Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Water and Energy Resources, Kgomotso Abi
The government is seriously considering a hike in illegal sand mining penalties and is currently drafting laws to amend the existing Mines and Minerals Act to provide for the envisaged stiffer fines.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Water and Energy Resources (MMWER), Kgomotso Abi says they are working with the Attorney General in the exercise which is likely to see an increase in the severity of the fines very soon.
Speaking before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this week, Abi revealed that the stiffer fines may include confiscation of utensils such as the trucks and other tools which are normally used in the execution of the crime.
“We would raise the stakes high such that when they (perpetrators) get caught and convicted the truck they were using gets confiscated. The people will realise that illegal mining is a seriously risky business,” Abi pointed out.
He further revealed that although the confiscation part has not yet been agreed upon, his Ministry plans to borrow the idea from that of the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism which provides for the confiscation of fire arms and other weapons used by a poacher during arrest and after conviction.
The draft amendment is expected to be tabled in Parliament in the near future and according to Abi, if passed into law, it would go a long way as a deterrent to illegal sand mining which is a common crime in areas surrounding the countries two cities, Gaborone and Francistown.
“When people need sand, they would know where to go. We have two quarries in the country which are manufacturing sand and are getting customers,” Abi further told PAC.
Abi was in fact trying to convince the PAC, which is a Parliamentary committee that besides public education, his Ministry was putting measures in place to curb illegal sand mining. However the Members of the committee who are also Members of Parliament (MPs) were not happy at the continued failure by Abi’s Ministry to rehabilitate old quarries and burrow pits which are often created by abandoned mines.
According to the legislators, the open pits are posing a serious hazard to communities living around them. Most of the pits are said to be concentrated in the North East parts of the country including the larger Francistown area.
“The government is losing Millions of Pula because it then has to rehabilitate such pits as it has done in Francistown,” Francistown West MP, Ignatius Moswaane pointed out.
Tati East MP, Samson Moyo Guma says the holes are more visible when you go to Tati Nickel and he was concerned that Botswana has become a country centred on a government which has to spend unnecessarily for people’s mistakes.
Currently penalties for illegal sand mining stand around P200 and the perpetrators find it easier to bail themselves out and the Ministry is very aware of that, river sand mining is an easier business route. You get a truck and start selling sand.”
However the business would no longer be easy in the near future as Parliament, with the support of the PAC is very likely to agree with the stiffer fines.
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.