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Inside FNBB Itsose competition row

A business competition which was power-driven by the commercial First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) in association with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) and University of Botswana hailed as Itsose Business Idea Competition has missed the mark in funding its last ten (10) front-runners in the business proposal contest.

The Weekend Post has established that the 10 who emerged victorious in the competition were never funded save for one, a bitter pill to swallow for the other nine contenders who have yet to receive their funding.

This is notwithstanding that the competition’s aim as espoused in its information sheet was to “facilitate the provision of funding to entrepreneurs who meet the criteria of the competition’s funding partners”.  

When explaining the row, FNBB Director of Coverage, Boiki Tema, who sat with bank Communications Manager, Kemiso Ben, told this publication in an interview on Monday that, “only one gentleman sought merely P200 000 altogether in his proposal and we thought the amount was slight and reasonable and therefore funded the project fully; while the other required P5. 1 million but we only offered him P100 000 which he outrightly rejected. We suggested he would get the money in phases as the project implicated huge sums of money.”

This basically means that only one participant’s project was fully financed. According to Tema, who has watched the project carefully since inception, said the bank is and was nonetheless “not obliged to fund” the front-runners of Itsose Business Competition, although they benefitted widely from coverage.

He referred this newspaper to the ‘agreement to the competition terms and conditions’ which were signed by contestants. Clause 8 of the agreement states categorically that, “I accept and agree that funding is not guaranteed even if I win the competition, and while FNBB will endevour to fund my proposal, any such funding is subject to satisfactory conclusion of a due diligence investigation or any other investigation which FNBB may deem necessary; furthermore any funding shall be subject to the negotiation and conclusion of an agreement between myself/ourselves and FNBB.”

It is understood that the competition, although widely advertised in the mainstream media, was merely hypothetical. Indications on the ground are that, “the fast-track to funding, business support and success for Batswana entrepreneurs, start-ups and growing businesses”  have gone rather pear-shaped, with the bank somersaulting on the prior arrangements and leaving the contenders on the lurch.

Some of the aggrieved winners who spoke to Weekend Post on conditions of anonymity questioned FNBB’s policy of “donating” money to other projects, including for people and organisations to build parks, for example, but failing to give out (refundable) loans to them. According to them, this probably led to the competition’s miscarriage.

“There was a meeting at some point at FNBB and we were told that we will be funded and asked to apply for the loans. Now they are quiet. So how do you say our businesses nosedived if you have not facilitated the loan to the fullest? The only way out of this dispute is to finance us,” one of the contestants who got a raw deal asserted.    

He added: “the competition created problems for some of us, as we don’t have working capital to start our proposed businesses. There is nothing to generate money with despite our proposals being regarded as the best.”

This publication has been informed that some, who were financed at almost P100 000 for multimillion pula projects are being made to walk on broken glass. It is alleged that they were blacklisted under controversial circumstances at the Citizen Economic Entrepreneurial Agency (CEDA) and therefore could not even be lent money at the loan institution.

For this reason, FNBB is currently dragging some to lawyers for failure to pay despite still having no working capital and therefore not being able to generate sufficient income.

“Some of the lawyers are harassing us and threatening to jail us,” he insisted.  

Meanwhile Tema acknowledged that two gentlemen making up some of the proposal front-runners had launched their grievances with the bank. The duo, Tiroyaone Barung and Tumo Kgopo have started a series of meetings with the bank with a mission to iron out the differences and find a common ground going forward.  

Tema also added that all the other eight contestants have been referred to LEA where they will be advised and guided for alternative funding. Although clause 8 of the competition terms and condition says funding by FNBB is not guaranteed, it is not clear why FNBB found a need not to finance the projects although they had the best business proposals from the 10 contestants.

According to Tema, some of the shortlisted project proposals which triumphed but lack funding ranges from waste management, a piggery business, advertising, a sports academy, a driving school and safari and toll gates among others.

“As a bank we only felt it was a good competition as it will position the SMMEs of Botswana and also build a data base for entrepreneurs, including helping diversify the economy,” he said.

The 10 finalists were shortlisted from the one hundred (100), who were selected from the initial 2 800 participants who had entered the competition. The 100 were taken through training and development, and given three weeks to solicit their business proposals. The proposals were then presented before a panel of judges from which the 10 winners emerged.

The conquerors then took home a package of P10 000 in cash, a business laptop, mobile phone, business training and mentorship, publicity and exposure of business and only lacked “access to preferred funding”.

Itsoseng started in 2008 and was seen as Botswana’s biggest, most exciting small business competition which gave a life time opportunity to upcoming entrepreneurs. Some of the competition’s aims was to fast track the start-up and growth of businesses with great potential and support their successes, encourage entrepreneurs to sharpen their businesses acumen, improve their business plans, thinking and writing skills.

Other objectives included encouraging individuals with good business ideas to take the “first step;” showcasing winning entrants as role models to encourage other entrepreneurs as well as facilitating the provision of funding to entrepreneurs who met the criteria of the competition’s funding partners.   

The project has seen three of the bank’s Chief Executive Officers (CEO’s) exchanging power since it’s commencement in 2008, from Danny Zandamela through to Lorato Boakgomo – Ntakwana to the current Steven Bogatsu.

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Boko’s rivals plan new party

15th August 2022

Following their loss to the Duma Boko-led lobby in the Botswana National Front (BNF)’s national congress last month, some members of the party are reportedly considering forming a new political party.

According to members, the new party will be formed after they receive a tip-off that the BNF will do all it can to ensure that the aggrieved members do not participate in the 2024 national elections. This will reportedly done through a carefully orchestrated primary elections elimination campaign. 

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13 AUGUST 2022 Publication

12th August 2022

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DIS blasted for cruelty – UN report

26th July 2022
DIS BOSS: Magosi

Botswana has made improvements on preventing and ending arbitrary deprivation of liberty, but significant challenges remain in further developing and implementing a legal framework, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said at the end of a visit recently.

Head of the delegation, Elina Steinerte, appreciated the transparency of Botswana for opening her doors to them. Having had full and unimpeded access and visited 19 places of deprivation of liberty and confidentiality interviewing over 100 persons deprived of their liberty.

She mentioned “We commend Botswana for its openness in inviting the Working Group to conduct this visit which is the first visit of the Working Group to the Southern African region in over a decade. This is a further extension of the commitment to uphold international human rights obligations undertaken by Botswana through its ratification of international human rights treaties.”

Another good act Botswana has been praised for is the remission of sentences. Steinerte echoed that the Prisons Act grants remission of one third of the sentence to anyone who has been imprisoned for more than one month unless the person has been sentenced to life imprisonment or detained at the President’s Pleasure or if the remission would result in the discharge of any prisoner before serving a term of imprisonment of one month.

On the other side; The Group received testimonies about the police using excessive force, including beatings, electrocution, and suffocation of suspects to extract confessions. Of which when the suspects raised the matter with the magistrates, medical examinations would be ordered but often not carried out and the consideration of cases would proceed.

“The Group recall that any such treatment may amount to torture and ill-treatment absolutely prohibited in international law and also lead to arbitrary detention. Judicial authorities must ensure that the Government has met its obligation of demonstrating that confessions were given without coercion, including through any direct or indirect physical or undue psychological pressure. Judges should consider inadmissible any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment and should order prompt and effective investigations into such allegations,” said Steinerte.

One of the group’s main concern was the DIS held suspects for over 48 hours for interviews. Established under the Intelligence and Security Service Act, the Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) has powers to arrest with or without a warrant.

The group said the “DIS usually requests individuals to come in for an interview and has no powers to detain anyone beyond 48 hours; any overnight detention would take place in regular police stations.”

The Group was able to visit the DIS facilities in Sebele and received numerous testimonies from persons who have been taken there for interviewing, making it evident that individuals can be detained in the facility even if the detention does not last more than few hours.

Moreover, while arrest without a warrant is permissible only when there is a reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed, the evidence received indicates that arrests without a warrant are a rule rather than an exception, in contravention to article 9 of the Covenant.

Even short periods of detention constitute deprivation of liberty when a person is not free to leave at will and in all those instances when safeguards against arbitrary detention are violated, also such short periods may amount to arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The group also learned of instances when persons were taken to DIS for interviewing without being given the possibility to notify their next of kin and that while individuals are allowed to consult their lawyers prior to being interviewed, lawyers are not allowed to be present during the interviews.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention mentioned they will continue engaging in the constructive dialogue with the Government of Botswana over the following months while they determine their final conclusions in relation to the country visit.

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