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 The house was gutted by fire, destroying historical documents and the family’s pictures some few years after her husband died.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”.
There is uproar and confusion at Gaborone City Council (GCC) caused by the municipality’s decision to reject cheaper bids and instead award a contract of Asphalt overlay, resealing and road marking works of 10km in Gaborone to a more expensive contractor.
The tender was posted on December 8th last year with TRI VENTURES (PTY) LTD awarded the tender after being the best evaluated bidder. The company, to do the job, quoted P14 707 454.78 as the total bid price and P12 501 336.56 as the total contract price of the award.
The awarding of the job to this company has rubbed other bidders the wrong way and even suspecting the tender adjudicating body of having hidden interests. The arguments from the tenderpreneurs is that the common methodology for awarding the jobs is always hinged on the least expensive taking the job. This, they support further by saying the government has been decrying lack of funds but GCC continues to splash the funds without being logical and prudent.
From the tendering companies, a number of them were below TRI VENTURES’ quote. Trench Plant Hire quoted P12 million, with Costain Services praying for P13 million, Conconet PTY LTD asked for P12,9 million and Clanfield PTY LTD also quoted P12.9 million for the 10 km job in the capital city.
The latter, Clanfield PTY LTD which according to CIPA records is owned by Tlholego Ntebele, approached High Court this week Thursday seeking interdict which will pave way for the review of the tender. The company had initially filed an appeal and the Appeals Board dismissed it.
“In this regard you are hereby informed that, if you are aggrieved by the decision by the Appeals Board you may seek remedy from the high court in accordance with section 24(6) of the LAPAD act,” appeal dismissal letter read. The Appeals Board’s main contention was that the company quoted the money which is lower than the council minimum cut off point of P14 511 798 76.
In their heads of argument at the court, the company through their attorneys argued that by being inexpensive, it was enough to grant them the job. In fact they argued that the winning bid of TRI VENTURE owned by Lebogang Dikole reached the GCC budget ceiling and therefore Clanfield Pty Ltd were the best placed to be awarded.
The request for the interdict was nonetheless dismissed by Justice Radijeng but the company is still adamant that they will appeal. Delivering the speech on Legal year, Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane implored the courts to adjudicate on urgency basis matters of tenders as they stall progress on national developments.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which came into effect at the beginning of 2021 with a market of 1.2 billion and combined GDP of $3 trillion, could contribute $76 billion to the world economy, according to World Bank.
To harness this potential, African countries would have to address the infrastructural challenge — which means dishing out or augmenting existing infrastructure funding models in favour of new funding models. ACFTA — the biggest trade agreement since World Trade Organization — fundamentally seeks to scrap out tariffs in 90 percent of goods, subsequently improving trade by at least 15 percent by 2024.
However, trade between African countries will most likely to be hampered by lack of adequate infrastructure key in facilitating business. Africa, particularly the Sub-Saharan region has been grappling with the question of funding its infrastructure, and lags behind other regions in the world in meeting infrastructural needs.
As highlighted by African Development Bank in its 2018 economic outlook, one of the key factors retarding industrialization has been the insufficient stock of productive infrastructure in power, water, and transport services that would allow firms to thrive in industries with strong comparative advantages.
The continent’s infrastructure needs an amount of $130–170 billion a year, with a financing gap in the range $68–$108 billion, according to African Development Bank. Africa’s infrastructure deficiency is well-documented, and has been subject of interrogation by development partners for decades.
The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic, produced by World Bank in 2010, collected comprehensive data on the infrastructure sectors in Africa—covering power, transport, irrigation, water and sanitation, and information and communication technology (ICT) as well as providing an integrated analysis of the challenges they face.
While the report noted that infrastructure has been responsible for more than half of Africa’s improving growth performance and has the potential to contribute even more in the future, it also discovered that Africa’s infrastructure networks increasingly lags behind those of other developing countries and are characterized by missing regional links and stagnant household access.
These deficiencies, cause African firms to suffer production costs, therefore making goods not only expensive but also lowering competition in the economy to the consumer’s disadvantage. African countries continues to fare badly in the annual Global Competitiveness Report — published by World Economic Forum — in the infrastructure pillar, with only South Africa being an exception in Sub-Saharan Africa, though still having power problems.
The infrastructure pillar looks at the quality and extension of transport infrastructure (road, rail, water and air) and utility infrastructure. This is so because better-connected geographic areas have generally been more prosperous and well-developed infrastructure lowers transportation and transaction costs, and facilitates the movement of goods and people and the transfer of information within a country and across borders.
It also ensures access to power and water—both necessary conditions for modern economic activity. Power is listed among Africa’s biggest infrastructure challenge, with 30 countries facing regular power shortages and many paying high premiums for emergency power, according to World Bank which indicated that to address Africa’s infrastructure needs it will cost around $93 billion a year, but African Development Bank puts the figure at $130–170 billion a year, after its recent study.
The infrastructure challenge cut across all countries, from fragile economies to resource-rich countries such as Botswana mainly because a large share of Africa’s infrastructure is domestically financed, with the central government budget being the main driver of infrastructure investment.
In 2017, Head of South African Development Community (SADC) Public Private Partnership (PPP) Network, Kogan Pillay warned that Africa will go into recession in the next 10 years if the continent does not adequately invest in its infrastructural needs.
Pillay, who has vast experience in the implementation of PPPs and has previously worked for the South African government, is of the view that Africa’s big investors will shun the continent because of lack of infrastructure necessary for doing business.
“World Bank has warned about this happening,” he said at a workshop organised by Ministry of Finance in Botswana. “Africa would not attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) because nobody would want to do business in a country which does not have infrastructure. It makes doing business difficult,” Pillay stated.
President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi could find himself ensnared in controversy, as contentious Russian billionaire, Rashid Sardarov this week emerged as the likely investor in the water desalination worth approximately P3 billion.
News of a possible water desalination project resurfaced after President Mokgweetsi Masisi made his second State visit to Namibian counterpart President Hage Geingob in a space of less than a month. President Masisi and his entourage travelled to Namibia to explore the possibility of collaborating on a water project, according to government officials.
Reports in Namibia indicate that talks are already underway with Geingob and an investor who is offering desalination water from the Atlantic Ocean. “Being a good neighbour and alive to Botswana’s water challenges, Geingob invited him to come and meet the investor to share thoughts on the project”, Masisi announced on his official social media pages.
“We are happy with the prospects because we need the water. However, our ministers and technocrats have to determine what is best for us bearing in mind our governance procedures,” Masisi wrote. Tautona Times, an Office of the President (OP) publication, reports that funds and other technical considerations permitting Botswana to partner with Namibia in a water desalination project which could address the current water shortages that the two countries are facing are being sourced.
Namibia has been working on a project to treat water from the Atlantic Ocean and use it for drinking purposes. Last Thursday, an investor willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Heads of State and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete.
Botswana however is still part of Botswana- Lesotho water transfer project. The L-BWT scheme will supply water to Botswana, Lesotho and South Africa from the Makhaleng Dam – part of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme – through a 700 km water conveyance pipeline from Lesotho, through South Africa, to Botswana.
In August 2018, Botswana was tasked with an investment request of €3.42 million grant funding for outstanding feasibility studies related to the dam and conveyancing pipeline. “We are still part of the Lesotho- Botswana water transfer project where Botswana was tasked by the three countries to approach the African Development Bank to fund the feasibility study which they did and it’s been done. The technical team for the three countries even toured the pipeline site to determine what’s on the way which may require moving”, said impeccable sources.
After the trip, Tautona Times reported that an investor who was willing to embark on the project made a presentation on the prospects of this mega project to the two Presidents and their Ministers and officials in Windhoek. The project is expected to take five years to complete. The said investor is Rashid Sardarov, according to the Namibian press.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalist (ICIJ) Panama Papers have linked Russian billionaire and Namibian land baron, Rashid Sardarov, to a number of unscrupulous offshore companies. Sardarov, who is believed to be a person of interest between the two Heads of State, owns large tracts of land in Namibia, and is a long-term client of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers data leak, which was obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
ICIJ reports that absentee landlord Sardarov is a 60-year-old flamboyant Russian oligarch with an interest in energy businesses, property, aviation, hospitality and wildlife hunting. In 2013 he bought several farms in Namibia, measuring 28,000 hectares (the equivalent of about 34,000 football fields), through his Switzerland-based company, Comsar Properties SA. Sardarov also apparently intends to build a game ranch 70 km outside Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek.
One of the main purposes of creating an offshore company is to hide the names of the real owners. Even though creating these kind of companies is not illegal, the Panama Papers once again showed that some of these shell companies, masked in secrecy provide cover for dictators, politicians and tax evaders.
Rashid Sardarov is unapologetic about his riches, and was quoted by the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo as saying: “I’ve been a billionaire for years, and I’m not ashamed to say so”. He received Bosnian citizenship in 2011 because he was a major investor there.
In addition to his 2013 land purchases in Namibia, at the end of 2014, Sardarov wanted to buy an additional 18,000 hectares of land for expansion. It is not yet clear whether Sardarov acquired the extra land he wanted. But he is building a state-of-the-art game ranch, Marula Game Lodge, in the region.
Botswana and Namibia recently signed a Bi- National Commission and the two Heads of State emphasized the unique responsibility they have to their nations. They agreed to constantly engage each other in communication and other ventures that will yield benefits to the people of the two countries. President Masisi and Geingob acknowledged the common challenges that Botswana and Namibia have adding that the time for working in silos is over.