” stated Phatshwane – a veteran pilot with over 40 years of experience under the Air Arm unit.
Phatshwane went on to express shock at Manyuni’s flagrant disregard for the rules of the game, “they were in a formation if you recall well and the guiding principle in that set-up is that if you have any problem, you immediately report to the formation team leader and signal a break-away from the formation.
Manyuni disregarded all these basic rules, not even to report to anybody-team members or even the barracks,” revealed Phatshwane when engaged on the much-publicised 2018 incident that took the life of a Rakops-born Pilot of BDF Class 27 of 2003/2004.
Phatshwane quickly dismisses the suggestion that perhaps the Fighter Jet could have been faulty, “the reasons why I am saying I was disappointed is that the aircraft was also in good condition and well-functioning. It was in our best interest to know what could have caused the accident and we launched a wholesale post-accident investigation which revealed that everything in the structure was working perfectly well,” he stated.
Phatshwane continued: “we thoroughly assessed the condition of the engine of the aircraft as well as the safety measures-especially the ejection seat which is the Pilot’s best safety companion under any life-threatening situation. All were perfectly functional.”
In aircrafts, an ejection seat or ejector seat is a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency. The seat is propelled out of the aircraft by an explosive charge or rocket motor, carrying the pilot with it.”
Manyuni knew about all these safety measures and had checked their functionality prior to using the Aircraft as is routine practice, according to Phatshwane. Could Manyuni have been going through emotional distress of some sort? Phatshwane says while he may never really know about that, what he can say is that there are laid out procedures in aviation guiding instances of emotional instability which Manyuni also knew about.
“We don’t allow or condone emotionally or physically unfit Pilots to take charge of an aircraft. If a Pilot feels unfit, he reports and requests to be excused. We will subsequently shift the task to another Pilot. We do this because we know the risks of leaving an unfit pilot to fly an aircraft,” says Phatshwane.
Despite having happened a day before the BDF day, Phatshwane says the BDF day mishap did not really affect the BDF day preparations, although it emotionally distracted Manyuni’s flying formation squad a bit, having seen him break away from the formation to the stone-hearted ground. The team soldiered on and immediately reported back to base for advice and way forward, according to Phatshwane.
Sharing the details of the ordeal and his Pilots’ experiences, Phatshwane said: “they (pilots) were in distress, who wouldn’t? They were especially hurt by the deceased‘s lack of communication. I immediately called a chaplain to attend to their emotional needs.
He came and offered them counselling. But soldiers don’t cry, they immediately accepted that a warrior has been called, wiped off their tears and instantly reported back for duty. I am sure you saw them performing miracles the following day at the BDF day as arranged.”
Despite the matter having attracted wide publicity, the BDF kept the crash details a distance away from the public, a move that Phatshwane felt was not in the best interest of the army and public.
“The incident attracted overwhelming public attention. Not only that, there were some misconceptions attached to the incident and I thought it was upon the BDF to come out and address those for the benefit of the public and army’s reputation,” he said.
One disturbing narrative linked to the incident was that Manyuni heroically wrestled the ‘faulty’ aircraft away from the endangered public to die alone, a narrative which Phatshwane disputes as just people’s imaginations. “Like I said the Aircraft was functioning perfectly,” he responded.
A close family member has hinted that the traumatised Manyuni family, at the time of their son’s tragedy, strongly accused the BDF ‘of killing their son’. Phatshwane admits to this development, emphasising that “Manyuni’s mother was visibly and understandably in inconsolable pain when she uttered those words”.
Phatshwane was the one who had to travel to Rakops through the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) aircraft to deliver the sad news to the family but says he found the family already in the know, through social media. At the time of his death, Manyuni was survived by both parents, two brothers, a sister, fiancée and one child. He was buried in Rakops in an emotionally-charged burial. Like his remains, the BDF fighter jets have been permanently rested.
A matter in which former President Lt Gen Ian Khama had brought before Broadhurst Police Station in Gaborone, requesting the State to charge Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) lead investigator, Jako Hubona and others with perjury has been committed to Headquarters because it involves “elders.”
Broadhurst Police Station Commander, Obusitswe Lokae, told this publication this week that the case in its nature is high profile so the matter has been allocated to his Officer Commanding No.3 District who then reported to the Divisional Commander who then sort to commit it to Police Headquarters.