Presidential spokesperson, Dr Jeff Ramsay has dismissed as “zero truth” news that President Ian Khama leased a ferry operating at Mohembo region in Okavango to government. The ferry operates between Botswana and neighbouring Zambia.
News of Khama’s alleged ownership of the said ferry shot to national prominence this week, after Botswana Congress Party (BCP) Deputy President, Dr Kesitegile Gobotswang revealed that his party’s delegation to Okavango, in an unrelated matter has uncovered ‘an allegation so compelling’, to the effect that Khama is the owner of the ferry plying Botswana-Zambia’s nautical route.
Earlier in the week, Ramsay released a statement through Ministry of Transport and Communications’ Permanent Secretary, Neil Fitt disproving Gobotswang’s claims as ‘misleading and untrue’.
The statement read in part, “Central Transport Organisation (CTO) operates four pontoons, one in Kazungula and three in Mohembo. All the pontoons are wholly operated by government and were procured through the normal open competitive bidding process. The pontoons in Mohembo are operated and maintained by CTO using available companies to repair some of the technical components.
It continued to say, “the larger pontoon in Mohembo was procured in 2011 through a competitive process, at a cost of P9 410 365.00.The older pontoons have been in operation since the late 1980s.”
On another burning issue of State House land ownership, Ramsay said that even though the Khamas’ own some residences that they have bought like everybody else; they do not own the land that the State House sits on. He said the Khamas’ own Ruretse; a colonial piece of land that was demarcated into two, to form Ruretse and Phakalane; the latter now owned by real estate tycoon, David Magang.
Ramsay, who is also an enthusiastic historian, said that Ruretse is a place where the founding President Sir Seretse Khama built his private house that his wife Ruth Khama continued to reside in until her passing. The house was gutted by fire, destroying historical documents and the family’s pictures some few years after her husband died.
He said that Ruth later decided to sub divide the huge chunk of land and invited some family friends to buy plots.
“The Khamas’ have some properties here and there but the idea of them owning the State House is really absurd,” said Ramsay, continuing that, “this pontoon thing is kind of a small version of the State House issue, to try to imagine the Khamas leasing things to the state.”
He also said that the land that the State House sits on has been public land since 1892 and that the Khamas’ are not the first family to occupy the place now called State House. He revealed that it was occupied by Queen’s Commissioners, Robert Peter Fawcus from 1959 to 1965 and Hugh Selby Norman-Walker from 1965 to 1966- important men to the British crown who were in the protectorate to broker a transition to a republican state.
Asked what might be the source of the never-ending rumours against the Khamas’, Ramsay responded that, “people have always said wild things and since the advent of social media it has escalated.”
He also said that when Seretse occupied the State House, it did not have furniture and the new president had to discuss possibilities of mining concessions with visiting wealthy tycoons and dignitaries such as Harry Oppeinheimer, sitting on pillows.
However, Gobotswang is not moved. He said that the rumour that Khama owns the ferry is “very popular and talked about everywhere you go in Okavango” which “as a leader you cannot overlook”.
Gobotswang expressed great cynicism that government would ever reveal the whole truth on the matter.
He gave other high profile cases such as Seleka Springs which is owned by President Khama’s younger brothers; Tshekedi and Anthony Khama which was allegedly given preferential fat tenders from the Botswana Defence Force at the time President Khama was still the army Commander.
He also said that answers are still not forthcoming in the Mosu case where military resources were alleged to have been used in constructing a compound for Khama and his friends.
“So we are not going to buy that,” Gobotswanag said.
He further hinted that a lot of corrupt activity is happening in the Okavango region such as the allocation of Diseta Island to Khama.
He probed rhetorically, “how can an individual be allocated an island?”
He further said that Botswana government’s secretiveness “will always birth speculation and such ‘rumour will become fact”.
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.