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Thursday, 18 April 2024

Former Ministers share misgivings on the current government

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Former Ministers Ndelu Seretse


Former Ministers Ndelu Seretse and Peter Siele have joined the bandwagon and almost questioned the style of leadership of the current government.  

The duo had this week, for the first time since becoming the ‘fall guys’ at the recent General Elections, took to the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) anti-corruption Pitso podium their frustrations and objections of government’s shortcomings.   

The Pitso, themed “Twenty years fighting corruption – the journey continues” has put together various DCEC stakeholders to deliberate on ways of assisting the organization to deliver its mandate and by extension assist the entire nation to curtail corruption.

The two ex-ministers have thrown down the gauntlet to incumbent leaders after consuming findings of the 2014 Afrobarometer study. The study found out that a majority of eight in 10 (81%) of Batswana think that government officials are involved in corruption, with just over half (51%) of Batswana saying that the level of corruption has increased over the past year.

In addition the study says a majority of over eight in 10 (84%) of Batswana want the President to appear before Parliament to account and there is two thirds (75%) support for a law on declaration of assets and liabilities by senior government officials, ministers, MPs and the president.

According to the seemingly provoked former minister of Local Government and Rural development (MLGRD), Siele, corruption figures from the study are worrisome and a cause for concern.

“The current leaders of the country should have been present in such gatherings – and particularly this one – so that they can listen to this informational study and introspect,” Siele said.
Former leaders like statesmen, Sir Ketumile Masire, Festus Mogae and Ponatshego Kedikilwe have also made it routine to slate government though they have led and served in it in the yesteryears.

“Perceptions such as these derived from this study should be interrogated to see the extent to which they are real and true,” Siele said.

On his part, erstwhile Minister of Defence, Justice and Security (MoDJS) Ndelu Seretse, also called on the government to give the nation full explanation on the high corruption figures purported by the study. “Leadership should come to explain these figures so that we inform ourselves – and therefore move from perception (of the study) to reality.”

Local vs international research studies

In the DCEC Pitso deliberations, Dr. Gape Kaboyakgosi who is currently Senior Research Fellow at Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) also commented that there was a clear disjunction between Botswana’s local and international corruption rankings.

While the local Afrobarometer study implicated the crop of leaders in the country as generally corrupt, international research institutions like Transparency International’s corruption perception

index, continue to shower accolades to Botswana labelling it as least corrupt in Sub Saharan Africa.

This according to Dr. Kaboyakgosi and some in the gathering, raises eyebrows on the methodologies and type of interviewees engaged for both research studies.

Government systems need to be overhauled

Meanwhile ex-Member of Parliament (MP), Robert Masitara had a presentation in which he decried “poor government systems” that have swamped the administration of the country.

In his presentation Masitara declared that “we need to overhaul all government systems including accounting and record methods to put things in order and most importantly to easily detect any wrongdoing especially amounting to corruption.”

Adding up to Masitara’s chorus in the comments session, Director in the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM), Ruth Maphorisa reminded participants to “avoid finger pointing at the alleged corrupt heads but instead also look at and talk to the system to see whether it serves us well or not.”

Maphorisa who has literally served government for donkey years expressed reservations at the government system which she suggested although not explicit,that might be powering such shady undertakings as well.

“We should look at our system and whether it serves us well with regard to corruption,” she warned the packed gallery comprising of former and current ministers, legislators, councilors, leaders in the private sector and parastatals as well as other stakeholders and the general public.

She almost conceded that the government systems leave a lot to be desired.

Parliament should have integrity to pass well researched laws

Meanwhile, in the rough-and-the-tumble-world of the countryside where top politicians and high ranking government officials bark worse than their bite with regard to corruption, Masitara chose to be a lone voice in scorning corruption and further at times threatening to spill the beans by naming-and-shaming corrupt leaders.

The ex- Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) MP for Gaborone West North now dubbed Gaborone Bonnington North is notorious for his signature loathe for corruption that spans from his stint in parliament.

In his presentation the candid and outspoken ex-legislator said parliament should have the integrity to pass laws that have been well researched.

He commended the current parliamentarians for passing corruption busting legislations such as the Counterterrorism Act and Financial Intelligence and Agency Act.

Meanwhile keynote speaker, Assistant Minister at the Office of the President, Phillip Makgalemele told the assembly that the whistle blowing bill which stopped at the second reading in the last sitting of parliament is likely to be completed during this current sitting of parliament.

In addition, while a bill on declaration of assets is being drafted at the Attorney General’s Chambers and also expected to enhance the fight against corruption, Masitara believes that the Act, “e siilwe ke nako” meaning that “it’s no longer relevant”saying the Act will be a ‘useless’ tool in fighting corruption.

“Those who have declared their assets will still buy property with other people’s names in it. Then the assets will be sold and money goes back to the hands of those who previously declared.”
In terms of the much anticipated Freedom of Information Act (FOI), he said the law will also be pointless arguing that what is more crucial is the Data Protection Act (DPA). “FOI Act is a subset of DPA mathematically. The best you can do is fuss FOI Act into DPA,” he added.

DCEC needs to carry lifestyle audits

According to the debatable former philanthropist under the Masitara foundation, “what we need in our country is lifestyle audits.” The audits, he highlighted should be done by constituted institutions like DCEC.

It will force us to declare our incomes, liabilities etc and failure to justify then the assets will be fully confiscated by government.
New ministry of Governance of Oversight needed

Masitara said DCEC needs to be properly independent from government and a new ministry of Governance and Oversight be created. He said, DCEC will have to report administratively to the new ministry. Functionally, they must go outside the ambit of the ministry to parliament or the president, he said.

The business kingpin believes that if the (new ministry) is given more powers and responsibilities it naturally shall equate to being accountable. He added that parallel investigations by DCEC and parliament select committee will become things of the past.
Other issues

In other matters, the former legislator cautioned against tendering processes which are frequently being flouted and also regional bodies like Southern African Development Corporation (SADC) tribunal which he says has failed due to big brother mentality of some countries adding that the International Criminal Court (ICC) must as well equate grand corruption to crimes against humanity.

Masitara further warned Financial Intelligence Agency that internal audits are not supposed to be under the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). “With regard to board members in multiple organisations, this needs to stop,” he warned.

“We are also going to go back and trace how some people in the country ended up having around 900 plots. How is that possible, I mean even if one has money and may have bought the plots, they have to be thoroughly investigated,” he said to a deafening silence in the room.

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Nigerians, Zimbabweans apply for Chema Chema Fund

16th April 2024

Fronting activities, where locals are used as a front for foreign-owned businesses, have been a long-standing issue in Botswana. These activities not only undermine the government’s efforts to promote local businesses but also deprive Batswana of opportunities for economic empowerment, officials say. The Ministry of Trade and Industry has warned of heavy penalties for those involved in fronting activities especially in relation to the latest popular government initiative dubbed Chema Chema.

According to the Ministry, the Industrial Development Act of 2019 clearly outlines the consequences of engaging in fronting activities. The fines of up to P50,000 for first-time offenders and P20,000 plus a two-year jail term for repeat offenders send a strong message that the government is serious about cracking down on this illegal practice. These penalties are meant to deter individuals from participating in fronting activities and to protect the integrity of local industries.

“It is disheartening to hear reports of collaboration between foreigners and locals to exploit government initiatives such as the Chema Chema Fund. This fund, administered by CEDA and LEA, is meant to support informal traders and low-income earners in Botswana. However, when fronting activities come into play, the intended beneficiaries are sidelined, and the funds are misused for personal gain.” It has been discovered that foreign nationals predominantly of Zimbabwean and Nigerian origin use unsuspecting Batswana to attempt to access the Chema Chema Fund. It is understood that they approach these Batswana under the guise of drafting business plans for them or simply coming up with ‘bankable business ideas that qualify for Chema Chema.’

Observers say the Chema Chema Fund has the potential to uplift the lives of many Batswana who are struggling to make ends meet. They argue that it is crucial that these funds are used for their intended purpose and not siphoned off through illegal activities such as fronting. The Ministry says the warning it issued serves as a reminder to all stakeholders involved in the administration of these funds to ensure transparency and accountability in their disbursement.

One local commentator said it is important to highlight the impact of fronting activities on the local economy and the livelihoods of Batswana. He said by using locals as a front for foreign-owned businesses, opportunities for local entrepreneurs are stifled, and the economic empowerment of Batswana is hindered. The Ministry’s warning of heavy penalties is a call to action for all stakeholders to work together to eliminate fronting activities and promote a level playing field for local businesses.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s warning of heavy penalties for fronting activities is a necessary step to protect the integrity of local industries and promote economic empowerment for Batswana. “It is imperative that all stakeholders comply with regulations and work towards a transparent and accountable business environment. By upholding the law and cracking down on illegal activities, we can ensure a fair and prosperous future for all Batswana.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merck Foundation and African First Ladies mark World Health Day 2024

15th April 2024

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks “World Health Day” 2024 together with Africa’s First Ladies who are also Ambassadors of MerckFoundation “More Than a Mother” Campaign through their Scholarship and Capacity Building Program. Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “At Merck Foundation, we mark World Health Day every single day of the year over the past 12 years, by building healthcare capacity and transforming patient care across Africa, Asia and beyond.

I am proud to share that Merck Foundation has provided over 1740 scholarships to aspiring young doctors from 52 countries, in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties such as Oncology, Diabetes, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Acute Medicine, Respiratory Medicine, Embryology & Fertility specialty, Gastroenterology, Dermatology, Psychiatry, Emergency and Resuscitation Medicine, Critical Care, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Neonatal Medicine, Advanced Surgical Practice, Pain Management, General Surgery, Clinical Microbiology and infectious diseases, Internal Medicine, Trauma & Orthopedics, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cardiology, Stroke Medicine, Care of the Older Person, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obesity & Weight Management, Women’s Health, Biotechnology in ART and many more”.

As per the available data, Africa has only 34.6% of the required doctors, nurses, and midwives. It is projected that by 2030, Africa would need additional 6.1 million doctors, nurses, and midwives*. “For Example, before the start of the Merck Foundation programs in 2012; there was not a single Oncologist, Fertility or Reproductive care specialists, Diabetologist, Respiratory or ICU specialist in many countries such as The Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Guinea, Burundi, Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, Namibia among others. We are certainly creating historic legacy in Africa, and also beyond. Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa and beyond.”, added Senator Dr. Kelej. Merck Foundation works closely with their Ambassadors, the African First Ladies and local partners such as; Ministries of Health, Education, Information & Communication, Gender, Academia, Research Institutions, Media and Art in building healthcare capacity and addressing health, social & economic challenges in developing countries and under-served communities. “I strongly believe that training healthcare providers and building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to equitable and quality at health care in Africa.

Therefore, I am happy to announce the Call for Applications for 2024 Scholarships for young doctors with special focus on female doctors for our online one-year diploma and two year master degree in 44 critical and underserved medical specialties, which includes both Online Diploma programs and On-Site Fellowship and clinical training programs. The applications are invited through the Office of our Ambassadors and long-term partners, The First Ladies of Africa and Ministry of Health of each country.” shared Dr . Kelej. “Our aim is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people by building healthcare capacity across Africa, Asia and other developing countries. We are strongly committed to transforming patientcare landscape through our scholarships program”, concluded Senator Kelej.

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Interpol fugitive escapes from Botswana

15th April 2024

John Isaak Ndovi, a Tanzanian national embroiled in controversy and pursued under a red notice by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), has mysteriously vanished, bypassing a scheduled bail hearing at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court in Gaborone. Previously apprehended by Botswana law enforcement at the Tlokweng border post several months earlier, his escape has ignited serious concerns.

Accused of pilfering assets worth in excess of P1 million, an amount translating to roughly 30,000 Omani Riyals, Ndovi has become a figure of paramount interest, especially to the authorities in the Sultanate of Oman, nestled in the far reaches of Asia.

The unsettling news of his disappearance surfaced following his failure to present himself at the Extension 2 Magistrate Court the preceding week. Speculation abounds that Ndovi may have sought refuge in South Africa in a bid to elude capture, prompting a widespread mobilization of law enforcement agencies to ascertain his current location.

In an official communiqué, Detective Senior Assistant Police Commissioner Selebatso Mokgosi of Interpol Gaborone disclosed Ndovi’s apprehension last September at the Tlokweng border, a capture made possible through the vigilant issuance of the Interpol red notice.

At 36, Ndovi is implicated in a case of alleged home invasion in Oman. Despite the non-existence of an extradition treaty between Botswana and Oman, Nomsa Moatswi, the Director of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), emphasized that the lack of formal extradition agreements does not hinder her office’s ability to entertain extradition requests. She highlighted the adoption of international cooperation norms, advocating for collaboration through the lenses of international comity and reciprocity.

Moatswi disclosed the intensified effort by law enforcement to locate Ndovi following his no-show in court, and pointed to Botswana’s track record of extraditing two international fugitives from France and Zimbabwe in the previous year as evidence of the country’s relentless pursuit of legal integrity.

When probed about the potential implications of Ndovi’s case on Botswana’s forthcoming evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Moatswi reserved her speculations. She acknowledged the criticality of steering clear of blacklisting, suggesting that this singular case is unlikely to feature prominently in the FATF’s assessment criteria.

 

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