Selibi-Phikwe Diversification Unit (SPEDU) is possibly an endangered organisation at the moment, after falling under the stewardship of two men who are currently embroiled in financial mess at other entities they lead, that is, Bammangwato Concessions Limited (BCL) and Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).
Even Parliament is worried about the direction in which SPEDU is seemingly headed. Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Enterprises was this week not convinced with the ambition of the SPEDU project given the poor level of success since its formation. The committee is of the view that there could be a leadership problem at SPEDU, given the ability of the organisation’s failure to appreciate the real reason it was formed.
The current chairperson of SPEDU board is BCL’s general manager, Daniel Mahupela. His deputy is BMC’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Akolang Tombale.
One committee member, speaking off the proceedings, highlighted that at Board level, the organisation is steered by the people who themselves are struggling to salvage their entities from financial crisis they are ensnared in, yet SPEDU is expected to successfully fulfil its mandate under their leadership.
Chairman of Parliamentary Committee, Samson Guma also expressed concern at the manner in which SPEDU is running its affairs. Guma stated that the organisation’s management does not indicate if indeed it appreciates the reason behind its formation.
Guma is of the opinion that the CEO of SPEDU and its Board should know what is going on with BCL affairs because, SPEDU was formed to respond to BCL’s situation. He mentioned his concern that such is not the case and is a grave error, given the dire situation that BCL is in.
Ndaba Gaolathe, a committee member was worried about SPEDU’s seemingly lack of familiarity with the affairs of BCL. Gaolathe said at present moment, SPEDU should know how they want Selibe- Phikwe economy to look like without the mining activities.
The committee was also not impressed by SPEDU’s spending. Out of its total expenditure, salaries accounts to more than 50 percent of the money, and in the next few years the salaries are event expected to account for more than 60 percent of the organisation’s expenditure.
Mahupela – General Manager of BCL and Chairperson of SPEDU
Daniel Mahupela, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bammangwato Concessions Limited (BCL) is the Board Chairperson of SPEDU, while Dr Akolang Tombale, the CEO of Botswana Meat Commission (BMC).
Mahupela took over the reign at BCL in 2011 following the departure of Montwedi Mphathi, who left to join Botash. Mahupela joined BCL Limited in 2008 as Divisional Manager of Resource Planning prior to his ascendance to the top position. While during Mphathi’s tenure, BCL endured profitability, Mahupela has watched BCL failing to near collapse, with government coming to its rescue on more than two occasions.
While the BCL situation have also been brought by external factors such as falling commodity prices, there have been reports that lack of shrewd administration have led to the dire financial crisis which the organisation found itself in. Commodity prices fell by more than 57 percent earlier this year making it one of the worst falls in history.
Amid this crisis, Mahupela has resisted calls for him to resign despite mounting pressure that including job losses. Government has engaged a consultant on the future of BCL, which will lead the way on what government would do next with the mine.
SPEDU formation, had anticipated that should BCL close, they would be great economic shock to the Selibi Phikwe economy and surrounding areas. Mahupela as the chairperson of Board is not only entrusted with saving BCL, but leading an organisation which would transform the economy of Selibi Phikwe away from the mining activities.
When the chairperson of the parliamentary committee asked for the professional opinion on whether or not government should put more money into the BCL, SPEDU’s CEO, Mokubung Mokubung noted that, while it could be important to do so to save jobs, there is no “business case” for doing that.
A common concern has always been whether it would make business sense for injecting money into BCL without change of model which will ensure that the entity is able to be financial stable again.
Tombale- BMC CEO and Vice Chairperson of SPEDU
Tombale first came into BMC picture in 2012, after being appointed on the initial agreement of 12 months. This was the time when reports were emerging about BMC corruption and dubious business practices which led to an instigation of commission on inquiry.
Tombale, with a background in Geology, has spent the better part of his career as a civil servant and had the opportunity to serve in boards such as of Debswana Diamond Company. He was brought to the BMC with clear believe that he will effectively turn its fortunes around over a short period of time
However, Tombale has not been able to transform BMC from its crisis, despite his assurance when he was appointed four years back that he will ‘fix’ BMC. For the past three years, BMC has continued to make perennial losses, and government have had to come to its rescue on number of occasions.
Until recently, Tombale was resistant to efforts of ending BMC monopoly as a way of ending BMC troubles. BMC has also been accused by parliamentary committee, under Tombale for failing to practise best management as far as public procurement procedures are concerned.
Both Tombale and Mahupela will be in charge of SPEDU direction, but are still fighting their own wars and from a spectator’s view, they are on the losing side. Both BMC and BCL are still in dire financial crisis, their situations have not improved over the last few years, and they would still rely on government for survival.
Tombale and Mahupela have even been associated before. Until June this year, Tombale was the chairperson of the troubled BCL board of directors. The two have worked closely together at BCL, and presided over the mine’s possible worst crisis in its own history.
SPEDU’s risky investment
Meanwhile, SPEDU could be headed for a partnership with an undisclosed company in taking over the business operations of Talana Farms. Talana Farms was operated by Botalana Ventures, which Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) was equity partner. The business involves the horticultural projects, ostrich farming and crocodile farming.
Although SPEDU CEO told parliamentary committee that it is an “ambitious project” the project had failed to produce desired results under Botalana Ventures.
BDC has been operating Talana Farms jointly with Botalana Ventures since 2006 and the two entities had enjoyed what looked like a breakthrough for Botswana’s horticultural produce sufficiency. Talana Farms’ General Manager, Jan Willemse, revealed in the past that for future growth the farm was targeting the South African and Namibian market for their produce.
Following the appointment of Bashi Gaetsaloe as Managing Director of BDC, the partnership was sacrificed leading to liquidation of Botalana Ventures.
Mokubung revealed that already the equity partner, identified by SPEDU have paid P1.5 million deposits to secure the farm.
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.
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.
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.