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Thursday, 18 April 2024

MISA demands public hearing for Judges


Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana wants President Lt. Gen. Ian Khama and the Tribunal tasked with investigating the four suspended Judges to accede to media houses’ request to allow reporters to sit in and report on proceedings of the Tribunal.

Khama has appointed a three-man tribunal which consists of Justice Craig Howie who shall be its Chairperson, Justice John Foxcroft and Justice Isaac Lesetedi to investigate whether Judges Key Dingake, Mercy Garekwe, Ranier Busang and Modiri Letsidi “ought to be removed from the office of the Judge of the High Court for misbehavior.”

The Judges’ transgression relates to wrongfully and unlawfully receiving accommodation allowances in the region of 1 million while occupying government houses.

WeekendPost is in possession of a communiqué to Chairperson of the Tribunal with Care On to one Anna Mphetlhe, a copy of which has been passed on to President Khama. In the letter MISA asserts that the right of the public to know is crucial and they “trust that the Tribunal shall accede to the media houses’ valid request. The Tribunal, being a body constituted under the constitution, ought to give effect to this fundamental freedom. There would be no public interest served in refusing the interest.”

According to MISA, the right of the public to know cannot be dispensed with the proceedings against the Judges of the High Court who wield immense constitutional, statutory and common law powers over citizens of Botswana. “Moreover, a perusal of the mandate given by the President to the Tribunal shows that at issue is freedom of expression and its limits,” MISA Chairperson Modise Mphanyane pointed out on the letter to the Tribunal and Khama.

MISA Botswana is a registered trust whose main objectives are: to promote and defend press freedom; to take appropriate steps where such freedoms are violated; and to seek to remove obstacles and impediments to the free flow of information.

“It therefore goes without saying that MISA Botswana is a champion of the freedom of expression which is enshrined in section 12 of the constitution of Botswana. This freedom includes ‘freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas and information without hindrance,” Maphanyane posits.

He maintained that the question before the Tribunal is the extent to which Judges of the High Court can express themselves if they are aggrieved by the Chief Justice’s acts or omissions. So, it is the freedom contained in section 12 of the constitution, which MISA Botswana champions, he insisted.

In the President’s Tribunal is Justice Howie who is a former President of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal, and member of the Botswana Court of Appeal, Justice Foxcroft who is a former Judge of the Cape Supreme Court, and member of the Botswana Court of Appeal and lastly Justice Lesetedi, a former High Court Judge and member of the Botswana Court of Appeal.  

Attorneys representing the suspended Judges who are subjected to the Tribunal investigation, Chibanda Makgalemele and Company however had requested the president to remove the three Judges and replace them with three foreign Judges with no known links to the Botswana judiciary, a request the president ignored.

The law firm states that the Tribunal members may be having “relationships with the Judges under investigation, the Chief Justice and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) (which are also complainants in this case) and, indeed, the President.” As a result, they say the Tribunal does not have the appearance of impartiality and independence that this case demands.

Meanwhile there are reports that Khama may have suspended the Tribunal pending the impending court case where the four suspended Judges are suing Khama and Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo for their suspension. The matter is before Justice Tebogo Tau.

The quartet wants an urgent order declaring the president’s decisions to appoint a Tribunal and to suspend the Judges pending the outcome of the Tribunal’s investigation as unconstitutional and invalid. The case will be heard on Monday at Lobatse High Court.

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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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