BOCONGO’s confidential proposals have ignited boardroom wars
Board wants to change BOCONGO name, constitution, vision, mission
Changes face resistance from some of the BOCONGO members
Existing staff members to be wiped out in the transformation agenda
NGO Council not immediately featured in the organisation change plan
Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (BOCONGO) has compiled a strategy paper proposing drastic changes to the organisation’s constitution. The changes call for a new name, vision, mission and objective statements.
The changes are capsulated in the confidential report leaked to this publication titled “BOCONGO Moving forward 2016 – 2019” which is also referred to as “a new strategy for a membership driven network delivering change in Botswana.”
It is understood that the new vision will be “NGO’s working together for a more just, equal and integrated Botswana” and has been revised to be “BOCONGO members working effectively with other actors for inclusive development.”
This publication has gathered that imaginable names dropped around to be considered for replacement of BOCONGO in the new change-plan. Some of the suggested names include, NGO Forum Botswana (NGOFB), Alliance of Botswana NGO’s (ABNGO), Botswana NGO’s Bongos (BNGOB) and Botswana Coalition of NGO’s (BOCONGO).
WeekendPost can safely reveal that the new change implications for BOCONGO will include a change in membership representation on the board; revision to BOCONGO Secretariat’s support to members; and new framework for member collaboration and active engagement.
However, the new proposal by the board has been met with resistance from BOCONGO members who are questioning the motive of the amendments while emphasising that as members they have not initiated such change – particularly since BOCONGO’s mandate and agenda is membership driven.
According to some members of BOCONGO who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, “there was a meeting on Thursday (last week) in Gaborone that have put together member representation organisations of BOCONGO and we out rightly spoke against the change-plan because we don’t really understand this concept and we believe we were not satisfactorily consulted. The board just want to impose,” a member stated.
BOCONGO Secretariat also confirmed such a meeting.
According to the report, there will be not only a revised vision, mission but also a new strategic goals and thematic grouping of members that will require significant change in the way that BOCONGO operates.
“The main changes required are a new membership commitment and criteria as well as a new name and new logo to represent these changes,” states the classified report.
It is understood that the changes, once agreed upon after further consultations, will have to necessitate and be reflected in the constitutional revisions or amendments as BOCONGO is governed by a constitution.
The report acknowledges that the 81 currently active BOCONGO members are of critical importance to the changes proposed by the new strategy. In the strategy it is understood that NGO’s will be the main members and membership should include only NGO’s across the country.
It is said a significant change in the “new BOCONGO” will shift from sectors to thematic group (communities of interest) and more decentralised collaboration at regional level (communities of place).
Even as unemployment has ballooned in the country reaching approximately 22%, it is anticipated that the Secretariat may lay down some of the existing staff members who include Administration Assistant, Accounts Assistant, Desk Officer and others in their transformation agenda – as they are also ‘seen’ as resistant to the new change.
It is said that the Secretariat will require only new Executive Secretary, Finance and Administration Manager, and two administration staff. They will also need two project officers responsible for research and advocacy and the other one in Communication and Information and Technology.
The challenges and risks faced by the transformation entailed in the report indicate that there was acknowledgement that there may be opposition to the new plan: “the board and Secretariat will have to ensure clear communication of the way forward and accept that some NGO’s will not support the shift.”
It was earnestly, however, highlighted that “in this context, it was agreed that the current board would continue in order to guide the first year of the strategy. The Secretariat will work on the supporting change and identifying areas in the constitution which will need to be changed.”
According to the report, member ownership of the new strategy and the fundamental changes to way of working and structure of BOCONGO, are essential if the change process is to succeed.
The newly introduced NGO Council derived from the NGO Policy, which is to some extent seen as a duplicate of BOCONGO is not represented or featured in the new arrangement proposal. The report indicated that “the board and Executive Secretary may request a meeting with the NGO Council to clarify the new direction and implications for the relationship.”
“As expectation of the board throughout was that the strategic process would clarify the respective roles of BOCONGO and the NGO Council. The new strategic framework should help the board and the NGO Council clarify their respective roles in relation to the NGO’s in Botswana.”
What prompted the transformation?
When reached for comment to explain what necessitated the need to change direction, BOCONGO Chairperson, Oscar Motsumi told Weekend Post that throughout the years BOCONGO had experienced operational constraints, “Therefore, there was a need to take stock of our organisations and re-position them for the current and future needs.”
With the new Strategy, he said members will increase their role and active engagement in policy dialogue organised through the four thematic groups that is led by NGO members and supported by the BOCONGO Secretariat. He added that NGOs will receive greater recognition for the contributions they make as development partners in Botswana.
According to Motsumi there were extensive consultation where members throughout the country identified changes that needed to be made. He added that the Board then presented the proposed Strategy at the last Annual General Meeting which members endorsed and adopted, subject to a few changes.
On staff resistance…
The BOCONGO Chairman stated that matters of organisational transformation and their impact on Staff will be discussed internally and with other relevant bodies such as the Labour Department to ensure that they are implemented in a fair manner, according to labour laws and that any anxieties or concerns by Staff are managed in the best manner possible through the structures they have set up.
“So, this is still very much an internal process whose detail cannot be divulged. In doing so, we are also taking into account that our Staff Contracts are tied to various donors/development partners who have also set their own terms and conditions. Ultimately, however, BOCONGO’s objective is to ensure that as many jobs as possible are preserved.”
Financial standing of BOCONGO
Although some donors have pulled out of late, Motsumi said BOCONGO is in a stable financial position.
“We still need to attract more partners to ensure that our member activities are implemented without any interruptions,” he said.
He further explained that the organisation’s financial standing has improved greatly from the time the current Board came into office.
“When we took over, the organisation was in a lot of debt. However, the board worked very closely with the Secretariat to manage costs. During the last AGM we received a clean audit and it is our desire to improve our financial status by exploring other income generating opportunities to ensure organizational sustainability,” Motsumi added.
Way forward for BOCONGO
According to the board chair, the current board was mandated by the General Assembly in 2013 to review the Strategic Positioning for BOCONGO.
“The strategic review has become an absolute priority at this point in time because of the need to produce tangible benefits for BOCONGO Members and the NGO sector as a whole.”
Motsumi said that they want to ensure that BOCONGO is put in a position of being able to address any future challenges in an effective manner as is expected by its Members.
“To achieve this, BOCONGO members will continue to be encouraged to work collaboratively. The organization’s processes and systems, as well as human resources, will also be streamlined for better focus.”
According to Motsumi, these are challenging but exciting times at BOCONGO as “we chart a new vision and articulate a new future for the Civil Society movement. This watershed moment requires all to pull together for our goals to be achieved.”
Out of the estimated130 (active and inactive) member organisations, the BOCONGO board members are derived from 11 sectors which include Agriculture and Environment; Arts and Culture; Development arm of the Church; Disability; Gender and Development; Health and HIV and AIDS; Human Rights; Media; Microfinance; Credit and Empowerment; Science, Technology and Training, Youth and Children.
WeekendPost has established that the proposal changes are the hobbyhorse of the new board composed of current Chairman Oscar Motsumi who is deputised by Olebile Machete and with Jerry Moloko serving as its Treasurer.
Motsumi is from Botswana Network for AIDS Service Organisations (BONASO) while Machete from Child line Botswana and with Botswana Coalition on Education for All (BOCEFA) represented at BOCONGO by Moloko.
Some additional members in the board include outspoken Alice Mogwe of Ditshwanelo, Idah Mokreitane from Emang Basadi, Douglas Thamage standing in for Cheetah Conservation, while Bible Life is represented by Gabriel Tsuaneng and Arnold Kepaletswe in lieu of House of Men and others on behalf of other BOCONGO member organisations.
The Motsumi-led board which was nominated to office on 2013 is currently serving its second and last term destined to end in 2017.
Botswana Football Association (BFA) leadership appears to be bowing down to Nicolas Zakhem’s football pressure. The development comes to the open roughly 24 hours after the Gaborone United director publicly labelled Maclean Letshwiti and his committee failures for deciding to chop five premier league clubs under the pretext of club licensing disqualification.
As early as Wednesday noon, the BFA emergency committee met with one agenda item to discuss the possibility of reinstating the clubs. This publication gathers that the committee saw it fit to pardon the five clubs without entertaining a second thought. The committee even invited the clubs to the meeting, sources say.
Late last month, the five teams were disqualified from playing in the premier league, pending the appeal outcome. The teams are Notwane, Extension Gunners, BR Highlanders, Mogoditshane Fighters, together with Gilport Lions. The immediate decision by BFA follows what Zakhem had said and advised that it was wrong to chop clubs given the COVID-19 situation in the country.
Unbeknownst to BFA leadership, observers stress that Zakhem exerted public pressure and influenced them to change tone without asking. At the meeting, BFA president Maclean Letshwiti, his vices, Marshlow Motlogelwa and Masego Ntshingane, Aryl Ralebala, the Botswana Football League (BFL) chairman, together with Alec Fela, an ordinary member in the now stubborn NEC.
However, the reactive move by the association to reinstate the clubs is highly welcomed in certain quarters, but it also appears to have left a permanent scar, especially at BFL. As things stand, the general feeling on the ground is to oust chairman Ralebala for failing to defend these clubs before the eyes of President Letshwiti.
This publication has intercepted an ongoing petition to unseat Ralebala and his deputies from the BFL board. Strange enough, the signed petition has thus far attracted clubs with household influence in the league itself. GU, Township Rollers, Notwane, Extension Gunners, Police XI are some clubs that have already appended their signatures to have Ralebala removed.
The big clubs are believed to fighting for principle and demand fair governance at BFL. The reality is that these clubs command a large following, and sponsors can always have a say based on their presence.
When approached for clarity, Ralebala said he could not comment on allegations or issues that lack substance. He concedes that he has heard about the rolling petition but is yet to lay his eyes on it. “I have heard about the petition, but I don’t know where it is coming from. I think it is best you ask those who have signed it. My focus is to commence the league and make sure everything is on point,” said Ralebala.
Football observers state that Ralebala, together with Letshwiti, are now faced with a dilemma. Reports coming from Lekidi Football Centre, although yet to be fabricated, are that the big guns lead others to form a parallel structure where they will play on their league. The clubs are angry at their chairman for taking many of the instructions from the BFA boss, and already a general melee is gathering traction that the two must resign as football has lost direction.
Zakhem says, although he supported Letshwiti, he has a sense of duty to stand for the truth. “I knew I supported Letshwiti and his troops, but you see, these guys have lost direction. I have long advised them that chopping clubs like this will cause confusion and delay progress, but they cannot listen. Letshwiti gave BFL autonomy, but I do not know why he is still interfering,” Zakhem said.
You may, by now, have heard about the dark side of the high profile P100 billion case, but wait, there is also the brighter side. Staff Writer AUBREY LUTE explores the positives accruing from the fall of the country’s biggest financial ‘scam-dal’.
A chance to fix the country’s financial record
They have not publicly been saying it, but the state agencies and the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, have been at pains to explain and rationalise how an amount almost equal to the country’s GPD left the central bank.
Many insiders attributed the country‘s troubled financial status to the case, including the grey-listing, non-compliance and identified deficiencies, some of which were hitting citizens around the globe. Botswana was in 2018 taken aback by FATF news that the country has been listed alongside countries that do not comply with (AML/CFT). The European Union Commission later flagged Botswana in March 2019 for lacking strategic deficiencies in AML/CFT regulations.
A chance to restore the dignity of the law enforcement arms
The case, without a doubt, was a distraction object on the law enforcement agencies, which spent a chunk of their time bickering and finger-pointing. A leaked audio recording exposing the explosive meeting of the law enforcement arms of government, being the Intelligence Services, Corruption and Economic Crimes agency, and the Prosecutions division summed it all.
The case presented a monumental crisis threatening the core of their being. Following these developments, the Presidency, clearly under the influence of a tripartite member, took a spine-chilling decision to disband the DCEC, a move that was saved by the organisation’s founding director- Tymon Katlholo’s bold protest.
The DPP, the Police, and the DCEC staff were used in the process to carry out bizarre instructions, some of which left the state with an egg on its face. Mistrust and backstabbing were the order of the day within the law enforcement agencies, and the P100 billion case was to blame. “Some badly wanted the plot executed while the other side badly wanted it to end to restore sanity,” an insider says.
The source further adds that “if the case did not end soon, it was going to end a lot of people’s relationships and careers because those who refused to carry the insane instructions were seen as sympathisers to former President Ian Khama.” With the case having fallen, these agencies can reflect, reconcile and go back to work.
A chance to fix diplomatic relations…
It was not only South Africa that was accused of Sabotaging Botswana’s prosecutorial goal. The state also accused several countries of refusing or delaying to assist in the process. Of all the nations, only South Africa has decided to take Botswana to task, perhaps on its proximity to Botswana. Others long ignored Botswana’s requests for assistance to the frustration of former DPP deputy director who repeatedly told the courts that they were struggling to get responses from the international community. With the case having fallen, Botswana may get a chance to face her actions, apologise and rectify the promise that lessons have been learnt.
Pressure off the shoulders of those who have to account…
The case did not only affect the law enforcement agencies. All the stakeholders were put in the spotlight to provide answers. The first to bolt out of the circle was the central bank, Moses Pelaelo, who, like DCEC director-general, long declared the case a scam. He told the world that his books were in order and that no money was missing risking his high-paying job.
According to insiders, his superiors, the then Minister of Finance and Development Planning – Dr Matsheka and his subordinate, Dr Wildfred Mandlebe, were only whispering, without success, to the Gods that there is no money missing.
So concerned and under pressure was Dr Sethibe- then the head of the Financial Intelligence Agency- who, like his Ministry supervisors, was engaging in silent screams to warn the powers that be, all in vain. He later jumped the ship to his former employer, the University of Botswana, allegedly to protect his name and career.
At the time of the fall of the case, the DIS and the DPP were at advanced plans to higher American to come and probe the Bank of Botswana’s servers in a move that bankers feared could compromise them further.
The case was bleeding the country’s coffers…
Had it not ended, the case was likely to end up ‘genuinely’ costing the country P100 billion Pula duo to its complexity and challenges. Insiders say sources who had sold the law enforcement agencies some falsified documents were paid handsomely.
Moreover, investigations were costly as they involved the international community and frequent travelling. “We are told there was also motivation for some officers to act abysmally and out of their way,” an insider said.
Lessons leant for public officers…
Public officers are often duty-bound to obey superiors instructions, no matter how irrational. The case was an eye-opener to many public officers that principle pays in the discharge of one’s duty at all times. The professional careers of the P100 billion case conspirators are currently in shambles. And as expected, the influencers, if at all there any, are nowhere to be seen.
Botswana remains on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the “black list” of the European Union, a status quo that highlights the country as one of the high-risk jurisdictions to deal with money.
The far-reaching implications of these listings is a compromised Foreign Direct Investment drive for Botswana. In particular, these listings mean investors now have to exercise some caution and restrain when thinking about putting their money in Botswana. On Tuesday, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Peggy Serame said that Botswana could see itself out of the “undesirable listing” by October this year.
Serame called for united and concerted efforts towards liberating Botswana out of this financial noncompliance tag. She said the delisting could be archived by concerted efforts from all stakeholders: players in the financial services sector, non-financial services businesses, regulators, and every individual who deals with transactions.
Botswana is a founding member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). This regional body subscribes to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism and proliferation.
One of the membership obligations to ESAAMLG is for Botswana to be peer-reviewed by the other Member States and other international bodies like the World Bank, IMF or FATF. The most recent assessment for Botswana to gauge compliance with the FATF standards was conducted by ESAAMLG in 2016 and culminated with publishing the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) in 2017.
Following the discussion and adoption by the Task Force and approval of the MER by the Council of Ministers, the country was placed under enhanced follow-up. This led to a one (1) year observation period in which the country was expected to improve its technical compliance (legislative framework) by correcting the deficiencies identified in the MER.
After one year, in October 2018, the Task Force decided that the country was not taking sufficient steps to implement the recommendations made by the assessors in the MER. The Task Force recommended that Botswana be referred to the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) for monitoring and potential listing often referred to as the ‘FATF greylisting”.
Following the FATF greylisting, the EU placed Botswana on its list of high-risk third countries, often referred to as the ‘black list.’ In 2018, Botswana and FATF agreed to an Action Plan that had six items with several timelines. In terms of Risk and coordination, Botswana was told to develop and implement a risk-based comprehensive national AML/CFT strategy, assess the risks associated with legal persons, legal arrangements, and NPOs, and operationalize the modernized company registry to obtain and maintain essential information and Ultimate Beneficial Ownership information.
Botswana was further advised to enhance the capacity of the supervisory staff, including by developing risk-based supervision manuals and providing adequate training, implement risk-based AML/CFT supervision and impose sanctions against violations.
Furthermore, Botswana was instructed to improve analysis and dissemination of financial intelligence by the Financial Intelligence Unit, including operationalizing an online Suspicious Transactions Report filing platform and prioritizing high-risk predicate crimes, and enhancing the use of financial intelligence among the relevant law enforcement agencies.
Regarding terrorism financing investigation, Botswana was instructed to develop and implement a Counter Financing of Terrorism Strategy, operationalize the Counter-Terrorism Analysis and Fusion Centre, and ensure the Terrorism Financing investigation capacity of the law enforcement agencies.
In 2018, the 11th Parliament passed 25 pieces and, later, six others related to AML/CFT/CFP. At the just ended Parliamentary session of the 12th Parliament, lawmakers passed the Financial Intelligence (Amendment) Act to address the definition of beneficial ownership.
Cabinet approved the National AML/CFT/CFP Strategy of 2019-2024 in October 2019. At the June 2021 FATF Plenary meetings, the FATF made the initial determination that Botswana had substantially addressed the Action Plan and that this warranted an on-site assessment to verify that the implementation of Botswana’s AML/CFT/CFP reforms is in place and is being sustained. Furthermore, an assessment was to be instituted to check if the necessary political commitment remains to sustain implementation in the future.
Serame said in a televised press briefing that Botswana’s exit from the FATF grey list and the EU black list would be determined by the outcome of the on-site assessment, which will be discussed at the FATF Plenary in October 2021.
She revealed that the Botswana delegation attended the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group 42nd Task Force of Senior Officials meeting from the 26th August to the 6th September 2021, followed by the Council of Ministers on the 7th September 2021.
She told the media that at these meetings, Botswana was commended for making progress in complying with the FATF standards by addressing deficiencies in her AML/CFT/CFP framework. “We are making all these efforts of complying with the FATF standards so that we guard against our financial system being used for money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation financing,” she said.
“We are hopeful that at the October 2021 FATF Plenary meetings, the outcome of the on-site visit undertaken by the FATF in August 2021 will bear positive results, leading to Botswana being delisted from the FATF greylisting,” she said. However, Minister Serame called on all stakeholders to support the government to remove Botswana from the greylisting.
“As Government continues its efforts of putting in place the necessary legislative and institutional framework, due diligence must be exercised by all institutions, including the ordinary Motswana, so that no one is found dealing with financiers whose credibility is wanting,” she said.
The minister reiterated that all players in the financial services sector had a role to play: “It is important that where unsolicited funds are offered, the individual or entity so receiving the offer must ensure that the funds being offered are not associated with unlawful acts. If we are not diligent, criminals may use unsuspecting people and entities to launder proceeds of crime.”
She reiterated that the government is committed to doing all within its power to remove the country from the FATF “grey list” and the EU “black list”. However, she noted that to achieve that requires the cooperation and assistance of financial institutions, designated non-financial businesses and professions and individuals to ensure full compliance with AML/CFT/CFP rules and regulations.
“These efforts will not only assist us to be removed from these mentioned lists but are for the benefit of our country to maintain a high standard of financial prudence and an economy which genuine investors can have the confidence to invest in,” Serame explained.